And He said to him, “See to it that you say nothing to anyone.”… But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere. (Mark 1:44,45)
Jesus healed the leper and then told him to say nothing to anyone about it! Christ’s fame was beginning to be widespread. When He came to town it is possible that there was much confusion and congestion. It’s likely that the workers left their posts and the shops closed. Mark tells us that Jesus “could no longer publicly enter a city”. I find this interesting. How was that? Surely it was a possible task, to enter a city? The cities were not forbidding Him entrance. The crowds were certainly not keeping Him out, but following Him in! In this little snapshot I find a couple of surprising implications of Jesus’ approach to ministry.
His goal was not primarily to build a movement or create momentum. As surprising as this might be to church growth gurus, Jesus appears to have tried to avoid notoriety. Though he did periodically address large crowds, His main work was meeting people in the midst of daily life and of discipling twelve men. Thus He was laying the foundation for indigenous leadership in the next generation.
His goal was not to suspend the secular or to interrupt the normal everyday processes of community, commerce, and civil government. His kingdom was to be folded in like leaven into the whole lump. The gospel of the kingdom has answers and application for every area of society. It’s much more than a religion. It’s a faith that informs and brings God’s order to every area and arena of human life.
These two issues are also guiding principles of my philosophy of missions. For years I have sought to somehow help the wonderful, God-called leaders in developing nations to reach their own culture and their own generation with the gospel. I have sought to do this without fanfare and publicity. I have tried not to “Americanize” our overseas brothers and sisters, but rather to find ways to help them bring God’s word to bear upon their own unique cultures and settings.
For instance, if you were to come with me to India and participate in a tribal worship service, two things would be very obvious. First, you would sense the familiar joy and peace that the Holy Spirit brings to legitimate communities of faith. Secondly, you would realize that their customs, schedules, music, and style are very much different than our own!
This is one of the reasons why after fifteen years of supporting native missionary evangelism and church planting that I am still so greatly committed. These wonderful, grassroots men and women of God are better able to reach their own people than we are! And they can do it for only a fraction of the cost. So we have taken a back seat role. We come alongside them and serve. We encourage them, pray for them, and train them.