Nothing has impressed me more in my last few years of writing, reading and discussion than the disconnect the average Christian believer feels from the ministry of Jesus, specifically his miracles, exorcisms, teachings, training of disciples and encounters with individuals as described in the first half of the Gospels.
For many Christians, their view of Jesus is much like the movie Passion of the Christ. The story of Jesus begins with the suffering of Jesus, with the ministry of Jesus fading anonymously into the background, appearing occasionally in a few moralistic or sentimentally devotional flashbacks.
This disconnect leaves me with the feeling that many Jesus-followers are almost cynical regarding the relevance of the ministry of Jesus for anything other than preaching “lessons” from the example of Jesus. The actual significance of this major portion of scripture seems to be confusing to many Christians.
The disconnection from the ministry of Jesus takes several different forms.
1. At times, it is a stated preference for Jesus as presented in the Pauline epistles. This preference can be modest, defensive or hostile. In its more extreme forms, the person wanting to serious consider the place of the ministry of Jesus in an overall approach to Christianity may be accused of denying the Gospel, or of replacing a Gospel of justification with a Gospel of “the Kingdom.”
2. The disconnect may be a belief that the ministry of Jesus actually is an inspiration to liberal, socialistic misunderstandings and abuses of the Gospel.
3. The disconnect may grow out of a belief that the church Jesus founded and its current ministry in the world is the goal toward which all of Jesus’ words and actions pointed. To take Jesus’ ministry seriously is to wrongly emphasize the “seed” stage over the more mature “plant” or “tree.”
4. Others who are disconnected from the ministry of Jesus simply do not know what to do with the example, teachings and significance of Jesus’ ministry today. They are frequently quick to state that we don’t follow Jesus’ teaching literally and have no real need to do so.
5. Most evangelicals are operating off an outline of the Gospel that gives no real significance to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus death and resurrection have significance in personal evangelism, but the ministry of Jesus does not, so this part of the Biblical presentation of Jesus is easy to disconnect.
There may be other reasons for this disconnect from the ministry of Jesus, but these seem to me to be the primary responses that I hear, read and observe.
In the following days, I will be addressing “The Jesus Disconnect” by responding to these questions:
First, how do we view the ministry of Jesus in an overall consideration of Jesus?
Second, how does the ministry of Jesus participate in the Gospel and all that the Gospel does?
Third, how can we access the ministry of Jesus in a Jesus shaped Christian life?
Finally, what are the implications for evangelicals of recovering the entirety of Jesus as presented in the scripture?