“And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past…” (Matthew 14:15 KJV)
The verse under consideration introduces us to the third key for developing a community-based ministry. The first key (Matthew 14:13) suggests that roles should be clarified. Jesus recognized His need to move away from the crowd to find time alone to grieve the loss of His forerunner, John. His example encourages us to find time to rest and replenish our own soul. The second key (Matthew 14:14) reminds us that needs must be identified. When Jesus recognized their need He overlooked His own and extended compassion to the multitude. The third key, which is found in the verse under consideration, provides a subtle reminder that decisions must be unified.
How many times have ministries and organizations alike struggled to stay focused because they skipped the first two steps of developing a healthy community-based ministry and didn’t take the time to clarify their roles and develop a plan of action? It’s not the kind of “warm and fuzzy” work most believers sign up for. Some want to skip what we call “the operational-stuff” and dive right in to the “real” work of ministry. Some of us who engage in community-based ministry fail to realize that the same principles needed to run a successful business are also needed to run a successful ministry and that these strategic, operational steps are modeled in Scripture. And a key part of the process is to learn how teams deliberate, decide, and execute.
Sports fans do not sit in the stands hours at a time to watch their favorite team huddle. Eventually the team must make a decision, come out of the huddle, and execute the play. How many believers have failed to move on His Word or unction of His Spirit for fear of consequences, retaliation, repercussions, unclear roles, or divided interests?
The verse under consideration says “And when it was evening, His disciples came to him….” The verse didn’t identify a specific disciple, it says “his disciples came to him” which suggests an expression of unity in their collective decision. The implication is that they previously discussed “next steps” among themselves and came to Jesus with a group decision. Let’s not overlook this important point. Before Jesus multiplied the loaves, the disciples engaged in strategic planning! They were all on one accord. While the decision itself (which we will learn later) may have been short-sighted and lacking in compassion, we can give them credit for their attempt to exercise some form of deliberative decision-making. And before God will extend and multiply resources in our respective ministries, we must be focused on the mission while preserving a level of respect for the opinions and contributions of others.
The greatest hindrance in my work of assisting ministries with fundraising is NOT a lack of available resources but a lack of unity. Oftentimes it is easier to secure resources than consensus. The source of this disunity manifests itself in numerous ways; sometimes it is with leadership who hide behind the cloak of “spiritual authority” to suppress freedom of expression; sometimes it is manifested through team members who have their own hidden agenda or allow personality conflicts to cloud their judgment. But regardless of the myriad number of reasons, one of our overarching goals in the work of community-based ministry is to utilize this important key and maintain unity in the body of Christ – and this can be accomplished through the power and grace of Christ. The strategic model, as outlined in the feeding of the 5,000, suggests to us that it is God who makes Himself responsible for multiplying the resources, and it is our role and responsibility to honor and love one another as we seek to expand the “kingdom in community.”
One of the last prayers of Christ was not for resources, but for unity in our relationships. He said, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21 KJV) There is far too much division in the body of Christ. Perhaps that is the reason why we have not experienced the “multiplication of the loaves” in our lives and in our collective experience. The Psalmist exclaimed, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity?” (Psalm 133:2 KJV). The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 teaches us how our roles should be clarified, needs identified, and decisions unified!
God, grant us clarity of purpose, direction in service, and grace to extend the matchless love you shared through Calvary, to one another, in Jesus’ name.