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Thursday, 22 June 2017

'Christ's ultimate boot camp!' A study of Mark 6

The world and the Church we live and serve in today is shaped by the heroes and champions of the past, and those who have inspired, influenced, guided and trained them...

12 such heroes answered Christ's call to serve, to follow, to leave all that they had and loved behind, and enrol in a lifelong and life changing Leadership training course...Christ's ultimate boot camp!

Throughout their service and collective ministry and mission they would be tested, tempted, threatened and in the case of most of them...Executed!

Ultimately because of their commitment and training; and the guidance, strength and example of Christ they would become an unstoppable force that built the Church and shaped our lives and worship today...with one notable exception they would become a team of true heroes.

"The Avengers. It's what we call ourselves. Sorta like a team. Earth's Mightiest Heroes type thing." - Tony Stark/Iron Man (Avengers Assemble)

- Building the team

Mark 6 is a great example of Jesus' Leadership and team building style...this was not the distant and unapproachable 'boss' barking orders, or the micro managing, over the shoulder nit picker, or even the kind but ineffectual 'friend to all' telling the Apostles what they wanted to hear.

Here was a true leader, with real authority, who saw value and potential in those He led. He was of course not afraid of getting His hands dirty... Of being a powerful and active force, serving, healing and teaching and doing all the wonderful, amazing and miraculous things He did. But Christ knew the benefits and necessity of building His team, training, guiding and preparing them to continue the work He began, to remain faithful, strong and effective after His earthly ministry was completed.

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other" John F Kennedy

- On the job training

The beginning of Mark 6, we see Jesus gathering His Apostles around Him and putting them to work...clear instructions and guidance, but it was clear that this was their mission, their chance to fly the nest and show what they were made of.

"Calling the Twelve to Him, He began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were His instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them." - Mark 6:7-13

After returning from this mission, feeling pumped up, excited about what they've achieved, filling Jesus in  on all their success (verse 30). Jesus has a new challenge:

"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognised them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to Him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” He asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five - and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand." - Mark 6:31-44

They may not have succeeded in the challenge Jesus set them to feed the 5000 but they did get to learn some great lessons about compassion, teaching and maybe not a great victory for them but still solid training and teaching... They were still far from complete and very much works in progress. And there is certainly value for the Apostles and us in this kind of training and teaching.

"It's all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you're properly trained." - Queen Elizabeth II

- Ultimate team building exercise

Verse 45 onwards is an account of Jesus walking on the water:

"Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,"

The thing that jumped out at me while reading this passage recently during a leadership training course was Jesus' insistence on the Disciples getting into the boat alone, while He watched on...perhaps the Apostles needed a crisis like the storm, to learn to work together, to become the team that they would need to be, to succeed in the days, weeks, months and years ahead...Jesus knew the benefits of experience and of trial by fire.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

If you've seen the first Avengers movie you'll remember that all the heroes needed a reason and focus to put aside squabbles and arguments to work together... In that film it was the death of a mutual friend that inspired them to be what the world needed them to be...exactly what was on the horizon for the Apostles.

But of course they were never really alone...Jesus stood watching, waiting to see how they worked together, what they'd learnt about teamwork and faith...when He was needed He was there...they didn't have to go to where He was, He met them right where they were and right where they needed them.

Developing ourselves and developing future leaders is vital for the future and success of the Church. Discipleship, learning and development must be a priority. I recently posted about growing future leaders, based on my experience on a training weekend.

This used the tagline which I used in that post and really is an appropriate end and final challenge in this post:

"To be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus, to lead more to Jesus."

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