Summary: Popular ministry diminishes the freedom a minister has to reach an individual seeking God’s love and mercy. Instead, ministry seeks to save an individual rather than gather a crowd.

!st Week of Lent 2021 RCL Year B

Text: Mark 1:40-45


This is a story about how Jesus was inconvenienced by someone who had been healed by a life crippling disease. A leper dropped to his knees in front of Jesus and begged to be healed. Jesus felt warmly toward the man and with a word cleansed the man of the flesh eating disease. Immediately after healing him, Jesus told the man not to tell people what happened, but simply go to the priest to make the offering required by custom. However, the leper spread the story far and wide so that Jesus had to stay out of the towns and villages he committed himself to visiting. Instead, he remained in the open country as crowds of people went out to meet him there. One might think that publicity is a good thing for a minister, after all, isn’t popularity what makes a minister successful? But, that would be wrong thinking. Popular ministry diminishes the freedom a minister has to reach an individual seeking God’s love and mercy.

Popular ministry reduces freedom of movement. Jesus could not show himself in any town because the leper had spread the news far and wide. Jesus mission was to “seek and to save those who are lost.” That meant he needed the freedom to seek wherever he needed to go. But, instead of finding the the lost seeker, he was met by crowds of people not seeking God’s love and mercy. They were seeking something else. Popular ministries tend to broadcast an invitation to be part of a crowd. The goal of popular ministry is not to seek, but to gather. Since Jesus needed to seek, the crowds got in his way.

Popular ministry doesn’t seek out the individual. Again, the mission of popular ministry is to enlarge itself by inviting people of like mind to join the worship community. Popular ministries often have salvation rituals and membership steps to becoming part of the community. An individual is accepted as “saved” by being an adherent. But, real salvation is not imputed by a religious organization. Salvation comes through faith in Christ. Salvation is something an individual works out with fear and trembling. Jesus looks for the individual. Crowds hide the individual.

Popular ministry entertains masses. Jesus’ ministry transforms individuals. The healed leper had a story to tell. People want to be where the action is. They want to feel things and to see things. Jesus did things that people find exciting. But, the excitement was incidental to the mission. Jesus came to rescue the lost sheep (singular) as differentiated from herding the masses. Popular ministry focuses attention from the crowd on the ministers. Jesus’ type of ministry focuses the attention of the minister on the individual seeking God’s love and mercy.

Concluding thought:

Let me “reverse engineer” the thoughts of this passage. Let’s imagine that the healed leper obeyed Jesus’ command. We would have seen Jesus’ principles of ministry demonstrated. The minister moves to the sinner. The minister causes a relationship to form between the individual and the Lord. The focus of the minister us in the individual seeking and not on the the one performing the ministry.

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