In the third chapter of Matthew, John the Baptist prepares people to receive and to follow Jesus. His role is to “make straight the paths” for Jesus to come and then for people to then pursue him. John was able to engage the culture of the day with a clear presentation of God’s message. He urged people to be transformed by repenting of their sin and turning to Jesus. He didn’t think too highly of himself, but instead considered Jesus as greater.
In the first three chapters of the Gospel of John, we are presented with the consequence of John the Baptist’s exercise of ministry leadership. John came, we are told, as a witness to testify concerning Jesus so that through Jesus all people would live for God. John the Baptist pointed others towards Jesus and urged people to embrace Jesus as the source of grace and truth. Again we are told that John’s role was to call in the dessert for straight paths to be made for the coming of the Lord. John urged his followers not to cling to himself, but to follow after Jesus. He baptized people for the singular focus of pointing them towards forgiveness and life through Jesus. John surrounded himself with a community of disciples in whom he instilled his passion, knowledge and teachings. He taught his disciples that by believing in Jesus, and Jesus only, could someone have eternal life. Placing one’s identity and dependency upon Jesus would receive life and the removal of God’s wrath against sin. We learn that Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the first to be served and equipped in such a way by John the Baptist to actually become a true Jesus follower.
For the purpose of theological reflection on the nature of ministry leadership, we must take notice of John the Baptist. For of this ministry leader, Jesus said that “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” This servant of God, more than any other, served and equipped a multitude of people to live for Jesus and love others. In doing so, he catalyzed an entire movement of people who followed Jesus and transformed the world.
Using John the Baptist as an example, and by incorporating the characteristics and methods employed by the One for whom John prepared the way, a working definition of ministry leadership begins to emerge. Ministry leadership is the exercise of serving and equipping people within a community in such a way that those people live for Jesus, love others and catalyze a movement of Jesus followers in this world. Said more simply, ministry leadership essentially is the practice of living for Jesus Christ and facilitating others to do the same.