The phrases “teaching in the Savior's way” and “ministering in the Savior's way” have always confused me. I understand the programs, and how they represent the way Jesus wants us to teach and minister, but I have frequently asked myself, how did Jesus do it Himself? What was His way of teaching and ministering during His mortal ministry? His teaching seemed mostly by way of parables and rebukes to the Pharisees. His ministering seemed mostly by miracles, healings, and casting out devils. The example of what Jesus actually did wasn’t helping me see what it was I was supposed to do.
This confusion often left me feeling like I must be doing something wrong—that I was failing to get the point.
As we switch over from home and visiting teaching to ministering, we are faced with the dilemma of asking, "What, exactly, is it that we do now?"
In their letter to the worldwide membership, the First Presidency gave us a definition of ministering: “Ministering is Christlike caring for others and helping meet their spiritual and temporal needs.” Ministering should be "in the Savior’s way," as the Savior did,” and “Christlike.” There is no way around it. Somehow what Jesus did during His ministry has to apply to us!
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To resolve this dilemma, I looked at each of Jesus’ actions recorded in the “Harmony of the Gospels” study help from LDS Gospel Library. Then I put them into categories of ministering. I looked at how what Jesus did can help me, and all of us, see what we should do when it comes to ministering.
I was delighted with the results!
I found that studying Jesus’ ministering really did give me helpful hints for what I could do in my own ministry. I also found it really helped me have a clearer grasp of just what ministering in His way means.
Here are seven things I learned about how Jesus ministered that will help me to minister.
The first event after Jesus began His formal ministry was the marriage at Cana. This was the one where Jesus turned the water into wine.
A category or repeating theme in the ministry of the Lord was His willingness to socialize with the people, both formally at feasts and informally at people’s homes.
Wow! I can do that! I even like that.
I have been through the same process most of you have, deciding just exactly what I am going to do for my ministering families if it isn’t a monthly First Presidency message. When I prayed about the nonmember and less active families in our cul-de-sac, I felt that we needed to have a block party.
Think of all the feasts Jesus went to—tabernacles and Passover, dinners with Mary and Martha, the dinner with the ruler of the synagogue. He even invited Zacchaeus over, telling him that He was having dinner tonight at His house.
I can do dinner parties, and I knew through prayer and the Spirit that that was one of the first things I needed to do.
2. Clean the Temple (Accept Church Assignments)
The second event in Jesus’ ministry was the cleansing of the temple. He did that at both the beginning and end of His ministry. It was important to Jesus to keep His Father’s house spiritually and morally clean.
"Hmmmmmm," I thought.
My mind went to how I sometimes clean the church on Saturday mornings. Could that possibly count? Occasionally I get an assignment to clean the temple also.
Okay, it was a stretch. Jesus wasn’t sweeping and dusting, but still, part of my discipleship and ministry is caring for the cleanliness and beauty of church buildings. I thought back to the last conversation I had had with one of my ministering families about their needs. Guess where it took place? Yup, while cleaning the meetinghouse on a Saturday morning!
While temple cleaning isn’t directly something I do to minister to my assigned families, it is an opportunity to interact with them and thereby meet their needs. Many church assignments are like that.
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3. Counsel One on One (Visit)
The next event I found was the visit of Nicodemus. Jesus’ one on one talks with people are probably my favorite category. All kinds of stories of these opportunities show up in the "Harmony of the Gospels". Some examples include the woman at the well, Martha and the one thing needful, the rich young ruler, and Simon the Pharisee who condemns the woman (a sinner) who anoints Jesus.
I love these stories. How do they apply to me and my ministry? Jesus was basically counseling one on one. I am comfortable with this as I do counseling for a living, and when I do it in my calling, I find it doubly rewarding.
The First Presidency definition of ministering is “meeting the temporal and spiritual needs of others.”
How do we know what these needs might be? In the materials sent out by the Church, two ways are recommended. One is to ask God; the other is to ask the people themselves.
I started thinking that meeting a person’s needs is often going to start with a conversation about the things that are a concern to them. It may be a text, a face to face conversation, or a chat that takes place over window cleaning at the church or temple. I began to see that Jesus continually talked with people about their concerns and listened to them and conversed with them.
I was out dropping off treats to the neighbors with my wife recently as part of our ministering assignment. I found that wherever we stopped to converse there was someone that needed empathy, validation, and comfort, and the right things were always said to fill those needs. It just happens naturally as we talk and visit.
4. Give Blessings
Jesus pretty much healed people all day every day for three years. How was I going to do that? Then I thought about it again. One of my families is a single mom living with her widowed mother. They frequently need priesthood blessings. Perhaps this is not always a healing, but it is pretty similar in intent and purpose. Next to First Presidency messages, I have probably given blessings more than anything else.
5. Cast Out the Evil Spirit (Put Off the Natural Man)
One form of healing that Jesus did frequently that has always puzzled me is the casting out of evil spirits. I have occasionally blessed a home or a person against evil influences. That is similar. But it doesn’t happen much.
Then I got to thinking about how anytime the gospel is taught or exemplified to me by members of the church, it brings the sanctifying influence of the Spirit into my life. I love the words of King Benjamin about how we become saints. We humble ourselves and put off the natural man through the atonement of Jesus and the reception of the Spirit. The natural man is a bit of an evil spirit that possesses us all. I have to cast him out of myself daily, and every time I teach or serve in the kingdom I help someone else to do the same.
Maybe in this way we minister as the Savior did.
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Jesus told stories. He had teaching moments. He gave sermons, and He discoursed on gospel topics. He pointed out prophecies and how they were coming true. In my life I have prepared more talks and lessons than I can count. I may not teach exactly like Jesus did, but I do teach a lot. Just like Jesus, I probably teach more often than anything else I do in my ministry. We probably all do.
We are doing better than we thought!
While there are other categories of Jesus’ ministering I found that could apply to our ministering (praying, fulfilling civic duties such as paying taxes, and being longsuffering), one more I thought was particularly worth mentioning was parenting.
Parenting may not be an assignment from the Relief Society or Elders Quorum. But it is ministering like Jesus all the same.
True, Jesus wasn’t a parent in the traditional sense, but He did a lot of parenting of His disciples and just about everyone else. He had to set Peter straight when Peter suggested Jesus skip the crucifixion. He had to correct James and John when they argued about who was the greatest in the kingdom and who got to sit by Him in heaven. Jesus corrected, instructed, and even rebuked. But mostly He was longsuffering and kind.
I watch my children wrestle with their own little ones all day, trying to hold on until bedtime (the best time of the day). I wonder if they smile knowingly at Jesus' phrase, "Suffer the little children." Suffer means to tolerate something difficult. The rest of that phrase, "to come unto me" suggests that once you get through the longsuffering part, children are also a great joy.
Other categories of what Jesus did also apply to parenting, like feeding multitudes and providing warnings and correction.
Parents, you are ministering like Jesus every day. Keep up the good work!
So what is ministering in the Savior’s way? It is socializing, accepting Church assignments, visiting and counseling, giving blessings, bringing the Spirit into people’s lives to cast out the natural man in them and us, teaching, and parenting. Not as hard as we thought!
Jesus’ life and ministry not only provide good insight into what we do to minister; His ministry is also encouraging.
We are simply doing much better than we knew!