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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Thinking About Jesus…

Written by: on January 29, 2015

When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:42-47)

I love thinking about the life of Jesus, especially when He was a youngster. We read in the Gospel of Luke that when Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem. He had outgrown His parents’ teachings, and it was time to enter His next phase of life to have immediate connections with the law, knowledge of His requirements, and personal responsibility for His own learning. I remember taking one of my youth confirmation classes to a Synagogue in our community, and the Rabbi spoke lovingly about the Jewish confirmation process. I still have this from an email he sent me as we prepared to teach together about why Jesus would have been in the Temple as a 12-year-old:

“The rite, which is still in existence, consists of the preparation by the candidate of certain passages of the law, which are to be recited, and his presentation to the rulers and elders, that in conversation with him, they may ask him questions, testing his knowledge, and he may submit to them questions arising out of his training. It was to this ceremony of confirmation that Jesus would have been brought to at the age of twelve.”

From a young age, Jesus was cultivating His mind. Sitting at the feet of priests and rabbis, He was a sponge for knowledge. He wanted to know everything. If there had been a University in his town, He would have been the star student! Though the knowledge was already imbedded into His being, he continued to ask questions and interact with His elders. No doubt, when he spoke and asked questions, he astonished the leaders and caused them to shoot silent glances of wonder at each other. But I don’t think He was doing it to “show them up.” I think He was gradually moving into new and larger experiences and using this time to process the gravity of the coming years.

Reading Mark Noll’s books – Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind – brought Jesus’ personal learning life into real-time context for me. It came with a realization that “coming to know Christ provides the most basic possible motive for pursuing the tasks of human learning.”[1] The Shema commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength. This includes the whole mind and the whole being. Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him, and that involves all of our senses, including the mind. He does not invite us to simply read a book, or sit in a pew. He invites us to engage Him. He invites us to reach into history and pull out the foundations of our beginnings, to interact with scholars and teachers, to question and conquer, and to stretch the boundaries of our thinking. Unfortunately, as Noll argued, “Evangelicals do not, characteristically, look to the intellectual life as an arena in which to glorify God.”[2] Through his books, Noll isn’t simply encouraging individual evangelicals or congregations to take up this life of academia; he believes we should cultivate an evangelical scholarly ethos, an intellectual tradition distinctively ours, to carry these goals forward. Like Jesus, it is not to “show others up,” it is to have a deeper thinking, deeper connection to the world in which we live.

This reminded me of another favorite passage. Deuteronomy 4:29 reads, “But if from there you will seek (inquire for and require as necessity) the Lord your God, you will find Him if you [truly] seek Him with all your heart [and mind] and soul and life.” The principle is that if we want to know something, we must not only think about that something, but actually experience it. It must be a part of each limb of our lives. “God may be able to think His way to reality, but we cannot. If we know God by experiencing him, so also do we come to know the world.”[3]

Seeking involves engaging. Seeking involves experiencing. This idea is present in so many things we do as a church. We live in the midst of right here, right now. Problem solving is imperative. How can I give a quick fix and be done with this? Isn’t this the problem with so many of our cross-cultural relationships? We, Westerners, want to drop in for one week, see a community, do a project, check a box, and board a plane, boasting with accomplishment. Instead, as Noll proclaims, relationships take time. We must observe the people, learn the history, study cultural habits, live amongst our partners, walk in their shoes, and only then may we begin to grasp the highlighted points of their lives.

Jesus began at a young age, studying and kneeling at the feet of his parents and Jewish teachers and scholars. He immersed himself in the learning experience. He engaged with the intellectuals around him and asked meaningful, thoughtful questions. His priority was not to leave with his parents and remain on a particular plan or schedule, but to quietly remain behind to delve deeply in those matters about which he cared deeply. Should we, too, pursue mission, community, and even, dare I say, academia, with this same spirit of total commitment and investment, like Him?

 

[1] Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), Loc. 22.

[2] Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), Loc. 882.

[3] Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Loc. 638.

About the Author

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Ashley Goad

Ashley is the Global Missions Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's a UNC fanatic, Haiti Enthusiast, Clean Water Activist, Solar Power Supporter... www.firstserves.org www.solarunderthesun.org www.livingwatersfortheworld.org

10 responses to “Thinking About Jesus…”

  1. Michael Badriaki says:

    Hey Ashley, I couldn’t agree more about the need to take the urge of seeking to the next levels of engaging and participatory learning. There we find the opportunities for building relationship and requires time. As you put, “Seeking involves engaging. Seeking involves experiencing. This idea is present in so many things we do as a church. We live in the midst of right here, right now. Problem solving is imperative. How can I give a quick fix and be done with this? Isn’t this the problem with so many of our cross-cultural relationships?”

    I am glad that we get to work on seeking some answers to this question through our research and dissertations.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Hey Ashley, the idea of taking time to sit, listen, understand and then ask questions is so essential. No doubt you have come to recognize their need in your short term global relationships. My thoughts are that these ideas are going to be increasingly necessary in our post-christian (at least in Canada) society. We must learn to live as strangers in a strange land doing what you recommend: “We must observe the people, learn the history, study cultural habits, live amongst our partners, walk in their shoes, and only then may we begin to grasp the highlighted points of their lives.”

    Thanks for the reminders.

    • Ashley says:

      Deve… Asking questions. I used to be so annoyed with those who constantly raised their hands and asked questions, but now I see the importance of curiosity and intentional conversation. Questions create connection. 🙂

  3. Ashley…
    You have reminded us that to follow in the way of Jesus is not limited to his short span of “visible” ministry. Though not centric in the gospel texts (perhaps in part because the upbringing of a righteous Jew would be known to the a majority of hearers at the time?), it may be the source we have lost. Your post/thought is both intriguing and challenging. How do we create a learning environment that includes the “mind” when so many might feel shame about their education and think it is not for them or simply are not interested, feel they do not have the “time”? Is “time” a barrier to investing in our learning?

  4. mm John Woodward says:

    Your post wonderfully captured those insights into Jesus’ depth of mind that also struct me as insightful and encouraging from Noll’s books. What really stood out to me is your acknowledgment of the need to “observe the people, learn the history, study cultural habits, live amongst our partners, walk in their shoes, and only then may we begin to grasp the highlighted points of their lives” in our work of cross-cultural ministry” (and my I suggest, we could do a little more of this in our own neighborhoods!). I am right at this moment sitting in McDonald’s in Norfork NE watching 6 to 8 inches of snow blowing horizontally by the window wondering if I will get home this afternoon. I am finishing up a three day trip to South Dakota, where I’ve spend time with Lakota Christians and Christian teachers working in Reservation Schools. The stories they tell me over and over is the total lack of awareness of most who come up and spend a day dropping off food or clothing, painting a building, and going home. Not only is it sad because they never really connect with anyone, but the loss the opportunity to be enriched by not absorbing and being touched by this culture’s history, practices and thinking; which means they have not really understood the real needs or concerns of the people they are serving. We’ve become a people who love God by loving others in a totally detached way! Not only does this lessen our witness, it lessens our ability to really help, and it lessens our enrichment in really coming understand a different culture. So, learning goes both ways, I think: It helps us serve better and it helps us be better! Win-win! But how to convince short-term workers this simple lesson – that what God is about is relationships,,,not detached delivery of stuff? (I know I am I speaking to choir here…glad you understand all this!) But great insights as always, Ashley. Pray I get home!

  5. Ashley,

    Lovely, thoughtful post. Thanks so much for sharing here.

    I teach a class called “Faith, Living, and Learning.” This class is designed to take students to a place of “mindfulness” in regards to how their faith journey intersects periodically with their life journey. We also deal with life’s BIG questions in this class. One of the texts we use for this class is Potok’s “The Chosen.” If you have never read this book, I highly recommend it. It is about two Jewish boys and two very different Jewish fathers. The story so reminds me of your post. The book has a memorable ending. Like the young Jesus in your post, both of these boys were excellent students, though their areas of research and study were different.

    I wonder what questions Jesus was asking the Jewish leaders and the Pharisees in particular? I would have loved to have been there to hear these conversations. What kinds of questions do you think Jesus asked?

  6. Liz Linssen says:

    Really great post Ashley!
    I love the example you use of Jesus learning in the Temple Courts. I appreciate too where you wrote, “He does not invite us to simply read a book, or sit in a pew. He invites us to engage Him. He invites us to reach into history and pull out the foundations of our beginnings, to interact with scholars and teachers, to question and conquer, and to stretch the boundaries of our thinking.”
    You’re so right. God calls us to seek Him out as you said and that involves engaging with God and experience. And the more we learn, perhaps the more we will love God with our mind.

  7. Ashley, I love what you said here: “Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him, and that involves all of our senses, including the mind. He does not invite us to simply read a book, or sit in a pew. He invites us to engage Him. He invites us to reach into history and pull out the foundations of our beginnings, to interact with scholars and teachers, to question and conquer, and to stretch the boundaries of our thinking.” Wow! That is great! So well put. I wish Evangelicals would hear this statement and live it.

    And my answer to your question is yes. Yes we should pursue mission, community, and even academia, with this same spirit of total commitment and investment, like Jesus did?

  8. mm Julie Dodge says:

    I love your inclusion of Jesus’ example for us. He sought learning and teaching, even though he was advanced far beyond any of his teachers. Even so, he engaged them in critical thinking and asked hard questions. He did this throughout his life. Why should we do any differently?

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