June 19, 2024

When the Student Becomes the Teacher: How Teaching on the Apostles Can Empower Your Congregation

In today’s blog, I will be going over how pastors can teach on the apostles of Jesus and what we can learn from some of the most prominent apostles of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter

Noah Cecil

The New Testament presents a tapestry of characters whose lives and ministries laid the groundwork for the Christian faith. Among these, the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter are prominent figures who offer unique lessons and insights on what it means to follow Jesus and His teachings.

Understanding the stories of these disciples can guide and inspire congregants' own personal faith journeys, modeling the blessings, hardships, and grace that come with following Christ. 

In today’s blog, I will be going over how pastors can teach on the apostles of Jesus and what we can learn from some of the most prominent apostles of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter.

A Reflection of Faith

The gospels and epistles are important pieces of writing, recording the teachings of Jesus, His ministry, and giving us accounts of the early Church. While these pieces of writing are pivotal for learning about Jesus and the heart of His message, we also learn about His followers –– the eyewitnesses and pupils of Jesus Himself.  

When discussing who the disciples were –– Ministry Magazine quotes an insightful excerpt from the book The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White, which says: 

“The apostles differed widely in habits and disposition. . . . These [the disciples] were brought together, with their different faults, all with inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil; but in and through Christ they were to dwell in the family of God, learning to become one in faith, in doctrine, in spirit. They would have their tests, their grievances, their differences of opinion; but while Christ was abiding in the heart, there could be no dissension. His love would lead to love for one another; the lessons of the Master would lead to the harmonizing of all differences, bringing the disciples into unity, till they would be of one mind and one judgment. Christ is the great center, and they would approach one another just in proportion as they approached the center” (White, 296).

This is a universal message that gets to the core of Jesus’s Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus doesn’t specifically seek out those who are powerful, attractive, or of high status. To the contrary –– Christian novelist and journalist of Christianity Today, Jessica Brodie, asserts that:

“When you hear about ‘the disciples,’ perhaps you assume they were people far more faithful, valuable, and worthy than you could ever hope to be. (...) But the truth is that these disciples were regular people — the only difference is that they lived 2,000 years ago and made the decision to follow Jesus as he lived out his ministry with him in the flesh, here on earth. (...) None of them were perfect by any means. Many exhibited great weaknesses. One, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver and became a traitor to God’s Kingdom.” 

The disciples reflect what it means to be a follower of Jesus, giving pastors a foundation to encourage and inspire their congregations. The following are some things we can learn from some of Jesus’s most prominent disciples in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter. 

What Your Church Can Learn About the Apostles

Matthew: Transformation and Inclusivity

Matthew (also known as Levi) was a tax collector before becoming one of Jesus' disciples. Tax collectors were generally despised in Jewish society for their collaboration with the Roman authorities and their often corrupt practices. Joel Ryan of Bible Study Tools explains that: 

“It comes as no surprise then that most Jews had little to no love for the Roman occupation, and the thought of funding their own oppression through taxation and excessive regulation was equally as distasteful. Perhaps worse was the fact that fellow Jews, like the tax collectors, aided the Romans by collecting (or stealing) fees from their own countrymen.”

 Matthew's calling by Jesus illustrates the transformative power of Christ's grace.

Lessons for the Church:

  1. Embrace Transformation: Matthew's life shows that no one is beyond the reach of God's transformative love. The church should be a place where individuals, regardless of their past, can experience radical change.
  2. Inclusivity: By calling a tax collector to be His disciple, Jesus demonstrated that the gospel is for everyone. The church must strive to be inclusive, welcoming all who seek God.
  3. Use Your Past for Good: Matthew used his skills as a meticulous record-keeper to write the Gospel of Matthew. The church can encourage members to use their past experiences and talents for God's glory.

Mark: Perseverance and Reconciliation

Mark (also referred to as John or John Mark), traditionally believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark, had a rocky start in ministry. He abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, causing a significant dispute between the two apostles (Acts 15:37-38). However, Mark later redeemed himself, becoming a valuable companion to both Paul and Peter.

Lessons for the Church:

  1. Second Chances: Mark’s story is a reminder that failure is not final. The church should be a place of second chances, encouraging individuals to persevere despite setbacks.
  2. Mentorship and Reconciliation: The eventual reconciliation between Paul and Mark underscores the importance of mentorship and reconciliation within the church. Leaders should nurture and restore those who have faltered.
  3. The Value of Service: Despite his initial failure, Mark went on to make significant contributions to the early church. The church can learn to value and recognize the potential for growth and service in everyone.

Luke: Compassionate Ministry

Luke, the beloved physician and author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, was known for his detailed and compassionate writing. His gospel highlights Jesus' concern for the marginalized, including women, the poor, and social outcasts.

Lessons for the Church:

  1. Compassion and Empathy: Luke’s accounts of Jesus' interactions with the marginalized teach the church to prioritize compassion and empathy in its ministry.
  2. Holistic Ministry: As a physician, Luke's perspective underscores the importance of holistic ministry, addressing both spiritual and physical needs. The church should strive to care for the whole person.
  3. Attention to Detail: Luke’s meticulous approach to writing and his emphasis on eyewitness accounts highlight the importance of diligence and integrity in ministry.

John: Love and Intimacy with God

John, the beloved disciple, authored the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation. His writings emphasize the themes of love, light, and eternal life. John’s deep understanding of Jesus' nature and his close relationship with Christ, offer profound insights into the heart of the Christian faith.

Lessons for the Church:

  1. Emphasis on Love: John’s focus on love, especially in his letters, teaches the church that love should be at the core of its identity and actions.
  2. Intimacy with God: John’s close relationship with Jesus encourages believers to seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with God through prayer, worship, and study of the Scriptures.
  3. Hope and Assurance: The themes of light and eternal life in John’s writings provide the church with a message of hope and assurance in the promises of God.

Peter: Leadership and Humility

Peter, one of Jesus' closest disciples, was known for his impulsive nature and boldness. Despite his initial denial of Christ, Peter became a pillar of the early church, demonstrating remarkable leadership and humility.

Lessons for the Church:

  1. Bold Leadership: Peter’s boldness in preaching the gospel and leading the early church serves as a model for courageous and decisive leadership.
  2. Humility and Repentance: Peter’s story is also one of humility and repentance. The church can learn the importance of acknowledging mistakes and seeking forgiveness.
  3. Empowerment by the Holy Spirit: Peter’s transformation after Pentecost highlights the power of the Holy Spirit in empowering believers for ministry and service.

Developing Sermons on the Apostles

While there’s information we can learn about the Apostles across the New Testament, pastors now have access to sermon preparation tools that streamline the process of creating a cohesive message. With these tools, pastors can generate effective sermon outlines, quick search and cross-reference scripture, create in-depth character studies, and come up with modern day examples of Biblical stories. 

When the Students Become the Teacher

The lives and ministries of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter offer rich lessons for the church today. From the power of transformation and the importance of perseverance to the call for compassionate ministry, the depth of divine love, bold yet humble leadership, and a passion for mission and sound doctrine, these apostolic figures provide timeless guidance. By embracing these lessons, pastors can continue to guide their church to grow in faith, love, and service, embodying the teachings of Christ in a world that needs His light.

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