Have you heard of the phrase “What would Jesus do?” The Wikipedia article on this is helpful.
The phrase “What would Jesus do?”, often abbreviated to WWJD, became popular particularly in the United States in the late 1800s after the widely read book by Charles Sheldon entitled, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do. The phrase had a resurgence in the US and elsewhere in the 1990s and as a personal motto for adherents of Christianity who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief in a moral imperative to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus through the actions of the adherents.
Recently I read an interesting response to WWJD. From the book, A Mentoring Guide:
Professor Ray Anderson challenges us to reconsider the fundamental question we must ask as we walk with others in Jesus’ name. He writes “theological reflection does not ask the question, ‘What would Jesus do in this situation?’ because this question would imply his absence. Rather, it asks the question, ‘Where is Jesus in this situation and what am I to do as a minister?’” (The Vantagepoint3 Team, [Sioux Falls, SD: VantagePoint3, 2019], 71)
Reading the above was an ah ha moment. To ask “What would Jesus do?” implies that Jesus is not around and I have to speculate what Jesus would do if He were around. Of course I would think hard, guided by what I know of Jesus in the Word and led by the Spirit, but the implication is that Jesus is not in the situation.
Yet Jesus takes pain to assure us of His presence even after He has ascended to the Father.
"If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15–18 NIV)
I have always been deeply moved by the promises in this passage, especially this line: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” It is the promise of the permanent presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, when I face a perplexing ministry situation, I can rest in the fact that Jesus is with me and is doing His work. Indeed He is the main actor in the situation and is doing the heavy lifting. He allows me to be part of His work. If anything, this realisation takes a lot of stress and anxiety off me. God is here. God is working. That is the big picture. Then I see what He is asking me to do to participate in His work.
The trick then of course is to try to figure out what God is actually up to. That may mean we fall back on some version of WWJD. But even this exercise is done with more confidence because I know that Jesus Himself is with me, not just a distant memory.
Perhaps the secret of figuring out what Jesus is up to is to ensure that we abide in Him, that we intimately walk with Him daily and not just try to switch Him on when it is time for ministry. Hence Jesus makes the clear connection between bearing fruit and remaining in Him (John 15).
I have been in some form of church-related ministry for close to 40 years now. But there was still a sense of freshness when I read the passage from A Mentoring Guide. Now to see how this plays out in my ministry in the years ahead.