Distance separates people. If there is interaction between men than usually there is proximity. To get good care (physically, mentally, and spiritually) then proximity helps a lot. Let’s look at some model examples…Jesus and disciples is a great example for how proximity helps do ministry. Jesus lived with and did life in proximity of the twelve. This is one of the most effective examples of discipleship in the Bible.
But let’s not forget other examples where proximity was distanced. Paul wrote letters to a half a dozen churches. Peter wrote to seven churches. Their ministry was to oversee all of these churches! It is difficult to argue that they were unsuccessful, because both of these apostles were pretty successful. Indirectly, someone can have a ton of impact without proximity. Two ways in particular come to my mind…the first is financially. Many churches today indirectly minister to others worldwide by providing food, shelter, resources, medicine, and missionaries to the lost. The second is through distance relationships. For example phone or internet ministries. There are many ministers that do have an impact in some way through these means, also the radio is another one.
Sure these letter, radio, financial, internet, and phone ministries are not FULL, all-encompassing ministries. They are indirect ministries in a lot of ways and when you look that the full structure of each of these ministries there is some necessary proximity between someone, somehow. (Paul did not write letters to nations he could not travel too, radio stations can only broadcast so far, etc.) Although it is not exactly the same proximity we see with Jesus and the disciples.
I will say that from what we have been learning in class proximity optimizes ministry. I have been preaching and learning that Jesus’ model for making true disciples is the way to do and I still believe that. Following Jesus’ model is not the only way, but I think it is the optimal method for ministry and making disciples. Similarly, look at “family” as a model for ministry and discipleship.
I like family as a model for ministry because families “do” life together. Jesus did life with his disciples, at every interaction along life’s path there was something to learn, something to think about. Whether they were in the temple, on the road, in a home, or in a garden the disciples were learning from Jesus! Family is a natural environment for ministry.
Powerpoint from DMNS 500. On Organization as “structure.” Liberty University, 2009.