Matthew’s Gospel and the Process of Transforming Leaders
Transformational leadership describes the ministry of Jesus with his disciples. His main effort was on engaging his disciples in a process of transformation (conversion) through which they went from followers and disciples to leaders and “missionary disciples” through their assimilation of Jesus’ gospel vision and their acceptance of their gospel vocation to continue his mission and ministry after his death.
Thus, we see that transformation is at the core of our Christian discipleship. It is a process characterized by 3 stages: a “from—through—to” pattern. We move from one situation through an intermediate stage to a final situation in which we are changed or transformed. As we move from information to conformation or assimilation we experience transformation into Christian disciples.
Our important focus, then, is not so much on the two ends of the process, but the all-important middle: how is the process of Christian conversion or transformation facilitated? What means do we use to effect the transition from our initial Christian call to a transformed state? More importantly, how do we facilitate the transformation of leaders, in particular catechetical leaders, for their ministry?
The answer is the gospel, and in particular the four canonical Gospels in our New Testament, which were the original catechetical tools for conversion. So we must explore how the Gospels were created and shaped to effect the transformation of those who engage with them and how they can transform followers into leaders like Jesus did with his disciples.
The transformative power of the Gospels is most easily understood through a closer examination of Matthew’s Gospel (which is also the Gospel used in the Lectionary in 2017), especially the function of his gospel we can grasp not only what Matthew accomplished but also what he thought the Gospel was for: transformational leadership.
Matthew’s Gospel is shaped like a course in Christian discipleship, a kind of “Discipleship 101.” Through a series of carefully crafted stages or lessons, Matthew takes the reader through the basics of becoming a disciple by connecting the words of Jesus (gathered primarily into 5 major discourses—Chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 24-25) with his actions and culminating it with the final lesson found in Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.
Matthew’s final commissioning scene (28:16-20) reveals how he thinks of Christian discipleship and how he believes his Gospel is the key transformative tool. Matthew has used his Gospel to shape his audience as disciples, and now he reveals through the words of Jesus that as they have been “disciplized” so now they are to go out and “disciplize all nations.” But how are they to do that? By using his Gospel to lead people through the same basic course in discipleship and their transformation.
Matthew’s Gospel, then, is really meant to be a course in discipleship that transforms all who engage with it. His Gospel tool of transformation is also our basic tool for developing transformation leaders who have assimilated the vision of Jesus as incorporated in his “good news” and changed their lives as he invited them to do.
Steve Mueller, PhD, is the author of the five books in The Catechist’s Guide Reading Series published by Faith Alive Books. He has taught Philosophy, Theology, Scripture and Catholic Studies. He helped develop and taught for many years in the renowned Denver Catholic Biblical School for adults scripture study and was formerly the editor-in-chief of the monthly periodical for Eucharistic spirituality Living with Christ and a managing editor for Morehouse Education Resources for lectionary-based catechesis and sacramental preparation. He is the current editor for Words of Grace:Daily Reflections & Prayers for Catholics for All Saints Press.