I recently caught up with a the leader of a parachurch ministry committed to making disciples. They’ve reoriented all their training around the ministry of Jesus. It’s good material.
I asked him, “What about Acts?” He wasn’t interested. The way he saw it, the gospels show us Jesus as a kingdom movement leader—Acts just gave us the church. I’m surprised how prevalent this sentiment is.
It’s part of a general trend in modern-postmodern theology to drive a wedge between Jesus and the kingdom on one side, and Acts, the early church and Paul on the other. It’s a false distinction and has devastating consequences for Christianity as a missionary movement.
Luke makes it clear (Acts 1:1) that what Jesus began to do and teach in the Gospels, he now continues to do and teach through his followers. Jesus is risen and continues his ministry through the disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit.
TW Manson pointed out, Jesus didn’t bequeath his principles and ideals to his followers and leave them to carry out the task. If that is all he had done, Simon and Andrew would have spent the rest of their unrecorded lives building up a prosperous fishing business. The other disciples would have gone back to their former way of life.
It’s Jesus who continues his ministry in Acts. He picks up the threads, he takes the lead, he inspires and energizes his followers.
The Resurrection means we don’t inherit the ministry of Jesus, he continues his ministry through us. We are not his successors, but his companions.
So if you’re into the ministry of Jesus you had better read the Gospels and then keep going into Acts and the rest of the New Testament. If you stop with the gospels you only have half the story of what Jesus did. You'll end up with discipleship without church, and a kingdom without the gospel.