It’s approaching 15 years since I left theological college to head out into ministry. In these years we (my wife Beki and I) have done some innovative stuff, people have come to faith and a number of books have been written.
It’s so easy in ministry to start to think we are doing well. Our church might be growing or we helped save a marriage or we supported someone through a loss in a way that was particularly good. We can start to think well of ourselves, think we are doing a good job, maybe even start to inflate our ego?
I recognise that there are times in ministry where success leaves Jesus somewhere behind. When things are going well there is a danger we forget Jesus and focus on how well we have done. There are other times, when things aren’t going well, we focus on sorting out the mess, not by consulting with God but by solving it ourselves. We seek to make wise Priestly decisions, in a rush, not always consulting with God.
I was recently reminded of Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus. Here was a group of people that were doing well, working hard and seeing some ‘success’ for the gospel. In the passage Jesus speaks to them and commends their work whilst making clear they have neglected something.
Revelation 2:4 “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first”.
“You’ve been working hard, seeing and testing the false apostles and endured problems without becoming weary, but you’ve forgotten me”.
It seems Jesus saw their great work but also saw that they had forgotten him.
There is a danger in becoming professional Christians that we forget Christ. I once heard J.John say “If you take Christ out of Christian, you’re left with Ian – and he did nothing for you”. There is a danger that we forget our ‘first love’, Jesus.
JESUS IS WHY.
Jesus is why we become ministers, leaders and pastors. We start because we long to see Jesus transform lives, empower people and reconnect people with him. The danger is along the way we forget why we are doing what we are doing and simply become religious professionals. Dare I say it; CEO’s of religious organisations and buildings.
I wonder how often what I build is man-made rather than God-made because I’ve forgotten my first love. Without focusing on Jesus, everything we do will slip into our own ability, passion and strength.
WE NEED TO FOCUS.
As leaders we have responsibility to keep focusing on Jesus for ourselves. It’s this first love that Jesus speaks of that keeps us connected to him, empowered and passionate. In fostering this first love we need to be spending time with Him to invest into the relationship, we need to focus less on self and more on what He is doing.
I am coming to realise that I need a reality check, each day, each week and year. He is the centre of it all; I am not. He is the Saviour of it all; I am not. He is the ultimate love; I am not. He has the crucial power; I have not.
In all that we do our focus must remain on him and not because without him we are nothing and neither is our ministry. But because first and foremost we are children of a loving God. We are children who are also recovering sinners; children who need a Father; children who need love and grace. We are wounded, broken people finding hope in this beautiful Jesus and because of what we find we now minister, point to Jesus and lead churches. We don’t do this because we are capable, able or strong but because of Jesus. Jesus never chose us because we were capable of leading a church but because we were available, willing and open to him.
So, let’s realise that what we might do for Jesus might be brilliant. Our churches might grow and look good or we might have the perfect theology and 1000’s downloading our weekly sermon podcasts, but behind it all if our first love has vanished then we really have nothing.