We covered John 3:22-36 this past Sunday in a message titled “HE > i” (He Greater than I). To hear this study and others, feel free to visit us here. I want to focus this blog on verses 25-26 and get a little more in-depth.
The story unfolds with John the Baptist’s disciples coming to him in what seems like complaining that people are now following Jesus’ ministry rather than John the Baptist. Perhaps there was talk of, “listen John, if people keep going to Jesus, we won’t have a ministry!” John’s great response can be found in verses 27-30 but I won’t get to that.
It seems like these disciples viewed Jesus’ ministry as competition. It was good at first when His following was small and it was exciting to see other people begin to get stirred up for things of the Lord. But then it got a little personal when it “hit home” and the great ministry of John the Baptist was slowly giving way to the ministry of Jesus. These disciples weren’t quite sure how to handle this fact and are maybe hoping for John to rally up the troops and try to earn more followers than Jesus.
Really it isn’t all that uncommon on what happens today within American Christendom.
In an attempt to prove ourselves worthy, we seek to throw out numbers to boast of why we are the better church. We create billboards to show why you should leave your church and come to our church. We denounce other churches different from our own or go to great links to make us vs them mentality (we dress in whatever is comfortable, we have contemporary worship, we teach such and such way, etc.). And really, we can take it personally if someone goes to another church other than our own. These are the things that happen when we take our eyes off Jesus and the reasons He created the church and instead focus on the church as some sort of business who is in competition with other businesses for parishioners.
We, at Refuge, are glad we have so many that call Refuge their home, but we also understand we aren’t “better” than any other church. We do ministry in different ways not to be different, but because we believe in our methods for best accomplishing the vision God has given us to do ministry: to equip people, to know Jesus more personally, and to go to all the nations (what we call our “heartbeat of ministry”, our EKG). We teach verse-by-verse because we feel it is what feeds the body the best, but it doesn’t make us the better church. We are more casual and contemporary in service style because that is just what fits us, but it doesn’t make us better than the suit/tie church down the street. In fact I’ve said that if someone feels they can get better fed and personal needs met elsewhere (and aren’t just leaving because of rift with another person or something arbitrary like that), then I want to help them find that place that will help with that. Bottom line to use metaphors from Scripture: these aren’t MY sheep – they are God’s. He allows me to shepherd them but if He moves them to another shepherd, so be it. My reputation, my calling, my view of self is not based on the numbers that come through the doors.
I think it is time that as believers, instead of categorizing each other by denomination or theological terms, we understand we are all ONE body and He has made certain fellowships to meet the needs of certain personalities. If a church is not heretical in their teaching, we need to celebrate with them when people are coming and following Jesus. We need to see more pastors coming together with other pastors of local churches and praying together for the cities and towns they are in (blessing to do that here in Sanger with other pastors). We need to be willing to do ministry together and not worry about “whose church will get represented more”, but how can we lead the lost to Jesus. We need to examine how we do ministry making sure we are doing the things we do and using the tools we use, not to try and draw large crowds and have a following, but because for us it is the best way to reach people and grow them in their walks with Jesus. Instead of striving for more followers on Twitter to feel important, simply use the tool to engage people for Christ.
Ministry is not about competition. Servants don’t compete – we serve – and ministry means service.