Welcome to the inaugural post of CrossEyedLeaders!
Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another… That’s the purpose of this place. God has blessed us in so many ways, and I find that the more we remain open handed, stay in the conversation, give things away, and remain teachable… the more we continue to be blessed.
So, welcome to the conversation!
The heartbeat thumping behind these posts, resources and connections here at CrossEyedLeaders stems directly from what I call the ‘John the Baptist ministry philosophy.’ The way he saw ministry often runs completely counter to the way we see ministry today.
Don’t get me wrong, people talk a great game about being kingdom minded, they applaud all kinds and styles of ministries. But, what I’ve seen in my 26 years of vocational church work is that old adage:
“Start a church in another state
All for God’s kingdom, all for God’s glory!
Start a church in my town
Well my brother, that’s another story!”
John gives us the principles of ministry that steer us clear from those rocky shores. Instead of crashing into those jagged edges and forever shipwrecking our journey, he gives us a perspective that allows us to learn, serve and grow with one another.
To get that perspective, we first have to hear what he said, from John 3:
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
I guess the statement that need not me made I’ll go ahead and make right now anyway: It’s appalling that one would try to get a minister of the gospel upset that another minister was succeeding/bearing fruit/finding blessing… Especially when that minister was Jesus!
But, that’s exactly what’s going on here.
John’s response should be a philosophical adoption of everyone interested in kingdom-minded ministry.
First, John makes it clear that we don’t have anything that belongs to us in the first place. It’s all His. Pastors, ministers and leaders can tend to be a bit territorial. We say things like “my people,” “my church,” and “my ministry.” I bet you can guess which term I find most offensive in those sets of words.
There’s no problem feeling responsibility, in fact, that’s essential if we are to be the called servants that we are. But the minute we believe we have moved into the position of owners versus managers we’ve committed the original sin of ministry. Adam and eve should’ve been perfectly content managing the garden that belonged to God, but once they decided they were owners, everything went to hell… literally.
John’s first rebuke to those trying to stir up trouble was to remind them that any success, progress, or achievement wasn’t theirs in the first place. Everything that they had came from, belong to and was glory for God in the first place.
We are only jealous of things when we think that somehow something external violates what belongs to us. It’s really hard to be jealous, when we realize it didn’t belong to us in the first place.
Second, John teaches that joy should come whenever we see Jesus clearly moving and working. In verse 29 he reminds his hearers that joy should come when we hear the bride groom’s voice.
This should be freedom for the minister today! We have the right to be joyful when God blesses somebody other than us. We have the expectation that or heart would be thrilled when we see God pouring out blessing on another church, another ministry, another denomination.
John teaches us it’s not about what happens on our side of the river all the time. Sometimes, in the midst of our hard work and labor, even when things don’t seem to be producing like we hoped they would, we can look across the way and see God doing amazing things in other places.
In those moments we don’t harbor bitterness in our heart. We don’t claim they must be compromising the gospel to find success. We don’t attribute what’s happening in them to theological inconsistency, cultural collaboration or any number of things that Christians like to cast aspersions about to make themselves feel better.
In fact, we should rejoice! When lives are changed, marriages restored, and people are coming to know Jesus… listen through the situation and circumstances for the bride groom’s voice.
And, when you hear him doing what only he can do… Rejoice!
Third, John teaches us that ministry will always, without a doubt, with no exception, require sacrifice. He ends this classroom session in verse 30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Ministry of any sort will have a price, and that price will always require that there is a diminishing of us for the purpose of an advancement of Him.
This does not mean we will always suffer, always be in pain, always be at loss. But, it does mean that suffering and sacrifice will happen, and that many of us who do everything we can to avoid confrontation, risk and heartache will probably never put ourselves in the position to be use mightily:
To sing songs of joy while chained in the darkest prison, that’s hard.
To be content, in all things… Well that’s just a miracle.
I would say that as our church has expanded as a multi site into communities across the state of Kansas, the most difficult thing we’ve encountered has not been logistics, resources or even an out right attack of the devil… it’s been other churches.
Grumbling, aspersions, backbiting and falsifications… Why?
There’s one resource none of us are lacking… lost people. I know of no community that would not benefit from another church simply based on the fact that more people are sleeping in on Sunday morning then her getting up in attending a local church.
None of this belongs to us, it’s all His. We should rejoice whenever we see God doing something, not just in our midst. And we must be ready to lay down whatever he requires for the sake of the call.
That’s why I invite you to be a part of this discussion at CrossEyedLeaders. That’s why were offering everything that we can think of to give away. If it helped us, it might help you. That’s why we want to learn from you, and grow because we know God is doing amazing things where you are.
Welcome to the journey, into the difficult process of being sharpened as iron sharpens iron.
Many blessings on you and whatever God has tasked your hand to be upon… may you forever have your vision obscured by the cross of Christ and become a CrossEyedLeader.