Many years ago I visited a growing church in a prominent Wisconsin city and heard words I’ve carried ever since.
The senior pastor – a man I have continued to admire greatly – shared the following:
“I recently received an email from a former attender of [church name] that began with words of thanks for our church’s ministry while this person was a university student attending on Sunday mornings. But what broke my heart was this line:
‘Sadly I have not found another church to plug into. There’s just not
another church as great as [church name].’
This broke my heart, because we failed this student. We failed because she fell in love with our ministry and people more than with Jesus.
We want to be a place where people fall in love with Jesus not our ministries and people, so that when and if they move, they are eager to join another worshiping community because of who Jesus is, and His worth.”
What a wonderfully humble statement.
Sometimes in our desire to do ministry in an excellent fashion, we can lose the plot.
In our efforts to have a “good reputation” in our community or denomination we begin, even subconsciously, to elevate ourselves rather than Christ. We begin to believe our own press, or promote our ‘brand.’ Our church may even become known as the ‘place to be’ rather than a faithful Gospel community.
Our humble, desperately dependent walk devolves to be a smug, self-confident swagger – and even words said in jest (“well that’s because they’re not us!”) reveal more of what’s going on internally than we’d like to suggest or admit.
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So, then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building.(1 Cor. 3, CSB; emphasis mine)
Church leaders, God is merciful and kind to allow us to be part of what he is doing.
He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (Prov. 3:34, Jas. 4:6)
Let’s give him the glory, not just by verbally ascribing it to him, but by helping those he has entrusted to us to love Him more than our programs, our services, our staff, our local faith community.
Let’s help people come to love Christ, so wholeheartedly that if he should transplant them elsewhere* they find a church to love and serve him in, not self-isolate because it is not “us.”
*While we live in an age of online services and easy accessibility to churches we cannot physically attend, our passion should be that of our God – that His people assemble in person to live out all he desires his bride, his body, to be.