*this post is partly inspired by and a paraphrasing of the words of E.M. Bounds*
We like taking the shortcut if we can get away with it.
We’re always looking for the silver bullet, the easy answer, the cure-all to ministry challenges and woes. New strategies, new programs, creative staffing and the like to take Kingdom territory and give the gospel deeper roots in our context. We’ve been trained to think in ways that minimize the value of people.
A leadership trend, for quite some time, has been to give our energies to the “vision” or the “organization.” Unfortunately, this has sometimes caused us to ignore individuals, even mistreat them in the name of future success.
I don’t know how much God cares about organizations, but I do know that he cares about people.
One of my favorite Christian authors is E.M. Bounds who once said, “God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”
God Uses Individuals, Not Organizations
“Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.’” (Mark 1:2-3)
The avenue that announced and made ready the arrival of Jesus was firmly planted in the man John the Baptizer.
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The salvation offered to the whole world comes in the form of a cradled, swaddled infant.
In what was likely his last letter, Paul refers to it as “my Gospel.” Reading those two words, we don’t get the sense that the Gospel was cheapened or made less holy because a sinful man personalized it for himself.
Instead, it is something beautiful. This Gospel was pumping in his veins and filling his lungs, a fuel of energy and a soul of holiness.
Where God Looks
“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
God doesn’t need humans for anything, yet for some peculiar and confounding reason He chooses to depend on us to demonstrate His love and power in the world. He looks to people to change the world.
Words, pictures and lights have their place, but they don’t change the world. People do. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work through well-thought-out plans, objects, wires, or lights in boxes. The Holy Spirit works through people.
Many of us know the calling to Christian leadership is a noble and intimidating one, but it’s possible that some young leaders are neglecting or underestimating what makes all the difference.
In a time that praises movements, strategies, branding and marketing, and organizational vision, it has been too easy to forget what should be an ever present in-your-face truth: Our ministry comes from who we are as men and women.
We Are More Than Ourselves
God does His work in forming our leadership through character and integrity.
When we walk the halls, serve our neighborhoods, and hug people and shake their hands, we are more than just ourselves. We are more than our lessons, our sermons, and hallway wisdom and advice. The whole of ourselves is behind every word and action toward others.
Think of it this way: Our days aren’t a series of “doing good” so much as they are an outflow of our hearts and the overflowing of our entire lives up to the moment. After all, the Kingdom has no feet of it’s own. It only has the feet given it by those in the body of Christ.
Young church leaders have to be committed to mimicking, impersonating, living out the gospel. We are the only hands and feet the Gospel will ever have. And these hands and feet look only like love—100% grace and 100% truth.
What Does This Look Like?
It looks like a radical force.
It is an energy of self-denial that fills an entire room. It’s exactly what God had men and women in mind to be when He first created us in Genesis 1.
It is wearing humility like it was your favorite shirt. It is being as aware as a serpent and as harmless and innocent as a mourning dove. It is having the posture of a servant, yet having the spirit of holy royalty within you, with the foolish faith, purity, and sweetness of a 4-year-old.
It is throwing yourself with reckless abandon to the calling of salvation of the people God puts in your life. You are a selfless martyr born again each day to the heroic and compassionate fight of shaping and calling entire generations to God.
There is no place among us for those putting in the minimum hours, those seeking only a “place at the table,” those who are all grace and no truth, or those whose faith is tossed easily by every wind of teaching.
For all this talk of outward love and service, it can be argued that the strongest and most urgent ministry should be to ourselves. Our most specific and courageous sermons should be to ourselves. We are not sermon writers or ministry builders. We are developers of people and unqualified experts in giving love both to those who need it and those who don’t deserve it.
God doesn’t need more eloquent talkers or attractive stage personalities.
He needs warriors in sacrificial love, in marital faithfulness, in striking humility. He needs men and women who live lives of holiness just as much in the spotlight as out of it. As much on the clock as off of it.
These are the men and women who give wings to the Kingdom of God.