Is it possible to be convicted by your own blog post? Yes, I believe it is. Last week was an extremely busy week for me. Touring colleges with my daughter, getting ready for District Council, and planning, decorating, and preparing food for a Secret Sisterhood Tea Party were just a few of the activities occupying my time and attention. Not to mention I was sick and trying to recover from a cold during all of the above.
So, after trying for a few hours to clear my mind of all these distractions long enough to write a blog, I finally gave up and went to the archived blogs that were published on “Her Green Room.” I found one I had written a couple of years ago and decided it would do. (That is the blog I posted last week if you read it.) Finally, another thing checked off my list. Back to work on all the other important things that needed to be done.
After touring Tennessee Tech with Haley, we stopped by a bookstore and I picked up a copy of Francine Rivers’ book, And the Shofar Blew. If you are a pastor or leader, I highly recommend it. There is no doubt in my mind that I picked that book because God led me to it. Of all her other books I could have chosen, I knew this was the one I just had to read.
After spending a day in Chattanooga, we were off to District Council. After starting Francine Rivers’ book, I could hardly put it down. I was appalled and disgusted by the main character in the book and his ideas about ministry! How could anyone be so blind? He had become completely absorbed in building a mega church. Soon he was ignoring his family, and doing his best to attract wealthy members. He overlooked the sins of his board members just to have a group of yes men.
As he became more and more focused on the success of his ministry, he began to slip away from preaching the Truth to be more seeker sensitive. When he reached 5,000 members, he decided to build an overwhelmingly huge building costing millions of dollars. When funds got tight, he cut out missions. I was thinking all kinds of bad things about this fictional pastor as I continued to read. He was so far removed from where he had started.
Though this is a shocking example of one leaving their First Love, (Rev. 2:4) it is so easy to fall into the same trap. The sad truth is, though the book is fictional the same thing is happening all around us. Even though I’m not a pastor of a mega-church, I’m still guilty. Reading last weeks blog, I had to stop and think about the last time I stopped someone in Wal-Mart to pray for them. I wrote that blog two years ago. In the last 6 months I can’t remember stopping a stranger to pray with them.
Why? Some of my excuses were, “I don’t have time, I’m usually just so busy,” or “I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit impressing upon my heart to approach anyone.” “I was in a hurry, I had to get back to work on…” You get the picture. Jesus never let ministry get in the way of loving people. We sing, “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, Oh it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” (Luke 15:4) He will leave the ninety-nine to rescue one lost soul. But, do we?
It all comes back to our first love. When we truly love Jesus the way we should, we recognize our real purpose. Above any ministry we attempt to do for Him, our first purpose—the reason we were created—is to love and worship Him. When we put Jesus above every thing else, and He has our whole heart, ministry becomes a by-product of that love. It overflows from a heart like His. We have more compassion for the lost. We are more sensitive to the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit, and we are more than willing to reach out to one who is hurting.
I had to take inventory, and do some soul searching this weekend. In a society where people are constantly competing, and everything is results driven, measured by numbers—whether that’s offerings, ratings, people following our ministries, or people in the pews—where is our first love? Have we become so focused on the success of our ministries that we have lost sight of our purpose?
Do we want to have a church full of numbers, or a church full of people? Do we recognize our members by the jingle in their pockets or the Jesus in their hearts? Are we seeking to save the lost, or being sensitive to the seekers? We are not called to get people into pews, but to get Jesus into hearts. And God help us, if we feel like it's dependent on our talents, or abilities to do either!
We must never lose sight of our purpose. We were created to glorify God, and to love Him with all our hearts. When we do that, ministry flows naturally from the love we have for Him. Any ministry that is not driven by our love for God and His people holds no benefit for us. Our reward is not on this earth. We can build 100 mega-churches, but if we have walked away from our first love, we have lost everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against mega-churches, and I’m certainly not saying they are all bad.
But we must choose carefully whom we put in the place of honor. The “look” of success can be deceiving. Don’t look down on small ministries, and don't feel less valued if you are in a small ministry. God loves the small churches who love Him wholeheartedly, just as much as the big ones. He doesn’t use the same measuring tools people use. God looks upon the heart. You are more than a number to Him.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
1 Samuel 12:24
Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.