An important lesson leaders learn, often the hard way, is how to make the main thing, the main thing.
It’s hard to lead, but it’s harder to love. Most church leadership training focuses on the Great Commission (Matthew 28). So, we conclude this series with a focus on the Great Commandment (Matthew 22).
When Jesus was asked what the main thing in life is, he replied, “Love the lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The apostle Paul put all of our emphasis on things like being a great thinker or a communicator, or a visionary, or even a martyr in perspective when he wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13).” You must never forget that it’s possible to love the ministry and not love God or people.
After Jesus’ resurrection he met with Peter who had denied him three times and taught him a very valuable lesson regarding this that we all need to learn. The Scriptures tell us so when they had finished breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep (John 21:15-17).”
In Jesus words to Peter we see that one of the greatest ways that church leaders can show their love to Jesus is not merely by doing great exploits for him in the name of the kingdom, but by showing our love to his sheep–to love deeply and well those for whom he died. Church leaders often need to hear Jesus voice today asking them, “Do you love me? Tend my sheep. Love those whom I love.”
Just before his death Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, spoke at the seminary in Florida where I was on faculty. He had a terminal respiratory disease. Many said he would never live as long as he had. He was brought into the seminary chapel in a wheelchair with oxygen tubes hooked under his nose. Here is one of the greatest visionary leaders of our generation. And he preached to us as a dying man, to dying men. His focus was not on the importance of capturing a vision for the world, but it was on the importance of capturing a vision for loving God and loving people.
“I’ll always remember Dr. Bill Bright’s challenge to us–not to see God as useful, but as beautiful.”
I remember him saying, “You can be the greatest strategist in the world and not have love for God and those dear people he has placed in your life, and you are nothing.”
Dr. Bright had no regrets about not casting more vision for ministry, but if he had to do it again, he would love more. Then he asked all of us in the chapel to acknowledge his wife, Vonette, sitting just behind me. He asked her to stand up and, with his voice cracking, he shared his gratitude to her and to God for blessing him with such a wonderful life partner. Then he challenged us to make foremost in our ministries our love for God and our love for people.
The good news of the gospel is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus spent his life in ministry, not merely providing leadership to a dozen apostles, but loving them. Ordinary, ungrateful, and sometimes hateful people. He believed they were worth everything he had. As you complete this series, know that you, too, are being called by God to love deeply and to love well–an assortment of very ordinary, sinful, messed up people whom Christ has sovereignly placed before you. Show your love for a beautiful God by how you love him and his not so beautiful people. That’s the real vision. That’s the main thing.
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