One thing I wish I knew before I started to share my faith is that it’s not about me… or is it?
I well remember my first experience of being called into ministry by God; I was 16 years old and felt a mixture of exhilaration and uncertainty as I went to see my pastor for guidance. His advice was sound, yet not profound. He told me that ministry is like climbing a ladder, just take the next step and God will lead you to where he has in mind. In the last two decades of pursuing his call, I have often revisited this advice, but what have I learned since then that I wish I’d known at the outset?
When we start off in ministry, we often have an idea of what ‘IT’ is that God is calling us to, but we don’t always know ‘WHO’ our ministry is meant to impact. The one thing we know with certainty is that it’s not about us. We’re called to witness to others so that their lives may be changed. Is that strictly true? Surely, the ministry God has called me to can’t be about me? Or can it?
In Matthew 22:34-40, we read of how Jesus was quizzed about what the greatest commandment is. This question was conjured up by a lawyer in an attempt to ensnare Jesus with a legal technicality. Not only was Jesus able to silence His foes through His answer, but we also learn something about the three parties our ministry should focus on.
Our whole life is intended to focus on loving God with every faculty of our being. Yes, ultimately our life, our worship and our ministry are to God, for God and because of God. We don’t follow God’s call on our lives because we want to change someone else’s life. No, we follow his call because we love him, and even if no one was ever changed through our ministry, if we love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind, then we’ve succeeded.
Here’s an interesting thought: Jesus taught that we ought to love ourselves. Yes, it makes sense that we should love God and aim to please him with our ministry, but have you ever considered your ministry being aimed at you? When we love God, we are transformed by his love for us to be more like him. He loves us so much that he will accept us from any broken circumstance in life. Yet, his love reaches beyond accepting us. He also changes us. If we truly encounter his love for us, we’ll learn to love ourselves too. In other words, part of our ministry focus must be aimed at self – not in a selfish or self-actuating way, but rather, in a way that leads us to practice what we preach, and sees us becoming more Christ-like. If we don’t welcome the change that God works in us, how can we expect him to use us to change anyone else’s life?
Finally, we are called to allow God’s love to flow through us to others. This is often what we have in mind when we set out in ministry, but interestingly enough, it’s simply a consequence of the first two love responses in this ‘love triad’. Loving God changes us to be more like him and therefore, we will naturally want to do what he does… reaching those in need of his love. Although this love is aimed at impacting others it’s still directed as a love response to God. What greater way of loving him is there, than to be like him and to join his mission of sharing His love with the world?
What did I wish I knew at the outset of following God’s call on my life? Well, that it’s not at all about me or even others. Yet, when we wholeheartedly love God, in his love for us he changes us and allows us to impact others too.
1. When was the time we most felt like we preached just for Jesus?
2. What distracts us from making it about the audience of One?
3. Who helps us keep it about the audience of One?
Written by Max Swart
Max Swart is the UK and Europe Associate Director of the Luis Palau Association. He is originally from South Africa but has been based in the UK for nearly 15 years. He lives with his family in North Yorkshire, England where they enjoy exploring the countryside. He has a heart to see the church flourish in Biblical discipleship and is completing his doctoral degree on this topic.