What is the single most important question anyone of us will ever ask or answer? I pray this is a no-brainer for you… For those of us saved by grace and called to lead others to the cross of Christ, the answer (in some form or fashion) centers around this principled probe: “How are you related to the REAL Jesus of the Bible?” As Kyle Idleman has aptly asked: “Are you a fan or follower?” Fans die, only followers live eternally.
While it is not my intention here to render a comprehensive theological treatise on the Christological aspects of Jesus, I do want to begin this section of the blog with a bold and dividing disclaimer. In short, if your ministry is not “Great,” it’s not good. Let me explain… Only those who are “finding the lost and growing the found” into biblical disciples who make disciples who in turn make disciples, are fulfilling the Great Commandments and Great Commission (Matthew 22:37-40 and Matthew 28:18-20). Anything less than “Great” then, per Jesus, is disobedience by design. Consequently, I say again, if your ministry is not Great, it’s not good.
Having said that, by building on Jim Collins’ best selling title, I hope to here help you go “From (less than) Good To Great.”
Far too many modern “ministers & ministries” are focused on marketing Jesus, in hopes of capturing people and converting them into compliant church-goers. When we look at this phenomenon and assume the best of its purveyors, (NOTE: please do not be so naive as to assume that all such endeavors are well intended), we see at minimum, a misguided ministry that is making two (2) debilitating errors in judgment.
First, hear me loud and clear: the ends do not justify the means. The Lord will never “lead” us to and/or through sin as a Spirit-led strategy – regardless of the perceived “opportunity” or outcome. (Note: to sin in the name of saintly service is to stain both the purported mission and professed missionary).
Second, manipulative ministry-marketing misleads people by initiating a relationship that is “consumer-centered” vs. Christ-centered. Such tactics inevitably lead to one of three (3) outcomes:
The people come & are converted to church-consumers
The people eventually leave when they hear a message that tells them: “it’s really NOT all about you…” In such cases, there is a well-deserved complaint lodged by the “consumer.” What they feel and tell others is that they fell prey to the Christian’s use of the old “bait & switch” routine that is often associated with shady salesmanship.
The people stay, eventually hearing the full context truth of the gospel, which is instrumental to their genuine salvation.
The church MUST stop sinning in the name of saving! Even if there is a contingency of saved souls from category 3 (above), that only proves that God is bigger than our smallness. It ought not surprise us that the God who spoke creation into being, the God who spoke through a donkey, the God who gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, and ultimately defeated death by hanging on a cross… can bring “good” out of our bad. Even so, that truth does not give us license to lie. We have got to stop treating Jesus like a logo. Christ is NOT the church’s commercialized product… Christ is King! As Dietrich Bonheoffer powerfully proclaimed: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him: ‘Come and die.’”
The errors of our day, be they well intended or worse, are errors nonetheless. Look around, we have far too many consumers in our churches and not enough Christ-like Christians. Furthermore, we’ve got even more “de-churched” people in our communities – those who tried church but walked away because it stopped tickling their fancy. And in regards to the third category of people, those whose story sounds like one of Christian osmosis, remember: the ends do not justify the means. Moreover, take a quick look around and ask yourself: “How many representatives of group 1 & 2 do I see for every one from group 3?” The math isn’t pretty… Might it be that the math isn’t pretty precisely because the ministry isn’t pretty? You see, ministry that the world loves should tell us something (John 15:18ff and Matthew 10:22)… Ministry that realizes & reproduces our King’s Word, will, and way won’t sell well (Luke 14:16-24)… but it’s the only one that represents the REAL Jesus of the Bible.
Here’s a link to a John Piper expansion on Christ’s call to repent: Thoughts on Jesus’ demand to Repent