One of the most frequent questions I’m asked as a leader is…Why?
Why does P2C exist?
Why do you love working with students?
Why did you choose ministry?
Of course my motivations are a jumble of complexity and nuance and so I’m tempted to answer 100 different ways depending on the circumstances of the hour. But there are practiced answers we all have to the question “Why?”
The answers I give when I am feeling rather visionary go like this:
- Because I want to help fulfill the Great Commission.
- Because I want to change the world.
The answers I give when I am feeling rather compassionate go like this:
- Because I just want to help people.
- Because people are lost without Jesus.
The answers I give when I am feeling rather strategic go like this:
- Because I want to make a maximum impact.
- Because I want to multiply my life.
But here is what I want to share with you. Although all these answers are truly a part of me and my motivations, any one of them…when they become my Ultimate Why… they put me in a danger zone. There is really only one answer that should be presented first, foremost and ultimately when asked the question “Why?”, and His name is Jesus.
Although all these answers are truly a part of me and my motivations, any one of them…when they become my Ultimate Why… they put me in a danger zone.
The answer to the question “Why?” must be for us as Christians simply this: Jesus first.
For those of us who are older, it is easy to assume “Jesus first” in our vision casting.
For those of us who are younger it is easy to dismiss “Jesus first” as an overly simplistic answer that any three year old would give in Sunday School.
But let me share with you why I am convicted we must regularly commend to one another that Jesus is the reason we exist and do anything. He must be and is our first “Why.”
In Matthew 4:19, Jesus calls his first followers and invites them to “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Now it is important to understand the context. These were fishermen. They were standing knee deep in the water, and were mending their nets. They smelled like fish. They lived off fish. These were not hobby fishermen, who went fishing for fun on occasion. These were men whose lives literally revolved around fish.
When I have heard this passage taught, or have even taught it myself, I tend to teach about our call to evangelism. But to be clear, Jesus really only asked these men to do one thing. To “Follow Him.” It was in the following of Jesus, that He would reorient their lives from being centred on fish, to be centred on people. You see, by following Him, He would show them His love for people and their lives would become oriented around people just like His was, and is.
Jesus’ invitation to them, and to us, is first to follow Him. It is not an invitation first to change the world or make a maximum impact or even to care for people. It is first and foremost an invitation to Himself. Everything else flows out of this primary invitation. Jesus knew, and knows, that it is all too easy for us to flip the order: to see our activity as the basis for our relationship with Jesus, rather than Jesus being the basis of our activity.
What implications does this have for us and the things we do?
(I’ll just list a few, but would love to dialogue on more. So if you have questions, please leave a comment or send me a note)
Prayer: We don’t pray primarily because it is a step in building a movement that changes the world. No. We pray because we are invited to share with and hear from the living God of the universe. The One, through whom all things have been made and are sustained, is eager to enter into the quietness of our day. He wants us to share our heart with Him in worship, thanksgiving and request. He also wants to share His heart with us as we dedicate time to quiet our soul before the throne of grace.
We pray because we have access to God, through Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
We pray because Jesus first, and then we are changed, and yes even then…the world is changed.
If you don’t see Jesus as the primary motivation for your prayer life, the danger is that you begin to see Him as a thinner, dark haired version of Santa Claus….and of course that is just going to be disappointing, because that isn’t who He is.
Evangelism: The primary motivation to share our faith is not because we love people so much that we want to save them by the preaching of good news. No. The strongest motivation for evangelism is that Jesus so loves me that He died for me that I might be saved. That I might experience a life transforming relationship with Him right now and forever and ever. My daily experience of Jesus’ love is my best motivation.
It’s a strange thing….The seasons of my life when I most pursued fruitfulness in evangelism were unhealthy for my soul. I got trapped in a performance cycle that left me disappointed with my own inability to save those I cared about. The seasons of my life I most pursued Jesus, and shared my experience of Him with those around me have been the most fruitful. Aim at Jesus and fruit follows. Aim at fruit and your asking Jesus to follow you….and that isn’t the way He works. (cf. John 15)
Aim at Jesus and fruit follows. Aim at fruit and your asking Jesus to follow you….and that isn’t the way He works. (cf. John 15)
Recruiting: The primary motivation to recruit someone to an event or mission trip, give a donation or even join us on staff, is not because it’s the best way to use their time and money. No. The primary motivation to recruit them is to invite them to consider what Jesus is doing in their life. Every recruiting opportunity is about helping someone discern what Jesus is doing in their life. If we have something to offer that aligns, or encourages what God is doing, then fantastic… If not, we need to be very careful about pressing further.
Now that doesn’t mean that just because we have something that aligns to what God is doing in their life they should join us either. There maybe 100 other different options that align to what God is doing, and so further discernment may be needed.
Because Jesus goes before
Every conversation I go into now, I try and remember that Jesus precedes. That He has gone first and that the person in front of me is experiencing Him in some way. My goal in the conversation is to discover with the other person what Jesus is doing, and how I might be able to be a part. Any other motivation that I am tempted to cling to as primary tends to stoke the fires of my pride and selfishness and the person I’m talking to becomes a stepping stone rather than a person.
But more on that in my next blog.
I just finished rereading Bill Bright’s book called “First Love”. I was reminded how often he, as the founder of the ministry I now give leadership within, would talk about the importance of keeping Jesus first in our lives. He knew that as a driven ministry, as driven people that we would be in danger of any motivation that may supplant knowing and loving Jesus first.
I confess as a leader I have too often assumed Jesus first. I have too often seen talking about putting Jesus first as basic and simplistic. This may be my greatest failure as a leader and I am keen to change it. Would you join me?
Whether you’re a friend of P2C, a student involved, or one of our staff, would you remind me to put Jesus first when we speak to one another? I will seek to do the same.
He is why I’ve written this blog.
He is why I want to come to work tomorrow.
He is why I want to change world.
He is why I want to help students.
He is why I want to invest my life in others.
Jesus first…and may He be increasingly so in my life until at last I see Him face to face.