You’re standing before Jesus. He’s assessing your life and ministry. You want to show him your biggest accomplishment, so what is your ministry trophy?
If I were the apostle Paul and I was in this scenario, I’d imagine my trophy would be the book of Romans. Or perhaps my engaging, contextualized sermon to the Greeks on Mars Hill. Or that I planted a church in every major city. Or maybe that I survived a snake bite and shipwreck and kept going.
What would you show him? Jesus, look at this big crowd at my church on Sundays. Have you seen our newly renovated facility? Did you hear my latest podcast?
When we started Redemption City Church in Baltimore City five years ago, what consumed my mind was mostly stuff like:
- What kind of chairs are we going to buy? And where’s the money going to come from?
- Who is going to do set up and tear down this Sunday?
- What the heck are we going to do about the human feces in the alley?
It’s easy to get consumed with what’s urgent but not what’s most important.
The Apostle Paul’s Focus
When we look at what the mighty apostle Paul was most proud of from his decades of ministry, it’s a lot different than what most church planters focus on, myself included. “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19–20).
He says, it’s you. It’s people. It’s disciples he made in Thessalonica. It’s Timothy and Titus. It’s actual human beings that look and act like Jesus. Paul essentially says, “the trophy of my ministry, what I’m most excited to show King Jesus, what I spend the most time thinking about, is people.”We make our focus not on what can be seen on a spreadsheet, but on who can be gathered around a dinner table. Click Para Twittear
And wasn’t that also Jesus’s ministry strategy?
Jesus had three years to reach the whole world with the greatest news in the world. So what did he do? Rent out the Roman Colosseum? Secure the best worship band in town? Get a bunch of people in a room and preach a fire sermon?
He basically said, “Nah, I think I’ll get dinner with 12 guys for three years. I’ll take Peter, James, and John on a hike up a mountain and show them something glorious. I’ll have them follow me as I minister to lepers, and then I’ll send them out in pairs to preach and lead. When they come back, we’ll debrief.” The ministry strategy of Jesus and Paul was investing time and energy into people.
Let’s Make Our Focus Our People
Is Jesus against sermon prepping alone in your office or vision planning with your staff on a whiteboard? No. But I do think we’d be shocked by how much less time he’d spend doing these tasks and how much more time he’d spend developing real, embodied people.
That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 4:12 that the minister’s job isn’t to do ministry; it’s to equip others to do ministry. It’s to spend time pouring into people. He tells Timothy later to entrust what he’s been taught to faithful men who will teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Then what did Timothy (who was following Jesus and Paul) do? He developed more people through meals, counseling, evangelizing, training, and hanging for the purpose of multiplication.
And now the baton has been passed to you. Here are some helpful questions to reflect on as you consider your ministry strategy:
- Does your calendar value people over programs? Do you set aside the best time on your calendar for the primary ministry strategy (developing people) of Paul and Jesus?
- Are your sermons information downloads or a specific biblical challenge with clear applications for your people? Are you teaching them that they are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers?
- Are you asking, “what kind of people are we developing?” Not just, “how many people are here?”
- Do your systems, structures, and discipleship pipelines have a plan to develop the next Timothy or Lydia? If Pagan Pete showed up at your church this Sunday, willing to do whatever you asked for the next three years, is there a clear process to develop him into Planter Pete?
- Does your personal and church budget set aside time and money to invest in developing people? Policies like five percent of every dollar you receive go into future church plants, or five hours of your week go into discipling the next church planter in your congregation.
We make our focus not on what can be seen on a spreadsheet but on who can be gathered around a dinner table. We do this because we have a king who was uninspired by crowds and ambivalent about buildings, but had a fire in his eyes when he saw sinners. Are you asking, “what kind of people are we developing?” Not just, “how many people are here?” Click Para Twittear
Jesus saw you, pursued you, and gave his all to you. Why? Because in his very heart is a love and focus for people. He was so committed to you and to your development that he was willing to go to the cross. Go be that for the people in your church. Take the love Jesus has given you and pour it into the people around you. And let the people you develop and multiply be your hope, and joy, and crown.