C. S. Lewis in “The World’s Last Night” said:
“For my own part I hate and distrust reactions not only in religion but in everything. Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.”
Life if full of tensions. In every aspect of church and life we see one way of doing things and we overreact. We do exactly what Lewis is describing we see something we don’t like in the bible, in church, or in life. Rather than holding onto both reigns and moving forward. Like a drunk rider we fall off one side only to get back up and fall off the other.
Jesus addressed both in his reinstatement of Peter in John 21:15-19
15 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, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.” 17 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus in his reinstatement of Peter he calls him to faithfulness. It was through this call of faithfulness that Peter through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit saw amazing fruitfulness.
We live in a culture that values fruitfulness, as the bottom line above everything else. At all costs. We see it everywhere from CEO’s cooking books, steroid injected chicken and beef, to big better faster everything. The church unfortunately isn’t exempt from this push towards more for the sake of more. The scary part of this is we can build churches that hold more people but don’t hold the very thing each of them need The Third person of the Trinity. We in our blind push towards reaching more people at any cost find that our drive for fruitfulness has destroyed our faithfulness. We end up “doing church” and simply going through the motions.
Jesus was saying to a dejected Peter. Three times the exact number of his recent betrayal. Be faithful, feed my sheep, love my people. Follow me. What Jesus was saying to Peter it is my faithfulness to you that produces fruitfulness through you. Our faithfulness is found in the perfect faithfulness of a perfect savior.
Paul explains this in his second letter to Timothy 2:8-13
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
I love this. “if we endure, we will also reign with him;” Endurance is the most under valued tool in the leadership toolbox.
If I could tell a young leader reading this who is new to ministry anything it would be that. Endure. Don’t give up. Be faithful.
Like so many things is church life we pit things against each other than were never intended to be enemies. One of the classic examples of this is someone asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciles free will and election. Spurgeon replied ‘You don’t have to reconcile friends!
So having said all that let me work my way back to my title. What if we changed things and at the next conference we go to what if we said, “How faithful are you being to your church, friends, wife and family?” and “How well are you enduring?” Rather than “How big is your church?”