“God can work by what means he will; by a scandalous, domineering, self-seeking preacher; but it is not his ordinary way. Foxes and wolves are not nature’s instruments to generate sheep. I never knew much good done to souls by any pastors, but such as preached and lived in the power of love, working by clear convincing light, and both managed by a holy, lively seriousness. You must bring fire, if you would kindle fire… Speak as loud as you will, and make as great a stir as you will, it will be all in vain to win men’s love to God and goodness, till their hearts be touched with his love and amiableness, which usually must be done by the instrumentality of the preacher’s love… If love be the sum and fulfilling of the law, love must be the sum and fulfilling of our ministry.”- Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter
What is it you actually do as a pastor or ministry leader? Is it your job to teach others and preach sermons? To administrate various programs or ministries? To lead the elders or deacons? If you view yourself as a teacher first and foremost you will certainly teach those in your church. If you view yourself as a CEO, you will certainly manage the affairs of the church. But will you necessarily love those in the church?
Baxter says love must be the “sum and fulfilling” of our ministry. That means we see our job first and foremost as someone who loves those given to his spiritual care. And because we love them we will teach them, administrate the affairs of the church well and do responsibly all the other duties wrapped up in pastoring. And when we fail to do them, we ought to see that not as a failure to meet the requirements of our job descriptions, but rather as a failure to truly love the church body to which we belong and are responsible. Our job, our duty, is to love people and want the best for them. Only then will we give ourselves to the role of pastor or elder the way we ought.
Do you love the people in your church community?
How would they know?
How do you think your preaching and leading would be different if it were motivated mainly by love?
Meditation: Today, meditate on the love God has shown you in your life. Be thinking about what it would look like, out of gratitude, to pass that love on to others.
Prayer: Lord, I confess that all too often love is not my motivation for ministry. But when I think of the way You have loved me, I am moved to grow in my love for others. Today, and in the days to come, may my ministry begin and end with love.
Bob is the Director of Equipping and Spiritual Formation for the Ecclesia Network.
He’s the co-author of Eldership and the Mission of God: Equipping Teams for Faithful Church Leadership as well as Ministry Mantras: Language for Cultivating Kingdom Culture.
He planted the Evergreen Community in Portland, OR in 2004 and holds a DMin from George Fox/Portland Seminary.
Bob currently lives in Boise, ID with his wife, Amy, his kids, Jack, Jane, and Josie and his dog, Bentley.