An Empty, Self-Serving Witness.


John 5: 30-38 (MsgB)

“I can’t do a solitary thing on My own: I listen, then I decide. You can trust My decision because I’m not out to get My own way but only to carry out orders. If I were simply speaking on My own account, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an independent witness confirms Me, the most reliable Witness of all. Furthermore, you all saw and heard John, and he gave expert and reliable testimony about Me, didn’t he? But My purpose is not to get your vote, and not to appeal to mere human testimony. I’m speaking to you this way so that you will be saved. John was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But the witness that really confirms Me far exceeds John’s witness. It’s the work the Father gave Me to complete. These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm that the Father, in fact, sent Me. The Father who sent Me, confirmed Me. And you missed it. You never heard His voice, you never saw His appearance. There is nothing left in your memory of His Message because you do not take His Messenger seriously.”

“An empty, self-serving witness.”

Let’s be totally honest here, men and women of the cloth. I know that none of us ever set out into the work of ministry with an agenda to become ‘empty, self-serving witnesses’. But might I be bold today and suggest that you and I might look honestly at our day-to-day activities, our ministry calendars, our church board meetings, and our Sunday AM worship services and say, “Gosh, Lord, maybe You’re right here?” “Maybe I need an occasional gut-check where my church leaders and I re-evaluate those things we are doing and saying for Jesus?”

Now I know that there are some of you who are thinking that I’m being way too tough on us clergy-folk, but please, stop one moment and reflect with me on the last two or three major ‘leadership’ decisions you’ve made in the last month or so. Can you recall them?

I can recall, during my 30+ years of pastoral ministry, when my church board and I would spend endless meetings trying to figure out how we could solve our glaring financial crisis. A noble cause, don’t you think? Certainly no one could criticize us for trying to be good stewards of God’s money, right? Yet, why is it that I sometimes walked away from those types of meetings wondering if we somehow majored on the minors during the hours we talked? Maybe, if Jesus were leading our meetings more, rather than me, our subject content just might take a completely different direction?

Who knows?

But when I read John’s gospel here as Jesus is revealing His heart toward how He perceives ministry being done for God’s sake, I see or hear no self-seeking, self-promoting, self-involved agendas. You know the ones I mean? Those driving self-serving ambitions that can so easily seep into our modern-day Americanized church culture? Jesus is so free of this human zeal and drive that He even tells those who are listening here that He is not come to town to get His own way, but to simply “carry out orders”, doing God’s agenda and not His own.

Hmm. How freeing is that? I wonder what our next board meeting or church service might look like if we all came in, dropped our desires to get our own way, and waited for God to show us what orders He wanted us to carry out for Him? It might just spark a whole new way of doing church? What say you?

My prayer: Jesus, my personal agendas are just not on Your menu for the day. Nor can I think of any title in my life that I want to avoid more than being labeled an ‘empty, self-serving witness’. Deliver me, Lord, from being a church leader who needs to have my own way, at all costs. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Where could this title ‘empty, self-serving witness’ be applied in my church? What steps are needed to rid our church communities from such atrocities? What personal changes do I need to make in my life and ministry in order to remove myself from the chance of being labeled in such a way by Christ?

So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?

Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

Click here to go onto the next blog in the series.

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