John 15: 9-17 (MsgB)
“I’ve loved you the way My Father has loved Me. Make yourselves at home in My love. If you keep My commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in My love. That’s what I’ve done—kept My Father’s commands and made Myself at home in His love. I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that My joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is My command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are My friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. You didn’t choose Me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to Me, He gives you. But remember the root command: Love one another.“
The fruit-bearer’s secret to success.
Back in my seminary days, I don’t recall anyone mentioning this amazing passage from John’s gospel as bearing the secret to success in pastoral ministry.
As a matter of fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone over my last 30-plus years of doing ministry ever point to John 15: 9-17 and say to me, “Marty, if you really want to be a successful pastor, look carefully at Jesus’ recipe here and let it light your pathway toward your goal of successful ministry.”
Nope. I just can’t recall anybody suggesting to me that if I’m looking to bear some real fruit for Jesus, I might try this delicious recipe found here in John’s gospel cookbook.
Unfortunately, my training toward ‘successful’ ministry has been filled with the recipes from lesser chefs. Church-growth literature offers us some tasty 30-minute meal ideas. Personal motivation techniques from amateur chefs from across the globe often get our culinary attention. And don’t forget those words of wisdom birthed from religious kitchens where corporate thought and big business practices are holier than the words of Christ found in the original Cookbook.
Now that last paragraph may seem harsh to some of you, but I’m getting to the point in my pastoral career where truth is more important than manners. Thus, when I come to Jesus’ bottom line statements to His followers found here in John’s gospel, I’m struck with how simple He makes the recipe for success sound for those of us who are hungering for something truly filling in Christian ministry.
Let’s face it, folks. This is not rocket science. Nor is it the Food Network. The Master Chef makes it pretty clear here what His three-step recipe for success is.
1) Carefully follow Jesus’ commands,
2) Make ourselves at home in His love, and then;
3) Do our very best to love others out of that same love we’ve found in Abba’s home.
So my question is this.
If doing ministry in the name of Jesus is as simple as it seems to be here in John’s gospel, why do we make the recipe so much more complicated? Why do we add so many new layers to the lasagna? Why, oh why, do we decide to add in more elaborate ingredients while losing the original recipe in the process?
Maybe it’s just an old pastor/chef talking here, but who’s up for clearing the table, simplifying this ‘ministry for Jesus’ recipe back down to just a few basic ingredients, while re-setting the standards back to the ones Jesus spells out here?
Tell you what. I’ll go first and make the first sandwich and you can come along as well if you like what you see.
Dinner is served.
My prayer: Lord, there is nothing more enticing to me than becoming a fruitful fruit-bearer for the Kingdom. Thank You that You’ve simplified the recipe for success and made it clear to us that You’re not looking for master chefs; just faithful kitchen help who will stay true to the original recipe. Let me find contentment and great pleasure in serving up the fruit you have already prepared for me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Why do we feel the need to improve on the original recipe for success given us by Jesus? What foreign chefs am I listening to while ignoring the voice of the original Master Chef? What added ingredients have I added to my recipe for success and what needs to be removed so that the original recipe can be recovered?
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!
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