The prophet Jeremiah once encouraged the people of his day to, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV).
Rest. That’s the promise.
Why do you do what you do in ministry? What’s driving you? Better yet, how do you understand what you are doing in ministry? What is your sense of what faithfulness to Jesus looks like in the context of your efforts in the local church?
We live in a time when fewer and fewer ministry leaders have a clear idea of what it is they’re supposed to be doing. As a result, we run this way and that, breathlessly trying to keep pace with our peers. We go from one fad and fashion to the next, from one movement or ideology to the next, from one book or conference to the next, desperate to find the elusive holy grail of effectiveness. There’s a reason many leaders struggle with chronic anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Be honest now. How many times have you read a book, attended a conference, or listened to a leadership podcast, felt inspired, and then charged into your next ministry staff meeting with an announcement about “the next big thing” God was calling your church to, only to find your ministry staff even more deflated and confused than they were before?
That should tell you something.
Jesus doesn’t intend for us to live like that. Not as ministry leaders. Not as human beings.
At one point in his ministry, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).
It’s been paraphrased like this: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
“Unforced rhythms” and “freely and lightly” are not a description of how most ministry leaders are living. But that is because we’ve lost touch with the “ancient path”- the way of Jesus. Too often we’ve let fad, fashion, and ungodly peer pressure guide our ministries rather than the call of Jesus.
And do you know what that call is? It hasn’t changed. It’s not going to, either. It’s this:
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a NIV).
Discipleship is still and will always be the great “ancient path” of Jesus. It’s the center of the bullseye. The main thing. And when we devote ourselves to it, we find Jesus right there, working alongside us, doing the heavy lifting. And we also find ourselves free of the chronic worry that we aren’t doing enough, free of the heavy yoke of comparing ourselves to others, free from the burden of endless distraction.
That’s how Jesus intends for us to lead. Light and easy.
At our church in Colorado Springs, we’ve broken the call to “make disciples” down into three main areas: worship, connect, and serve. We feel that a fully devoted follower of Jesus is a person who is engaged on all three of those levels with their whole life. Other churches will articulate the call uniquely in their unique setting. But what “worship, connect, serve” gives is a biblical bullseye . . . a grid . . . a way to assess how we are doing.
Are we helping equip people for a life of public and private devotion (worship)?
For a life of rich, shared community (connect)?
For a life of radical self-giving to others, both in the church and outside of the church (service)?
Everything we do is geared at answering those questions. We think they are the essential matters of discipleship. And so, we stress out less about numbers, and we worry less about fads and fashion. We focus most on staying faithful to Jesus. We trust he is doing the heavy lifting. Just as he promised.
So what’s your grid? How do you understand the ancient path of discipleship? The clearer you are on this, the better off you’ll be.
This fall we’re hosting a conversation around exactly these matters. We’re calling it “Essential Church.” We’d love for you to join us. Register here: newlifeconference.com.