Here it is: Without a vibrant relationship with Jesus, you can’t lead others to Jesus.
It’s so obvious that it feels stupid to even write. But it’s something I have to remind myself and our team of constantly.
It’s so easy to do ministry for Jesus without doing it with Jesus.
It’s common for leaders to talk a lot about Jesus without feeling connected to Jesus.
It takes very little for the activity of ministry to overshadow the purpose and power of ministry.
I’m personally prone to drift from my relationship with Jesus. This has always been true of me as a sinner who is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But vocational ministry made it worse. Ministry gave me the illusion of being connected to God because I was studying his word and talking about him to people.
Though I still wander at times, these things have helped me prioritize my relationship with Jesus.
1. Embracing the truth about joy and God’s presence. The verse that has helped me the most:
Psalm 16:11 / You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I want maximum joy. It’s found in God’s presence. Anything else (even good things like ministry) will ultimately be unsatisfying.
2. Routines. Though I love change in almost every area of life, irregularities of schedule — especially in the morning — wreck my time with God and, thus, chills my vibrancy with him. Having a consistent schedule and plan helps greatly. And for me, if it doesn’t happen before breakfast, it doesn’t typically happen.
3. Reading about leaders who blew it. I have a folder on my computer where I’ve saved a number of resignation letters of leaders who have failed morally. I re-read this a few times a year and it always reminds me that the failure began long before it became public, always with a drifting from a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
4. A wife and friends who can see through me. I think formal accountability is mostly overrated, but few things have helped me spiritually as much as a wife and friends who know me and can tell how I’m really doing. They have both the permission and the courage to push on me and exhort me.
5. Kicks in the pants from the Holy Spirit. God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:6) and there are two memorable times in my life when God dramatically got my attention that I was drifting from my relationship with him.
One of these was earlier this year when I attended a Redemption Groups Immersion with some other leaders from our church. I went to learn how to help others. Turned out I needed help. God used the men in my small group there to help me see that I needed to return to my first love. Additionally, each of us was encouraged to write a psalm — something that expressed where we were with God. Here’s mine:
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge
I have no good apart from you
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup
In your presence there is fullness of joy
Apart from you. I once walked apart from you.
On my throne. For myself. Utmost in my own affections.
Able to please others, but never satisfied myself.
Around you. I often walk around you.
Mentioning you. Perking up when others say your name. Like you were down the street.
Talking about you, but rarely to you.
About you. I know lots about you.
Your attributes. Your actions in history. Answers to difficult questions about you.
Doing your work, even when you’re not working in me.
With you. Your offer, your promise is for me to be with you.
As you died and rose. As you reign in Heaven. As I sit, rise, walk, and stand.
Falling into you, trusting you are better than life.
About you. Now everything can be about you.
About your fame. About your pleasure. About knowing your heart.
Working for you, knowing you are with me.
Around you. Now my heart revolves around you.
Drawing near. Leaning in. Resting on.
Talking with you, everywhere I go.
Apart from you. Now I will never be apart from you.
Always loved. Always accepted. Always close.
Trusting your promise, I need not walk alone.
Everything in your life and ministry flows out of your relationship with Jesus. This is your top priority, and you must do whatever it takes to grow as a disciple of Jesus.
What other things do you find particularly helpful in prioritizing your relationship with Jesus?