8 Lessons for Pastors on Christmas Eve Services

Christmas Eve is one week away. I have the privilege of coaching four of our Redemption church planters on a regular basis, and I recently shared with them some of the key lessons I’ve learned from doing Christmas Eve services. They gave encouraging feedback, so I thought I’d share it more broadly.

Christmas Eve

 

1. Evaluation. Soon after Christmas Eve, make a list of what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be adjusted next year. Make this list within a week of the services. Otherwise next year when you’re planning you won’t remember. Keep in mind everything from service times, service flow, kids, environment, etc.

2. Feel. Personally, I want Christmas Eve to feel special yet similar enough to what we do that guests get a flavor of the church.

3. Preaching. Preach a simple gospel message. I’ve often been frustrated by Christmas Eve because, as a teacher, I’m always looking for people to have an ‘aha’ moment and I often try to get too clever on Christmas Eve. But the environment of Christmas Eve isn’t really designed for this. It’s more designed for inspiration, motivation, and something simple. Think about your sermon more like a YoungLife talk than normal.

4. Guests. Thank guests for coming and invite them to come back. Communicate when your normal Sunday services are. Have the graphic for your next series ready so that you can invite people to it.

5. Offering. Don’t apologize for taking the Christmas Offering. Instead say something like, “We have a generous church and we care about a number of needs in our church and community. If you’re a guest, feel free to participate or don’t, but know that this is a beautiful picture of what our church is about.”

6. Kids. Having kids under 5 years-old in the service is really difficult because they are not used to sitting still — even for just an hour. If you can have childcare up to age 5, people will enjoy it a lot more. (Though this is tough with only one service). OrientalTrading.com also has some good, inexpensive kids give-away stuff that can keep them occupied a bit (coloring, bendables, etc)

7. Touch. Work the room like crazy. It’s a great opportunity before the service to visit with people. They come early and you can make a big impact by working the room and meeting people’s families and friends.

8. Planning. By the end of January, make a Christmas checklist for next year that details what needs to be done and when next year. It’s a bit of work, but you’ll be happy you did. Here’s an example from ours this year, and it made a big difference in reducing our overall stress this year.

Top 10 Resources for Pastors & Church Planters

I was recently asked by a pastor friend to recommend my top 10 most influential resources for pastors, church planters, or those aspiring to high-level ministry leadership.

He wasn’t looking for explicitly theological resources as much as tools that explore ministry design, pastoral leadership, and developing a disciple-making ministry. While a number of these resources flow out of rich theological reflection, they aren’t the kind of tools most pastors would get from seminary. Thus, I’m making the (somewhat dangerous) assumption that a pastor is grounded in the gospel, the Scriptures, and a robust theological understanding.

So, with that caveat, here’s what I would recommend (in no particular order):

trellisvineThe Trellis and The Vine (Collin Marshall & Tony Payne) – Beautiful vision for equipping and multiplying ministry through making disciples and training people. Chapters 2-3 are on a short list of must-read resources for all our new staff.

 

move bookMove: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth (Greg Hawkins & Cally Parkinson) – I’ve never talked to another pastor who read this book, but it’s one of the best I’ve read in the last few years. It explores how people actually grow in their faith. You can read my lessons from it here.

 

keller preachingPreaching to the Heart (Tim Keller’s audio lectures from Gordon Conwell) – Single best resource on preaching I’ve encountered. Also amazing for anybody who does counseling or disciples others (i.e. everyone).

 

heart servant leaderThe Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (C. John Miller) – Collection of letters from a mature, wise, prayerful pastor. So much is modeled through these letters, especially about prayer, family, love for non-Christians, courage to confront tough issues, and how the gospel actually changes you.

 

axioms

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs (Bill Hybels) – Short, practical, wise nuggets from one of the sharpest leaders in modern church history. Each chapter is only a few pages, which makes it easy to read and easy to remember. I guess that’s the point of an axiom, eh?

 

center-churchCenter Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Tim Keller) – One of the highlights of this past year was working through this book with a cohort of pastors from across the country, guided by the staff of Redeemer City to City. It’s most of Keller’s thinking on gospel, culture, theological vision, and evangelism all in one place.

 

the advantageThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything in Business (Patrick Lencioni) – Most of Lencioni’s books are short fables designed to teach crucial lessons in organizational life. The Advantage is his non-fiction magnum opus, an all-in-one book on the importance of organizational culture.

 

stanleyChoosing to Cheat (book or sermon by Andy Stanley) – This a game changer for prioritizing family and keeping things in perspective. In fact, when I heard Stanley present this content at a leadership conference, he said it was “the most important leadership decision he ever made.” What was it? Choosing not to cheat his family in the name of ministry.

 

what's best nextWhat’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Matt Perman) – I’ve read many books on productivity and time management. This one contains all the best-of thinking found in those other books, yet comes from a gospel-centered perspective. Here’s my review of it.

 

innovatingdiscipleshipInnovating Discipleship: Four Paths to Real Discipleship Results (Will Mancini) – I read everything I can by Will Mancini and love the way he thinks. This is a little known read-in-one-sitting book that helps leaders identify their approach and strategy for disciple-making. I desperately wish I had read it before planting a church.

 

BONUS: The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – every episode is interesting, helpful, and chock-full of thought-provoking ideas (See other podcasts I recommend here).

What would you add?

 

5 Lessons From Touring the Amazon Fulfillment Center

Amazon WarehouseYesterday I took our staff to tour the Amazon Fulfillment Center (it’s named “Phoenix 6”). “Fulfillment Center” sounds like a place where all your dreams would come true, but it’s really just a giant warehouse where Amazon orders are processed and shipped (maybe the same thing if you like shopping online).

It was amazing.

The first thing you notice is the size of the place. Ginormous.

We later learned that this center is 1.2 million square feet (just over 27 acres), stocks over 19 million items and has over 8 miles of conveyor belt zipping items around to be handled by the 1,500 “associates” who work there. This is one of 50 fulfillment centers Amazon has around the world and specializes in small to medium sized items (no big appliances or electronics here).

AmazonConveyerOur team loved it and would highly recommend you schedule a tour.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Communication and good signage are crucial. A warehouse that size is complicated and dangerous. To help people, there are signs everywhere. There’s even a whole section devoted to “team development,” which is largely focused on communication and creating signage. There are signs for everything: safety reminders, cultural values, right and wrong ways to do things, and wild statistics about the company.

Keeping people on the same page requires having good communication and visual cues that remind people about what’s important.

2. Sometimes efficiency requires disorganization. Besides the scope of the building, the most jaw-dropping part of the tour was seeing how items are stored in the warehouse. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIREDThere is literally zero organization to it. Items are not arranged by kind, name, or category. One compartment I looked at had a chocolate fountain, a cat toy, a Minecraft board game, and a few of the same book about American history — all next to each other.

Why? Well, Amazon has realized that the time it would take to organize all their incoming products would not be worth it and would actually slow them down. So the “stockers” just put stuff wherever it fits on the shelf and their computer system tracks where it is.

I’m still processing what the implications are for leadership in the church, but I think it means that sometimes we can get paralyzed by being organized and it actually slows down our effectiveness.

3. Well-designed systems are essential for growing organizations. Our tour demonstrated a profound achievement of computer programming. These systems track items, tell “pickers” where to find them, move items to the “packers,” and ensure that items get to the right place. Without these systems, Amazon could not process a fraction of the orders they do.

Similarly, growing churches need to be able to develop intentional processes to help ministry get done more effectively by more people.

AmazonPicker4. People are always essential. The computer systems are impressive and allow many things to get done well. But the Amazon warehouse demonstrated that you can’t replace people. Even in some of the other warehouses that have robots do some of the “picking,” they need humans to make intelligent decisions about what is needed.

In the same way, churches can never rely on systems and processes entirely. People are the glue that truly make things happen.

5. Good leadership invites everyone in the organization to take ownership. Many of the company culture signs I saw related to taking ownership. From day one, every full-time Amazon employee is given stock. Through Amazon’s Kaizen program, employees at all levels are invited to make suggestions on how to improve things.

If every good idea has to come from the top, an organization will be limited. But good leadership invites input and shaping from everyone.

Which of these lessons stands out to you the most? Why?

How Do People Really Grow Spiritually? (Lessons from Move)

how do people really growEvery pastor wonders how much difference he is making. I’m no different. I want to know to what degree my personal ministry, as well as our church’s ministry, is really helping people grow in their faith. I ask questions like:

  • Are we truly making disciples or are we just keeping people active?
  • Does activity/participation = growth?
  • Which of our ministries is most effective/ineffective at helping people grow?
  • How do we help all these people that are in such different places?

This summer I read Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, and I realized I’m not the only one who asks those kinds of questions. Move is about the lessons from a research project that studied over 1,000 churches by surveying over 200,000 congregants about their spiritual life and development.

As a pastor committed to helping people grow spiritually, I loved the book. It confirmed some of my convictions, surprised me about some of my false assumptions, and challenged me in a few crucial areas.

Confirmation of Convictions

Move affirmed a few of my convictions about ministry. I’ll list these confirmations and provide a quote for each one. PLEASE read the quotes. They’re excellent.

1. People want to be challenged. I’ve seen people respond to challenge time and again.

“Nothing is more indicative of high-impact, discipling churches than a ‘go-for-broke’ challenge factor.” 

2. The Bible is hugely important for spiritual growth. Duh. But, I guess, it’s amazing how many churches don’t really engage people with the Bible. The authors write:

“The most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement.”

3. People need different things at different stages of their spiritual life. As nice as one-size-fits-all approaches are for church leadership, they aren’t good for people.

What people need in order to grow closer to Christ depends on where they are now in their relationship with him.” 

4. Christians must have personal time with God in order to grow. Great church programs make little difference if a person isn’t spending time with Jesus.

“Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on Scripture. If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.”

Surprises (Refuting My Assumptions)

Move also surprised me in a few key areas and refuted my assumptions. Again, please read the quotes.

1. Participation in church activities does not necessarily lead to increased spiritual maturity. Most church leaders assume that if we just get people active, they’ll grow. But, in reality, they’ll only grow to the degree that these activities help them develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

All of our findings are derived from one essential fact: that spiritual growth—defined as an increase in love of God and for others—is not a product of growing participation in church activities or changes in lifestyle or the result of our natural aging process. Rather, spiritual growth advances in lockstep with a growing personal relationship with Christ.” 

2. Organized small groups are more catalytic for people early on and less so later on. This shocked me philosophically, but not experientially. The longer you walk with Jesus, the less you need the organized small group because you have meaningful Christian relationships in real life.

“When we apply our context of human relationships to these findings, it makes perfect sense that organized activities become less important. The closer you are to someone—the more likely you are to depend on them to process your life issues—the less important organized settings tend to be. While you may have formed the relationship in a structured experience—in the workplace, perhaps, or at a neighborhood gathering—that setting is typically a springboard for the relationship, not something required to sustain it.”

3. Serving is the only organized church activity that moves people across all stages of their development. I wasn’t surprised that serving grows people. I was surprised that it was the only organized thing that helped everybody.

Interestingly, serving experiences appear to be even more significant to spiritual development than organized small groups…The implication for church leaders is that we must encourage people to serve—in any capacity, in whatever valid opportunity their gifts and interests lead them to.”

4. Churches need to promote and provide a high-expectation, non-negotiable, senior-pastor-owned pathway of first-steps designed to jumpstart people’s spiritual growth. Rather than just throwing people in the game, churches need to have some basic introductory experience that gets people moving in the right direction.

The military uses boot camp to turn civilians into soldiers. Baseball uses spring training to test new players and try them out in different positions. Many colleges require freshmen to attend orientation week so they can become familiar with their new environment and a new set of expectations. These short-term launching pads into life experiences are analogous to the first best practice found among the most spiritually effective churches in the REVEAL database. They get people moving by providing a high-challenge, nonnegotiable path of first steps to engage people in a process of spiritual growth—a process that will ultimately lead them to become followers of Jesus Christ.”

Challenges I Needed

Finally, Move challenged me in a few key areas. These were things that I knew were important but, for various reasons, had forgotten how crucial they were.

1. The #1 priority of the senior leader(s) must be to make disciples. More than attendance, numerical growth, personal platform, cultural influence, or anything else. This seems obvious, but it’s not. After leading a church for 5+ years, many other things compete for #1 priority. Move challenged me to refocus on what church is all about — making disciples.

Five years of research findings point us to one singular conclusion—that the most essential decision a church leader makes is not what kind of worship service to offer or what kind of small-group system to build. It’s the decision to lead his or her church with an unyielding and unequivocal commitment to a very easy-to-say, very hard-to-accomplish goal—which is, to do whatever is humanly possible to move people’s hearts toward Christ.”

2. The senior leader(s) must have a white-hot relationship with Jesus. Duh, again. But it was a challenge I needed to hear. Nothing would serve our church more than me having a vibrant relationship with Christ.

You cannot reproduce in others what you are not producing in yourself. The main thing you need to do—the one thing you must do—is fully within your reach. You must surrender all.”

You can try other paths, find a new strategy, perhaps, or hire some really talented staff members. But in the end, if your church is not led by people completely devoted to Jesus—people who prioritize their relationship with him above everything else—it will not work. It will not produce life. It will not change the world.”

Conclusion

I thank God for Move. It came just at the right time with a number of fresh insights and important reminders. It will bear fruit in my life and the church. While it’s probably not the kind of book that most Christians will find too interesting, it’s a must-read for senior leaders in a local church.

 

Avoid Ministry Porn

For most pastors, it usually starts with the opening of a laptop. Sometimes it’s on a smartphone or tablet. Often, another pastor recommended it.

With a few simple clicks, the video rolls or the sound begins. The faces and voices are familiar, but the settings change. The best sites have fresh content. New things never before tried or seen. The more shocking, the better.

Hours go by. Work is ignored and relationships are minimized as the pastor is sucked in.

Ministry porn.

It’s seductive, addictive, and pervasive among young pastors.

ministry porn

The good news is that I’m not talking about pastors who consume actual pornography through sexually illicit content (though statistics show this is too common).

The bad news is that I am talking about something that is hurting church planters and pastors everywhere, killing their creativity, work ethic, and productivity. By extension, this problem is afflicting the churches these men lead.

So, what is “ministry porn”?

Ministry porn is voyeuristically viewing how other pastors and churches do ministry, fantasizing about their lives and situations, and, thus, avoiding the real work of leading people and building your own ministry.

Take a few moments to consider the problems with actual pornography and you’ll see why this idea is dangerous for pastors.

1. Porn is an escape. People use it to escape their stressful lives, difficult marriages and personal insecurities. Similarly, ministry porn provides an escape from leading real ministry, which is often filled with tough decisions, unrealistic expectations, and difficult people.

2. Porn is a way to avoid real intimacy. It is a “false intimacy,” offering the illusion of being loved, wanted, and enjoyed while the user is actually alone, ashamed, and afraid of real relational depth. Similarly, ministry porn offers the illusion of impacting people while the pastor is actually avoiding real relationships where he could make a real difference.

3. Porn is unrealistic. It involves not-even-close-to-ordinary people doing things that most real people do not do. Similarly, ministry porn involves out-of-this-world leaders who are often in very unusual ministry situations. Comparing your ministry to the top 1% of church leaders and their churches—filled with more money, talent, and resources than you can imagine—will inevitably leave you feeling dissatisfied with reality.

4. Porn is distractingly available. Technology means porn is available anywhere at anytime. Those struggling with porn find this to be an almost-constant distraction. Similarly, technology has allowed pastors access to ministry porn they would have never had 20 years ago. Blogs, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook provide persistent opportunities for distraction from real ministry and real people.

5. Porn is deceitful. One time an engaged guy told me he needed to watch porn to do research on how to make love to his future wife. Terrible idea. Total deception. Similarly, pastors can succumb to ministry porn while convincing themselves they are doing research or just trying to learn. There’s obviously a better argument for this than the one the engaged guy was making. But pastors should be careful. What starts as genuine learning can easily turn into you being a busybody, keeping up on what the celebrity pastors are up to.

In my experience of church planting, I’ve fallen into ministry porn too many times. I love to learn, I’m well connected, and I’m pretty good with technology, making me an easy target. But, too often, I’ve wasted time and energy following what other guys are doing more than actually developing what God has assigned me to do. Thus, I’ve had to closely monitor how much time I’m spending watching talks, reading blogs, and skimming social media feeds. At times, I’ve had to take a break or significantly trim my subscriptions.

Doing ministry well is hard work. It demands big buckets of emotional energy, time with people, intense study, and strategic thinking. In church planting, everyone you lead is a volunteer—making your work even more challenging. All of this can make you want to escape.

Don’t do it. The joy of ministry comes when real people have been impacted by real work, time and relationship.

 

What I Learned from 10 Churches in 4 Days

This past week was crazy. I took our five Pastoral Residents on our first annual “church tour.” We decided to stay close to home and see what we could learn from the Church (or part of it) in Phoenix.

We interacted with 10 churches, met with 7 leaders, participated in 6 worship services, heard 2 sermons on Galatians 3:15-26 (at different churches!) and drove 339 miles — all in 4 days.

The first two days (Thursday-Friday), we arranged seven meetings with church and ministry leaders. Then over the weekend, we visited six different services.

I took many pages of notes, especially in our meetings, so for this post I want to share the single biggest lesson I took away from each of the seven meetings and then share some general lessons from visiting all the church services.

INTERVIEWS

Randy Thomas

1. Randy Thomas, Executive Pastor of Mercy, Mission Community Church

It was a treat to spend time with Randy and his assistant Shelly. Randy was humble, gracious and remarkably transparent with a group of guys he didn’t really know well. Made me excited for Mission’s future.

BIGGEST LESSON: The church is not a counseling center — it’s much more. When it comes to people in pain and crisis, the church can offer something that nobody else can: a Christ-centered community.

Terry Crist2. Terry Crist, Lead Pastor, City of Grace

Terry and his team were remarkably hospitable, serving us a nice, catered lunch and going out of their way to welcome us.

BIGGEST LESSON: Never lose the smell of sheep. As a church grows, it’s crucial to continue to work hard to know, care for, and invest in people. And don’t be a hireling. 

Bill Borinstein3. Bill Borinstein, Lead Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel North Phoenix

Bill has been a wonderful blessing to me and our staff for a number of years. This is the second or third time I’ve taken folks to learn from him and it’s been wonderful each time.

BIGGEST LESSON: If your leadership isn’t fueled by closeness to Jesus, you have nothing to say and nowhere to go. Don’t trade intimacy with Jesus for leading others into intimacy with Jesus.

Jeff Gokee4. Jeff Gokee, Executive Director, PhoenixONE

Jeff’s ministry is unique in that he doesn’t lead a church, but leads a ministry that works to connect 20-somethings with local churches.

BIGGEST LESSON: If we’re honest, most churches are geared to young families. So churches need to work hard to acknowledge 20-somethings and intentionally create environments to connect them with older people who will love–not criticize–them.

Brian Kruckenberg5. Brian Kruckenberg, Lead Pastor, New City Church

It’s been fun to watch Brian’s ministry grow rapidly in the last few years, from a small church re-plant to now over 900 people in the heart of the city.

BIGGEST LESSON: Because you’re the leader you often think you know best. But everything is stronger if you let artists create, let writers write, and let all the people do what they are better than you at doing.

Neil Pitchel6. Neil Pitchel, Pastor of Administration, Redemption Church

Neil’s leadership and financial expertise is a big reason why Redemption has been able to be so strong in the midst of expanding.

BIGGEST LESSON: One of the biggest mistake a pastor can make is not knowing how money works and ignoring the financial aspects of church leadership.

Scott Maxwell7. Scott Maxwell, Elder of Preaching, Grace Bible Church

Grace has a reputation for training men and developing people, and spending time with Scott made it clear why this is such a strength.

BIGGEST LESSON: Don’t leapfrog over your heart. You can’t assume that you or the people you are training have hearts that are close to God. So focus on the heart before you focus on the head and the hands.

LESSONS FROM 6 CHURCH SERVICES

We visited Mission and Sun Valley on Saturday night and then went to New City, Church of the Cross, Mars Hill and Impact on Sunday. Here’s what I learned:

1. Preaching really matters a lot. The sermon is the longest part of any service and, as a result, plays a huge role in the effectiveness of the service. The services I enjoyed the most had the best, most engaging, most gospel-centered preaching and the services I enjoyed least had the weakest preaching.

2. Worship leaders need to lead. Everywhere we went had music. None of it was awful. Some of it was tremendous. But the best places were places where the worship leaders actually led. They prayed, they exhorted, they helped you engage. Anyone can play a gig. But we need worship leaders to lead.

3. Every church as a vibe that communicates strongly. As we would debrief each place, you could tell that much of how each guy interpreted his experience was through the “vibe” of the church. You could call the “vibe” culture, feel, or something else. You can write whatever you want on a website, but the vibe more strongly communicates who you really are.

4. I will hire some secret shoppers. Having this experience convinced me that I need to hire/recruit some secret shoppers who will intentionally visit our church and give us feedback on key elements of the experience. When you’re in it every week, you just get blind to so much.

I had a blast with the guys on our trip. And I’m encouraged by how different the body of Christ can be.

Do You Know What it Really Means to Abide in Christ?

abideAbiding in Christ is not optional for effective Christian leadership. If you want to do true spiritual good, you must walk in dependence. Francis Schaeffer said that the central problem of our age is:

the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.

If you are in ministry leadership, you have no doubt exhorted those you lead to abide in Christ. But do you know what it really means to abide in Christ? The answer may surprise you.

The biblical text where Jesus focuses on abiding in him is John 15. Here we learn three things about abiding in Christ. Each of them unfolds a deeper layer that eventually helps us get to the bottom of what it is to abide in Christ.

1. Abiding in Christ is Essential for Fruitfulness.

Jesus says:

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:4-9, ESV)

If you abide in Christ, you: (a) will bear much fruit, (b) can do something, (c) have confidence of answered prayer, (d) can glorify God. In other words, abiding in Christ is essential for fruitfulness.

2. Abiding in Christ is Obeying His Commandments.

Jesus then digs a layer deeper, helping us see what it is to abide in him:

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11, ESV)

So…abiding is obeying. We withdraw from abiding in Christ when we choose disobedience. When we obey, by faith, we draw near to Christ and abide in him. Additionally, according to verse 11, this is a path of real joy.

3. Abiding in Christ is Obeying His Commandment to Love.

Here we get to the root of the issue. What is it to really — at the deepest level — abide in Christ?

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:12-17, ESV)

Do you follow the logic?

Abiding in Christ = Obeying His Commandments
His Commandment = Love One Another
Abiding in Christ = Love One Another

We often think of abiding in Christ as prayer or having a quiet time. Surely this is a good thing, part of obeying his commandments. But the root of abiding in Christ is loving one another with sacrificial love.

Conclusion

A few concluding thoughts for ministry leaders:

  1. You stay closest to Christ when you really love others.
  2. You can have a terrific quiet time but if you are using people to prop up your fragile ego or misplaced identity, rather than loving them, you are not really abiding in Christ.
  3. We must see people as the precious bride of Christ and love them as he does.
  4. Real fruitfulness happens in a ministry of love.

What other ways would you apply this lesson about abiding?