The Gospel Sync | #28 | John 3:22-36
Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be discussing the Gospel of John and competition in ministry.
So let’s dive in.
(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document)
The Gospel – John 3:22-36
After this, Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them and baptized. Now John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because the water was plentiful there, and people kept coming to be baptized. (Because John had not yet been thrown into prison.)
Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the issue of ceremonial washing. So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Look Rabbi, the One who was with you beyond the Jordan, the One you testified about—He is baptizing, and everyone is going to Him.” John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.
The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony. Whoever accepts His testimony has certified that God is truthful. For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”
The spirit of competition kicked in with John’s disciples. “Hey John, the guy across the river is stealing all our sheep. What are we going to do?” Happens every time. Why are we so afraid of others’ influence or success? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing when we see the kingdom of God producing fruit even when it’s under the branches of another tree? John the Baptist got this right. He recognized who Jesus was and the work that He was doing. He submitted gladly to the sovereign work of God and reveled in Jesus’ success.
“But Chuck, you don’t understand, the church across the street, they’re taking all our people. If they were Jesus, I would gladly give up my sheep but they’re NOT Jesus.”
I’d like to point out three things;
- They are not our sheep, they belong to Jesus. Jesus, Himself, makes this abundantly clear.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John.10.27-30)
- They’re not our disciples, they’re Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus gave us His Great Commission, did He command us to make disciples of us or Him? This is why I never call people MY disciples. I might call them my Timothys or peeps or something else but I leave the term of endearment of “disciple” to be held by Jesus and Him alone. Disciples belong to Jesus. Besides, who wants to see little Chuck Woods running around!?
- We aren’t the only ones discipling these people. One of the most common illusions we embrace is the idea that we have exclusive influence in a person’s life as their mentor. Really? So no one else should be speaking into their life? No one else guiding and directing them to Jesus? Even if we tried to have “exclusive rights” to a person, it would never happen unless we were living on a desert island with them. We need to recognize and celebrate the multifaceted contributions of the body. (Just try to tell a believing grandma to keep her spiritual paws off your project, uh, I mean mentee)
So how do we “cast out” the spirit of competition? First, by acknowledging the people we are discipling, they all belong to Jesus. We should have an open hand with these relationships. He puts people in and He takes them out. He is the Great Shepherd. He knows what His disciples need better than we do. Second, we need to be sensitive to our brothers and sisters. Are you a veteran disciple maker with a big flock? Why are you going to step in and take away the only little lamb they have and rob the young disciple maker of their experience? Why not play the “Cool Uncle” and affirm what the other laborer is doing like Jesus did with John the Baptist. Dialogue with the other disciple maker, work together, give space for someone else to learn their trade.
But what about sheep being abused? Now that’s a different story. If you ever want to see a pastor go prophet, mess with the sheep! If you see spiritual abuse happening, by all means step in and rescue the flock from the wolf in shepherd’s clothing. More on this at a later time.
When Deb and I were stationed at Fort Benning, GA. we saw the wonderful hand of God move in our midst. We had disciples of Jesus crawling all over one another. We decided we needed to think a little more strategically. So we gathered the leaders together and carved up the geography of Ft. Benning by drawing lines on a map and doled out the pieces to each leader. It didn’t take long for that little act of “brilliance” to cause conflict. It seems a guy was led to Christ in one territory and ate in the Mess Hall in another. When the two leaders realized they were both trying to recruit the poor guy to their respective Bible studies, a tug-of-war ensued. They were miffed at each other for “stealing their guy.” I took our map back out and quickly erased the solid lines we had drawn and replaced them with dotted ones. We then had a great discussion on how the gospel knows no boundaries, Jesus owns all the sheep, and we as His undershepherds need to be sensitive to one another and communicate.
Our Action Plan
So what do we need to work on?
- Are we affirming other disciple makers or tearing them down to make ourselves look good?
- Are we a team of leaders (elders, plural) or are we the “only show in town?”
- Do we have an open hand before the Father as He places people in and takes them out
Our stewardship of the flock requires us to lead and love well. We have to trust God with where He leads His sheep. We need to avoid controlling and competing.