Do you ever think about what makes you special as a pastor or a counselor?
If you're like me, when I got out of Bible college, I was certain that I was going to change the world. I learned from the best teachers, read more than I've ever read in my life, and heard more preaching from great examples behind great pulpits in great churches. I was determined. I was going to be the next great man of God. From my fledgling perspective there was no good reason why people shouldn't listen to me.
After all, I had a Master’s degree which is more than most people. I was special. I couldn't grow a beard at the time because it was coming in too patchy but, regardless when people looked at me, they would see the next Charles Spurgeon.
Of course, it didn't take long for my bubble to burst and for reality to set in. I was a young whippersnapper in a sea of young whippersnappers. I wasn't special. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The harder I tried the more I ended up trusting in my abilities in my determination and the less I depended on Christ.
Christ said, “I will build my church.” I thought that meant that I was going to build His church and He would have a hand in it and not, He was going to build His church and I got to have a hand in it.
I had to be shown repeatedly that Christ is first, I am a distant second in everything. When we start with the right order of events it leads to the right conclusion. Consider what is missing from my example above as a fresh pastor.
I was missing the key ingredient. Love.
“They will know you are my disciples by your love,” the Lord said. I traded that for, “they will know you are my disciple by your Master’s degree and large amount of time spent reading and listening to good preaching.”
And after 15 years in ministry, it is still easy for me to fall into the trap of leading by trusting in my own wisdom, experience, and book learnin’ instead of getting out of my own way, leading in love, and trusting Christ to build His church.
“We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) This is a universal truth that cannot be refuted. Whichever way you were won to Christ it was the love of God that brought you there and keeps you there. It is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance (Rom 2:4).
The order of things is very clear from Scripture and from your testimony.
Love comes first then you're obedient.
We don’t obey because we are trying to earn His love. We have His love, we have it perfectly, therefore we obey, and have the power and motivation to keep obeying throughout our entire life.
16 That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
This passage from Ephesians 3 is a call, a command, to measure and comprehend the love of Christ constantly throughout our lives. In growing in our knowledge of Christ’s love for us, we find the power and motivation to obey and keep on obeying. We are “filled with all the fullness of God”, we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.”
Knowing the depths of Gospel, love gives us the spiritual power to keep living for Christ in a fallen world and serving others. Therefore, God’s love as seen in the gospel is a framework for personal obedience. It is also a framework for ministry.
1 Thessalonians 2:6-8
6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
The model in Scripture for both evangelism and counseling is love first then obedience follows.
We need to start with love for others. In ministry as well as in relationships of every type, love is what connects us with other people. If you're honest with yourself, people are rarely impressed by your background, your pedigree, or the number of degrees hanging on your wall. But if you genuinely pray for them, love them, and serve them, then your heart will leave an impression on them. When they need somebody to talk to or a counselor, they will know you are a safe confidant.
So, what does this look like? Think of your favorite professor in Bible college or favorite pastor in your past. Someone that ministered to your heart. Very likely you are thinking about someone whose loving heart was regularly on display. I doubt you are thinking of the smartest, most educated man in your school who can argue like a great orator of stoicism.
The ones that left the biggest impression were the ones that learned your name, your struggles, and your heart. So, live like that. Don’t seek the glory from men, like the 1 Thessalonians passage above says. Instead, seek to anchor a person’s faith to the gospel which gives them everything they need in God. The same way that your faith is anchored to the gospel that gives you everything you need in God.
So, before a counseling meeting, genuinely pray for that person. Decide to get involved by deciding to love that person all the way through their problems. If your heart is bored or you’re preoccupied, then repent and change your heart.
Seek true compassion.
Compassion is considering how you would feel and think if you were in that person’s situation. When you actively have compassion and love for them, they will see it and they will actually listen to your counsel.
This is what we want from our people. To listen to us and turn and obey Scripture. They only will listen to us if we love them first. The best thing about this, is that you also don’t have to have all the answers. They will still love you and listen to you.
People are not persuaded by proper answers and explanations for everything like we may think anyway. Instead, people are persuaded to obey God because of a proper understanding of God’s love. Your entire faith is not anchored in proper explanations or arguments or degrees form college.
Your faith is anchored in one supreme event that manifested God’s love to the world. So, fill yourself with gospel love and manifest your love in other’s lives as well. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care is certainly true and confirmed through the gospel of our loving Lord!
One Big Idea: If we care to love people more than we care to educate them, they will be quicker to listen to us.