Mission, Self, and God's Glory (Part 2)
Reflect being with God
Many times what we bring to the leadership role is our education, experience, and expertise. But if those are the only things we bring, we will fail to cultivate a true missional culture and effort in our churches.
In Israel's early days, Moses would return from the mountain with his face glowing from the glory of God. This was an encouragement to the Israelites, but Moses had to start wearing a veil so they wouldn't be discouraged when the glory in his face began to fade. Paul makes an important connection between this story and the glory of God in the presence of Jesus in 2 Corinthans 3:16-18:
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
In Christ is ever-increasing glory. When you are spending time basking in Christ's glory, it will be evident to others. You won’t have to create some veil to hide its absence, some sort of façade or illusion of competency or confidence. Your closeness to God will communicate volumes to your community about the transforming power of God’s presence.
People need to be able to say of us what they said of Jesus' closest followers: “They’ve been with Jesus.”
What you need to know is that it's a fool's errand trying to get people on mission who haven't been transformed by the Gospel. Our mission is God’s mission, so any missional movement not rooted in closeness to God is not going to explicitly glorify Him. Pastors ought to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and then minister out of the overflow.
No longer live for yourself
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15:
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
No longer living for myself sounds a bit like seeking God’s glory and agenda, but it is more systemic. It is how you get to that focus. Paul speaks to “first things”—the root issues of our idolatry and the fertile soil for worship of God. He says we are “compelled” by Christ’s love and we have died to ourselves in him. This is the wondrous work of the Gospel in our hearts.
If you make your life about Jesus, your ministry will follow. And if your life is about Jesus, your life also will be about God’s mission, redeeming the world through the saving work of Jesus.
Preaching well the crucified Christ means nailing ourselves to the cross along with him. It means considering the benefits, opportunities, and perks of your position to be loss for the sake of the Gospel.
This isn’t about martyrdom or feigned humility. As is often said: It's not about thinking less of yourself; it's about thinking of yourself less.
What would your ministry look like if you took more of yourself out of the equation and factored in more of Christ? We are instruments of God’s glory, made for His glory and to proclaim His glory. The key concept is not “we” but “God’s glory.”
Remember, the church doesn’t have a mission so much as the mission has a church!
If we will take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we will have fulfilled the call of Christ on mission in the world – and avoided the idolatry of self-centered mission.