I read a facebook post that my daughter wrote last week where she reflected a bit on doing some yard work when she was a child. She said very clearly what I knew from practical experience with her when she was younger that she HATED yard work. She complained when I asked her to do it and because of that would do her work slowly, begrudgingly and, in most cases, badly. Her facebook post actually was as much of a public “lament” and apology to me (although that was not her intent) for all those years where that was her predominant “m.o.” She ended her post after having finished a major yard project at her home (she is now 30 years old) with the words, “after three hours of yard work today I have had a revelation: this is the first time I believe that I have EVER said I did yard work for 3 hours and actually enjoyed it”. Well, when I read that, I had to post back to her “well done”. I’m sure the job she did was thorough and after looking at the pictures she posted that day the proof was there…the job was well done and her yard looked great!
After this exchange the other day, I was reading the gospel of Matthew again in attempting to recall those famous words of Jesus, “well done my good and faithful servant.” When Jesus says, “well done my good and faithful servant”…what was he praising? In the context of the story, the master was praising the wisdom and faithfulness of the servant in DOING what the master had asked him to do. The story makes clear that the master expected each servant to do something with the resources that had been “invested” in each.
Have you ever considered, when we stand before Jesus and in our longing to hear the words, “well done my good and faithful servant”, what will he be praising? Remember, there’s a context from which those words would be uttered…there is a giftedness, an investment (if you will) that Jesus has given to us through His Spirit, there is a call, a purpose in His chosenness that He is going to be evaluating in terms of faithfulness. We’re not talking salvation issues here…let’s not miss the point. The point is that God has given us His “mysteries” (Ephesians 1) and invested in us by implanting His very life into our hearts and lives FOR A PURPOSE. And I believe like I have never believed before that it is time to be very clear about what we are about as people who follow Jesus AND it is time to be very clear with people in our sphere of influence about what God is calling them “into” as a life and lifestyle.
Without beating around the bush or spending time, energy and money to get us all on the same page with a new mission or purpose statement for who we are and what we do in the Kingdom we have to realize that WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN GIVEN OUR MISSION STATEMENT – OUR PURPOSE AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS IS CLEAR – “GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES”.
So let’s put a specific parabolic context on this issue – when we get face to face with Jesus, he’s never going to ask us how many churchgoers we called our own or how good our programs, preaching or presentations were…he’s not going to ask for our church budgets or care about how many friends we had on facebook…he’s not going to be interested in how many blog hits you had or how many sermons you had downloaded off your church’s website…he’s not going to evaluate the staff members you worked with or tell us he’s proud of the church strategy we adopted that made us culturally relevant, and by all means is he going to spend a moment checking out our denominational credentials or confessional statements…the ONLY THING he’s going to ask about is this – DID YOU DO ALL YOU COULD WITH WHAT I GAVE YOU TO MAKE PEOPLE LIKE ME? I don’t think you can logically come to any other conclusion when you read the words of Jesus.
So – here’s the question – what is your grid for evaluating ministry? If developing people so that they become like Jesus than we have to ask ourselves if what we are doing is shaping and releasing the type of disciple, Spirit empowered identity that will be faithful to the call of Jesus…if our activities, processes, worship services, budgets and buildings are doing that…if they are actually reorienting people’s life direction so that they are closer to an experience of God and a lifestyle that reflects the life of their Lord and God than we are on the right track.
Remember, a disciple is not someone who stays the same. There is an inherent “principle” in scripture that assumes that things that are alive GROW…if not, they are dead. As one author points out,
“A disciple is someone struggling to live a life of heartfelt love and obedience to the Father, living and dying for the higher purposes of God’s Kingdom. Disciples are called out of their selfish ambitions, and they understand that the longer they follow Jesus, the more uncomfortable they will be and the more sacrifice and effort it will require…”
In other words, calling people to leave their nets, to prioritize God’s mission over their own, to live by faith, to take up their cross, to deny self, and to “seek first God’s kingdom and righteous life” is what Christ is calling us into as not only an experience but a lifestyle. To do anything short of that is not being faithful to the call of Jesus. Jesus calls us to make disciples…do you have a grid from which to evaluate your ministries? If it is numbers, buildings, or budgets, you might be headed down the wrong path. If it is a disciplemaking lifestyle – that people are looking more and more like Jesus, than you might be on the right track.
This is a matter of spiritual formation and spiritual formation is about application of truth to life. Look sometime at the book of Ephesians – even Paul’s structure of the letter underscores his commitment to the Spirit’s desire to transform people’s lives…follow him through the letter…watch him skillfully communicate God’s truth through chapters one through three only to turn sharply and decisively in chapters four through six with numerous “therefore’s” (always an application word in scripture). Look at Paul in Ephesians 5 as he exhorts people to walk in love, light and wisdom…in other words, live this Jesus-thing out in your life. Remember the life of a disciple isn’t about cognitive enlightenment but behavioral, life transformation…new ways of thinking and acting…having the “mind of Christ” for a reason – being faithful to His call and purposes. That is a life lived in a manner shaped by the words, “well done my good and faithful servant”.