Our theme for this month: “Character and integrity”
Our Bible verse for today: “When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to teach them …” Matthew 5:1-2
Our thought for today: “Invest in people”
I became a Christian and learned how to be a Pastor in the supercharged Christian environment of Southern California in the early 1990s. I say the environment was “supercharged” because it was a time in that region of stadium crusades and mega-churches, and there was a very heavy emphasis on big numbers. Success was measured by how big your church was and how many people you had baptized. No other metrics of healthy church life seemed to matter very much.
Not surprisingly, but sadly for me, that mindset governed my approach to being a Pastor for quite a few years. It was a high-pressure and often frustrating way to approach church life – always striving to somehow someway produce bigger numbers. It was stress-producing, it was often frustrating, and it was also diametrically different from how Jesus did it.
At Oak Hill Baptist Church I’m currently preaching through the Gospel of Matthew on Sunday mornings. The way that Matthew structured his Gospel helps us to understand that most of Jesus’ ministry was focused on training the twelve Apostles, and then a slightly larger circle of followers. Occasionally crowds of people got to listen-in (such as during the Sermon on the Mount), but first and foremost, Jesus focused most of His ministry efforts on training the twelve.
That was a lesson I needed to learn. It was an example I needed to be following. Fortunately, in time, I learned to adjust my model of ministry to be more like that of Jesus. I developed a different and better way of being a Pastor which I call “Pastoring deep instead of wide.” In other words, instead of touching a lot of people a little, I focus on going deep with a smaller group. To confirm and to help me along in that new approach, from time-to-time the Lord makes me aware of helpful insights from other people who have learned that same lesson. One such insight was, “Focus on building into individual lives. The Lord isn’t giving you big crowds, instead He’s giving you individual people.” Another goes like this: “If you want to make a difference in the world, it will happen not by multiplying programs, but by investing in people.”
The Lord works in each of our lives to develop the character traits He wants to see in us. Then He calls us to model and teach those lessons to others. That seldom happens, or happens well, in large crowds. It happens most and best one-on-one or in small groups. And it’s not just Jesus, the Apostles, or Pastors who are called to do this. It’s all of us. God intends for each of us to learn and grow, and to then model and teach those lessons to others.
Who are you learning from? Who are your mentors and teachers? And then, who is learning from you? I encourage you to invest in the lives of others.