Last night, I finished a book I had been reading for a while. I actually restarted it twice. It was a church leadership book. Over the last several years, I’ve tended to rush through those. I don’t appreciate that the church infatuates itself with business-like approaches to leadership.
This was different, though.
Not that the principles of the book limit themselves to ministry. Leaders in other fields seem quicker at crafting and adopting better leadership approaches. Still, this book was a strong encouragement for me.
There’s one note, in particular, I want to share with you.
One of the leadership qualities discussed in the book was conversation. Yes, simple conversation. In fact, consider conversation to be more important than problem-solving. The author included an exercise used among a group of clergy. Each clergy member shared their call story, how they sensed God first calling them to ministry.
It was a wonderful reminder of the purpose God placed on their hearts.
You see, it’s easy to get caught up in the problems of ministry. You get bombarded with everyone’s opinions and personal agendas. When you’re not careful, you wade into the waters of ministry as a business. There’s too much opportunity for the current reality of church to overwhelm you, and not in a good way.
For these clergy, remembering why God called them in the first place offered a sense of renewed hope.
I imagine folks in the pews need hope, too. We’re all a part of the big machine of ministry. We all see the same things. Fewer people in worship. Giving is down. People seem preoccupied with other life happenings. We’re proud if we can even get 20% of our people to do 80% of the work.
If we’re not careful, we focus more on those things than we do on our love of Jesus. Little by little, that’s how we end up forsaken the love we had at first (Revelation 2:4).
It might be helpful for you to recall when you first came to know, really know the love of Christ. What experience changed your heart? How did faith in God first impact your life? I hope you can sense God’s presence transforming you now, but it’s also important to remember.
The final chapter of Song of Solomon is a beautiful illustration of first love.
The two lovers ride together into the maiden’s hometown. If you’re studying the book, you’ll notice callbacks to previous chapters in this homecoming. For now, notice the two as they embrace and view the woman’s home. As she returns home, people wonder who that is coming from the wilderness. Something within her has changed.
They will come to know what we have already read. The love she shares with her beloved has changed her.
I don’t mean to suggest you and I should throw our hands up in defeat, despair or disregard in light of the church’s current reality. Quite the opposite. The church is God’s redemptive tool. We have a ministry to pursue.
Christ has overcome the world. May it be that you and I overcome what we are facing in and with the love of God, our first love.