When I begin to evaluate my ministry tool belt, several things come to mind. As a worship leader of 20 years I have fair skills in music and in organization. My education has been a blessing to help prepare me for God's calling on my life. I know how to lead a choir and band and have talent in leadership. I feel that I can get the job done more than adequately if placed in a situation where my gifts are best utilized.
No doubt that many of you have the same abilities...and many exceed them. When I examine what I need alongside my gifts and abilities, one thing keeps rising to the top of the list. It's the only thing that will last in ministry, and the only thing that people truly respond to, and yet it’s the one thing that is easily overlooked amidst the glitz and glamor of being a musical person with talent. The lost and saved alike are drawn to it and moved by it. Strangely enough, it's not our music or preaching. I still need work in this area but it's one worth the effort. What's the most important thing you can have to help you in ministry? LOVE. Simple enough, right? You'd be surprised at the lack of it in our churches. Because most of us have become self-centered Christians, the act of LOVE is rarely evident in the church. There are many that are doing a great job; however many of us still need help. We can go through the right motions of Christian living that fool those around us, but when the chips are down, if we are not motivated by true love our inner self will surface sooner or later.
1 Cor 13:13 says, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." We all know this. We have read this passage a thousand times. If you are like me, we fail miserably at it. We tend to get more caught up in the programming and planning than we do in loving those God has placed in our care. We are more concerned about preparing great music and sermons than reaching out in LOVE to our people and those in our community that need it.
It's clear in the scriptures that it doesn't matter how gifted we are, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” 1 Cor 13:1. Why is it that our colleagues and seminaries are great at teaching the skills of the ministry and yet fail to teach LOVE? Paul continues in verse 2, "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." Wow! You mean I can be as talented as Steven Curtis Chapman or gifted like Chris Tomlin in writing and leading worship and because I don't have LOVE, I am nothing? That's what it says.
What does it mean to LOVE? "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails,” Cor. 13:4-8. These are tough guidelines for all people much less musicians and pastors.
I submit to you that if you took a poll of the people that God has called you to minister to and asked them, "What would you prefer from your ministers, LOVE or talent?" I would venture to say that the majority of people would say LOVE. The world is full of talent. What it needs is LOVE.
I challenge you to love your people beyond what you are comfortable with. It's become one of my New Year’s resolutions. I have found when I do LOVE them, they respond more to it than they do my music and talent. If you want to see your ministry flourish, LOVE those around you. Keep in mind that tough LOVE is needed as well. My father and mother were the best examples of "Loving the People" I have ever seen. Their caring for people kept them in the same church for over 32 years. They have impacted thousands with their ministry. What was the base of their ministry? Simply, LOVE.