John the Baptist is a fascinating character. He plays an essential role in the narrative of the gospels and yet so peripheral we often do not pay attention to him. In fact every time John speaks, he is pointing to Christ and deflecting focus from himself. Interestingly Jesus called him the greatest man that ever lived and yet at the same time the least in the kingdom (Matthew 11:11). John the Baptist was always humble in his ministerial perspective. Notice the phrases used to refer to or describe the man: “he was not the light”, “I am not the Christ”, “I am not Elijah”, “I am not the prophet”, “a voice in the wilderness”, “I must decrease”, “he ended up in prison and beheaded”. It is not a glamorous ministry and neither is it one you want to crave for, yet John by Christ’s estimations was the greatest. What lessons can we learn from the life and ministry of John the Baptist?
Ministerial platforms come from God
And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. John 3:26-27
This perspective of life and ministry will save many of us from envy of other people’s ministry and success and also from jostling for attention and praise from people. Ministry platforms and opportunities come from God and they are to be used for Him not self-promotion or exaltation. This perspective will also ensure that you are content with your ministry whether it is celebrated or little-known. This is so because you can always be assured that you are where God wants you to be at any given time.
Ministerial platforms are meant to point to Christ
John the Baptist understood that he was just meant to prepare the way and stay out of the way. He was merely a pointer and not the point. The point was Jesus Christ! Someone rightly said “if all people see is you and your efforts to build a platform then you are stealing the show.” The clamor for praise and people’s attention among us ministers is an ever present temptation. With the rise of social media the temptation is ever real. Where does one draw the line? On one hand it is a wonderful tool for ministry, while on the other hand the dangers for self-praise are ever present. At the end of the day every man knows the motives behind their action. Ada Whiddington’s prayer should be every minister’s.
Not I, but Christ be honored, loved, exalted,
Not I, but Christ be seen, be known and heard;
Not I, but Christ in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ in every thought and word.
Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee,
Oh, that it may be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me.
Ministerial platforms can only be enjoyed when used to the glory of God
Whenever I am involved in a wedding, i make it a point to have a word with the bridal party. I remind them it’s not their wedding and it is not about them! They are simply the supporting cast. I even go as far as saying if they decided not to show up on the actual day, the wedding would still go ahead. The reason i give this talk is because I have seen some bridesmaid act as though it’s their show, they whine and grumble and make silly demands and they want things done their way. Such bridesmaid or grooms men forget it is not about them and their behavior is totally unacceptable. I have also noticed that such people never get to enjoy the wedding.
That is often the case in ministry. People who miss the point and fail to understand their role do not have the joy of serving God. Their joy is often tied to results. They are happy when the numbers are high and they miserable when the numbers are low. They rejoice when they are invited to speak at conferences and camps and are downcast when it is another who is invited. They go home smiling when someone praises their preaching and are bothered when no one does. All these and many other examples simply reveal wrong focus in ministry. It is not about us, we are mere instruments in the hands of our maker and our joy comes from the fact we have made our God known whether people listen or they do not or whether they praise us or they do not. Listen to John’s perspective
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:28-30