People aren’t projects
As disciple-making remains at the core of what we do, over time there is a danger of that core becoming corrupt. A mission that started out with a passion to love and serve people can subtly become a project to be completed. In guarding ourselves from this trap, we must continually remind ourselves that people are not projects.
The self-inflicted pressure of numbers to grow, curriculum to complete, advice to give, and testimonies to accumulate are some of the attitudes that fog the lenses of our gospel focus. Fight this fog with friendship. There is such joy knowing that the greatest disciple maker of all-time produced deep friendships as a result of His ministry efforts. Consider John 15:12–15:
This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus was not interested in developing a bunch of hoop-jumping, man-pleasing, ministry-managing minions but rather those with whom He could exchange His very life and friends for whom He could lay down His life. It was not a moral mission that would fuel the disciples’ commitment to a self-sacrificing cause but a friendship with the man they lived out that mission alongside. Friendships like these were not solely built in formal ministry but over meals shared, long walks, fixed failures, and the occasional fishing trip. The goal of our ministry efforts should not be the completion of a “perfect project”, but a life exchange with people that ushers them into the abundant life of Christ.
A few questions below to see if people have become your projects:
- Do the students with whom you engage have the confidence that you will be their friend no matter what happens?
- Has consistent two-way communication been developed?
- Are you learning from them?
- Is a goal of your time spent together sincere friendship?
- When you challenge them, is their worth to you dependent on how they respond?
These are difficult questions we must wrestle with in order to keep our motives in this mission pure. When we make people projects, it becomes about us, and we fail as stewards of the glorious gospel.
The potential for God and His plans to fail do not exist. The Word bears witness to this in that it declares “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). Therefore, if love is our motive, love will be our goal and our action. Then, like Christ, we too will not fail. It is because of the flawless success rate of this disciple-making strategy that Jesus made it a command in John 15. As we live and lead by it, the fruit of friendship will always be produced.