One of my favorite musicians is Ben Rector. Last month for our anniversary, Jamie and I went to go see him at The Zoo in Oklahoma City. Although I wish that concerts were activities people sat during instead of standing for hours on end, I loved every minute of it. His music is so beautiful. His music points to the gracious gifts of God in this world even when it’s not explicitly Christ-exalting. He has one song entitled Steady Love. It’s all about how young men and women continue to chase the thrills of life and the adventures of the American Dream. In light of that, Ben sings about the importance of finding some steady love in life.
While that song is 100% about relationships, the importance of finding steady love still holds true when talking about the people of God.
I want to be a man who exhibits steady love to those in my path.
The longer I am in ministry, the more I see that love and gentleness go much further in impacting change than preaching a good sermon or staunchly leading an effective meeting.
I’ve been reading through and listening to 1 Corinthians as of late. 1 Corinthians brings up the importance of love time and time again. Two specific passages come to mind when I think about its teachings on love.
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. – 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
For far too much of my life in ministry, I have been that man with knowledge. I read a ton. I have hundreds upon hundreds of books and thousands of digital books on Logos. I love to grow in my knowledge of the word.
My first several years in ministry I thought that was the extent of ministry: learn about the word and then preach about the word.
That was it.
By the grace of God I’ve been able to see that love is more important than knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong, I still study to preach and teach and blog and podcast and film videos and post. That’s still a part of my life. But God has shown me that loving the people of God is way more impactful, effective, and God-glorifying than my ability to stand at a pulpit and preach.
I can be a preacher without the heart of a pastor.
I want to be a pastor with the mind of a preacher.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . . . Love is not rude. It does not insist on its own way; – 1 Corinthians 13:1, 5a
When I look back on my years in ministry in Vernon, it’s easy to see that for the first half of it at least, I was loud and proud. I tried to be as provocative as possible. I wanted to rock the boat. I wanted to buck up against the status quo. I wanted to shake the trees. I wanted to step on toes.
Now, that’s not necessarily sinful.
There are moments where the word of God confronts me right in the face. And thus there are moments where my preaching and teaching should and must confront the sins of those I walk with Christ with.
But my motivation should never be to wound.
It should always be to convict and challenge.
I was bold in my walk with Jesus. But I didn’t process well the impact my words would make on those around me.
I look back now and hear a noisy gong.
I look back now and hear a clanging cymbal.
As of late, Jamie gets on to me because I have grown to love the quiet so much that I can foolishly get agitated by the smallest of noises.
But I have truly grown to love the quiet. Rides in the car without the radio. Runs in the morning. Reading underneath the massive tree in our backyard. Maybe I’m a Luddite.
There would be nothing more frustrating and annoying than reading in the back yard at dusk and hearing a car honking repeatedly in our driveway.
According to Paul, men and women who have gifts and talents devoid of love will be just as frustrating to the people of God.
And you know what? That’s me.
That’s been me more times than I can count.
But I want to be different now. I want people to think of love when they hear my name. I used to want them to think I was an amazing teacher of God’s Word. If I’m being 100% candid, I still do. But I would rather have them think of my love for them.
Brother or sister in Christ, are you loud? Do you insist on getting things the way you want them to be at the expense of relationships with others?
Do you have gifting straight from God (we all do) that is being used devoid of love for His people?
You may be accomplishing much for God, but at the end of the day you’re just a noisy gong on a quiet morning.
Let’s learn to love.
Let’s do it together.
In His Name,