God-centered or Man-centered?

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It’s a healthy exercise for pastors and other church leaders to periodically examine and evaluate our ministries. In the eternal scheme of things, where do we fit? What on earth are we doing? What should we be doing? Obviously, our priorities should be to glorify God, evangelize the lost, and edify the saved.  When reviewing these priorities, we need to be reminded that God’s glory comes first, and man’s blessing comes second. Our ministries should be God-centered first, and then (and only then) should our efforts be directed toward blessing people. When we reverse these two priorities, not only will our ministries cease to be an outflow of our obedient relationships with the Lord, our ministries will not be glorifying God as they should—and our efforts will lose much of their eternal value. Our toil will become little more than “wood, hay, and stubble”.

An instructive example of reversing these God-given priorities can be clearly observed by decisions World Vision made just a few years ago.  For many years this “Christian” organization collected billions of dollars from good people, and successfully used those funds to help many hungry and oppressed people on our planet. However, back in March of 2014, World Vision bowed to our politically-correct culture and announced that it would allow monogamous, homosexual married couples to serve on the staff of its organization. Then, just two days later, World Vision reversed its decision because many supporters withdrew donations.  No doubt, World Vision leaders did not want to lose their ability to clothe and feed hurting people around the world, so they performed a gigantic flip-flop and changed their policy. Question: Should we commend World Vision leaders for having the guts to reverse their decision?  Think about it.  Did they revise their policy because they realized that they had offended God? Again, think about it. By their first decision they demonstrated their woeful absence of biblical conviction, and by both decisions, they revealed that their ministry is man-centered rather than God-centered. In both decisions, they acquiesced to man rather than to God. Their motive of mercy may have been commendable, but their esteeming people’s opinion above God’s Word is lamentable.

But let’s not focus on someone else’s ministry—let’s take a discerning look at our own. What can we learn from the mistakes of others?  We can be reminded that having a biblical philosophy of ministry (regardless of public opinion) is vital. We can be reminded that having good motives does not authorize us to disobey God and function in a manner that is contrary to God’s holiness. We can learn that it is never right to set aside God’s Word in order to do God’s work.

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus clearly enunciated the proper priorities for all believers. He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the FIRST and great commandment.  And the SECOND is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…” (Mt. 22:37-38) A practical application Jesus’ of words is this: A ministry that puts man first and God second is a ministry that is out of sync with God’s priorities; it has lost its biblical focus and is on the decline. Viewing the wreckage of many previously biblical ministries validates this conclusion. It is instructive to note that the starting point for the decline of many ministries (that are now diluted or defunct) was when people in those ministries unwisely set aside God’s directives for doing God’s work. They chose to cheat just a little, hoping that good would be the result. In short, they compromised. Their motives may have been commendable, but their methods were contrary to the nature of God Himself.

So how does this apply to us?  It’s great to say that we have a biblical philosophy of ministry, but we must also live according to that philosophy. We should be willing to honestly examine our focus and direction. What should we be doing—and how should we be doing it?  We should be growing in our personal relationships with the Lord and we should be kindly reaching out to people around us by giving them the Gospel and then helping them to grow in the Lord. Dear Christian, let’s purpose to be biblical in our philosophy and in our lifestyle. Let’s not lose our God-centered focus. Remember, it is when we are the most heavenly-minded that we will be the most earthly good.