Hostage: a person, in this case a ministry or service rendered unto God, given or held as security for the fulfillment of certain conditions or terms, promises, etc., by another.
We are just over sixteen months into this church planting journey. It has been one amazing ride so far however, it has not come without it’s share of struggles, hardships, and daily battles. As a leader the biggest responsibility I have is to lead with love. Why? Because when you lead with love people can hear and will listen to correction and rebuke when it is offered from someone they absolutely know loves them. 99% of the time it is not what you say it is how you say it that causes hurts feelings and misunderstandings. The second biggest responsibility I have as a church planter, leader, and pastor is to constantly remind people it is all about Jesus it has always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus. How do I do this? Constantly keep the vision before them. I constantly rehearse the good deeds of God and I constantly thank them for what they do for God. Did you catch that? That is right I didn’t say what they do for me or for the church or for the community, I said what they do for God. It is all about Jesus! Do I benefit from their service and ministry? Absolutely, but it is not me that they ultimately serve it is Jesus. I never look at a person for what they can do for me or for City on a Hill Church I look at them for who they are and what God can do through them if they choose to let Him. You see if I look at people for what they can do for me or for the church I do them a huge disservice. I also open myself up to the danger of seeing people as resources and benefactors. God is my resource. God is my benefactor. No one holds sway over City on a Hill Church accept Jesus! Sometimes people don’t get that and they start believing their own press. They start believing that God’s kingdom can’t make it without them. Pride was the first sin to enter the world and it will be the last sin to leave. The Church will continue to grow and blossom as God sees fit and as we keep clean hands and pure hearts before a holy God. Can I make it without certain people? Absolutely! Do I want to? Absolutely not! My shepherd’s heart breaks every time someone takes their ministry hostage because things aren’t going the way they want them too. Look at these verses:
Job 6:14 “He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Job 6:14 scares me! It is straight forward and really calls us to understand who our service is to. It reminds us our ministry is unto God. It is all about Jesus. To withhold our ministry shows we have issues with who this thing is all about. It is the Lo’d’s kindness that brings men to repentance. It should be our kindness that reaches out to the lost. Church isn’t just about us and getting our way. Something far greater hangs in the balance, the souls of men, women, and children. The ministry that God has called us to must be manned daily and not just in the church building. We are the church in our city, homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and the marketplace. We are the church! To withhold our ministry is to hold back from God Almighty. Taking our ministry hostage until will get what we want only leaves us wanting. Look at Proverbs 11:24 it is pretty clear. Here is my worst fear as a pastor. When people disconnect because they are holding their ministries hostage they open the gates and begin to wander many times aimlessly until bitterness renders them ineffective and leaves them without a fellowship. I have seen it time and time again. My heart breaks. I see people in this city on a daily basis who have given up on the Bride of Christ because they didn’t get it their way. So if they couldn’t get it their way they get it no way and the kingdom of God suffers great loss. Not just the kingdom but the individual suffers greater loss and is left to live a life filled with what ifs, what could have beens, and the ones that got away. Proverbs 3:27 is simple do not withhold the good from whom it is due when it is within your power to do so. James says if we know the good we ought to do and choose not to do it we sin. Taking our ministry hostage ends in tragedy and untold and unknown collateral damage. Who knows who we could have reached? Who knows how your personal story could have impacted the lost and wanderer? Who knows how many lives could have been changed by a church operating in unity with Jesus Christ at the center? Only God knows, the rest are left to lament and wonder as they wander. This is a hard teaching I know but we must get this right. Before we start looking at others we must first look at ourselves.
Isaiah 6:1-8 1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train[a] of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
Did you see it? Did you see the key? Did you see the way to keep from holding ministry hostage? Did you see the attitude that could unify a church and change a city? Isaiah got his eyes off others and got His eyes on God. Isaiah saw God for who he is. Isaiah got things in perspective. But here is the biggest and most significant piece of the puzzle, Isaiah did a self-examination. Isaiah saw himself. Before he accused, pointed fingers, or played the blame game Isaiah took responsibility. It was in that moment that God cleansed Isaiah and prepared him for a life of ministry. Isaiah would never want to hold his ministry hostage because he lived for an audience of One. He saw who he was and he saw who God is and it put things in proper perspective. When you and I get a true glimpse of who we are and who God is we will never, ever attempt to hold our service to God hostage again to try to get our way. Instead we will seek to do things God’s way. We will understand it is by grace and grace alone that you and I get to do ministry and make our lives count for something greater than ourselves.
Romans 12:1-2 1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Therefore my brothers and sisters in view of God’s mercy offer yourselves as living sacrifices to God. A living sacrifice is too busy loving God, loving People, and preaching Jesus to take hostages. A living sacrifice is too busy giving God glory for His grace, love, and mercy that is changing a city by changing the lives of their friends, family, co-workers, school mates, and whosoever. Taking ministry hostage means we need to have a “come to Jesus meeting” in our hearts. We need to have an Isaiah experience. We need to take a long hard look at why we do what we do and for whom we do it. I know in my heart that City on a Hill Church is going to move forward. My preference, my strong desire is that it moves forward with everyone. I know we can do it without people who take ministry hostage, however I don’t want to. I also know that we don’t negotiate with irrational hostage takers. It is God’s way, the highway, or no way. It is all about Jesus it has always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus at COAH. I can not and will not allow anyone to become greater than Jesus at COAH including me. My job as lead pastor and church planter is to keep my eyes on Jesus, live by God’s grace for an audience of one, to lead my people with love and grace, make disciple making disciples, send missionaries, plant the church, reach lost and wandering people and to make it hard to go to hell in St. Petersburg, FL. I can not do that if I take my ministry hostage or allow anyone else to do so. If you are in ministry I pray that you read this blog and that it starts a fire in your heart to passionately live for Jesus like all of life depends on it, because it does. Be encouraged!