For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more...
My wife and I sat down to dinner at my professor's home in the last couple months of our seminary training. Glad to receive this invitation, we enjoyed their warm hospitality and genuine care for us. Thinking ahead to being ordained in a few weeks, I decided to seize the opportunity and asked rather abruptly, "What advice would you give to a new pastor?"
The professor, as always, paused to give thought and weight to his words and then said simply, "love the people" and smiled a gentle smile. After letting that sink in, he expounded: "If you genuinely care for the people, hearts will be open to your ministry, bad sermons will be quickly forgiven, rebukes will be received rather than rebuffed, and you will be more joyful in the work."
This has been consistently proven true before my eyes -- _there are many necessary ingredients to good ministry, but only one foundation: love. _And why wouldn't this be the case? Love for God and neighbor is the summary of the whole law, love is the calling card God gives when He reveals Himself to His people, love is how Jesus said we would be identified in this world, love for the church is one of the direct fruits of becoming more like Jesus, love grants the humble ability to "count others more significant than ourselves", and love begets more love. While God can certainly use unloving people to do good things, we are called to cultivate a heart and life of love for others, seeking to minister in the footsteps of Jesus.
God has called each of His children to ministry, to serving others' spiritual good. To receive your ministry, people need to know your love. Pray for them and with them, encourage them, give good gifts to them, spend time with them. Tell them you love them and don't stop until they believe you. Love doesn't excuse poorly skilled ministry, but it does make less-than-perfect ministry incredibly powerful.
For most of you this is just a gentle reminder, but I find it's a reminder often needed. Let's pray that Jesus' Spirit would help us to see the church like He does, that we would love more and act more lovingly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we sow, water or reap, those who love the people will be used for the most spiritual good.