How to Increase Spiritual Fruit in a Digital World

Kent Shaffer —  July 31, 2014

In June 2014, I spoke at Biola Digital Conference about how can we increase spiritual fruit in a digital world. Biola University has been kind enough to make this video free for you. View it and my notes below.

How do we increase spiritual fruit in a digital world?

Now we could talk about…

  • The importance of branding, design, and first impressions.
  • Digital atmospherics and how to nudge users in the direction you want them to go.
  • Emerging technologies and what these shifts mean for the future of ministry.
  • Or even results-based strategy.

I’ve taught about that, but it guarantees nothing! And there are plenty of books and blogs and lectures that can teach you today’s leading strategies and best practices.

I’ve spent the past decade studying the ministry models and best practices of global Christianity. Reality is I could spend 50 more years and still hardly grasp the depth and complexity of 43,000 denominations spread across 196 countries.

But what I do know – what I am confident of is that there is one model – there is one approach – that is essential to increasing your spiritual fruit.

Abide in Christ. Pursue God’s wisdom. And obey.

I used to say there is no golden formula, but I disagree now. For years I watched mighty moves of God in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. And I marveled, what is it? What is it that makes them thrive? It is not their ministry models. It’s not their denominations. It is not their theologies. These movements transcend all of that. And then one day I realized it is their hunger and obedience!

There is an essential formula and it echoes throughout Scripture. There is an essential formula that should serve as the foundation of what we do.

Abide in Christ. Pursue God’s wisdom. And obey.

Abide in Christ, and you will flourish.
And out of the overflow of your relationship with Jesus, pursue the foolish wisdom of God.
And then simply obey His guidance to the best of your abilities.

Now this doesn’t throw talent and intelligence out the window. It is in that last step of obedience. We need to use our brains and our bodies for the Kingdom, too. But a relationship with Christ is a filter that removes our self-reliance, that removes the wisdom of the world, and leaves us with the wisdom of God if we’re willing to listen.

My Testimony

[7:15 on video]

I have known Christ since age 3. I prayed the classic Evangelical sinner’s prayer in part because I wanted to partake in communion and get the grape juice. But it was a sincere conversion.

I grew up a missionary’s kid. As a child, I had a genuine love for God. I loved God as a teenager and early adult, too, but the love grew more disconnected and more religious the older I became. I wanted to connect with God and deeply enjoyed the rare moments that felt like an emotional connection with Him, but these moments were rare and fleeting.

I was groomed for ministry by working at prestigious ministries. I studied other ministries from afar and experienced success blogging about it. Reality is my life was lived quite godlessly. It was full of selfish ambition and self-reliance. It loved the wisdom of this world and rarely connected with God in any meaningful way.

The teams I was on were so gifted that I didn’t need God. I did everything in our own strength. Prayer was nonexistent to scarce at best and so was bringing scripture into conversations. Sadly, I can say that these symptoms are not uncommon in many ministries. I had no need of God, and I lived that way.

My focus was on ministry but not on God. I thought about ministry constantly and yearned to do more of it. But I was missing the point. I was a Pharisee.
I felt fulfilled vocationally but increasingly disconnected from God and disgusted with myself because I knew that my life and much of what is called Christian ministry looked almost nothing like what Christ taught.

[10:40] But things began to change as I studied different approaches to Christianity. I find that the more perspectives you learn from, the easier it is to tell what is truly biblical and what is cultural. Not that the cultural is bad, but we often create cultural theologies out of it.

A retired pastor from Bixby, Oklahoma named Leon Blackwell puts it this way, “Look at that tree! I think I know what that tree looks like, but it looks different from the other side. And it continues to look different from each vantage point. God is like that tree. Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, and Charismatics each see the tree from a different angle. But as you learn from each vantage point, you start to understand God better as a whole.”

That happened to me. Studying the broad scope of global ministry techniques broke me. I would come across statements that were so profoundly biblical that I couldn’t deny them. I was discovering Christianity was much different than I thought it was.

I had been a Pharisee and didn’t even realize it.

Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV)
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

In my pursuit of better ministry, I was suffocating my relationship with God. I strived for better measurable results using man’s wisdom and was largely oblivious to how God’s Kingdom really works. I had tremendous intellectual knowledge of the Bible but so blindly missed the heart of it all.

Matthew Henry writes, “Those who are most zealous of their own impositions, are commonly most careless of God’s commands.” “When men’s inventions are tacked to God’s institutions, and imposed accordingly, this is hypocrisy, a mere human religion. God will have His own work done by His own rules, and accepts not that which He did not Himself appoint. That only comes to Him, that comes from Him.”

As Jesus said says in verse 6, “So for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God.” I had no clue what I was doing. I thought I was above reproach. But God was faithful in tugging on me. He was patient in the process.

His pulling on me took 6 to 7 years of baby steps before I finally came to learning how to abide it Christ. It was January 2013. I was 29 years old. And Jesus changed my life. I began pursuing God out of love for Him not religious benchmarks. His Word, prayer, and worship were no longer a chore. My heart truly delighted in God. I finally understood the feeling behind the pearl of great price.

Philippians 3:8-11 (Message)
Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Abide in Christ

[20:55 on video]

John 15:1-11 (ESV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Notice verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” It is amazing how selective society can be with Scripture sometimes. It is easy to focus on what we get from God and become blind to understanding how we get it.

Psalm 37:3-4 (ESV)
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Of course, there is a beautiful trick to these verses. These verses aren’t about getting all the coveted things the world craves. They are not about getting fast cars, big houses, and dollar bills.

Because when you abide in Christ, and His words abide in you, it reforms your heart, it renews your mind. Of course, God will give you the desires of your heart. Because the desires of your heart are the desires of God’s heart.

This is foolishness to the world. But once you get there, nothing else matters. It is the joy unspeakable.

We seek Him through Scripture.
We seek him through prayer.
We seek Him through worship.
We seek Him through stillness and contemplation.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Joshua 1:8 (ESV)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Colossians 3:16-17
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

James 4:8 (ESV)
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

But abiding does come with challenge. Remember John 15:2 says, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” While it is pre-Jesus, Deuteronomy 8 is a beautiful example both of how God’s Word brings life to us but also of the challenge and providence of following God.

Deuteronomy 8:1-5 (Message)
Keep and live out the entire commandment that I’m commanding you today so that you’ll live and prosper and enter and own the land that GOD promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that GOD led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from GOD’s mouth. Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that GOD disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.

Remember John 15:2 says God prunes every branch that does bear fruit so that it may bear more fruit. It is not easy, but it is good. Abiding in Christ brings life, challenge, and providence.

God is good to us. He prunes us as we abide in Him. May we learn to love Him more. May we learn to abide more deeply. I love the mindset of some who say prayer is a conversation that never has to end.

Abiding in Christ breeds spiritual fruit. It removes the junk of your life and replaces it with the things of God.

When taking about being filled with God’s Spirit, I love the example of a bucket filled with sand. As we scoop out the sin of our lives, as we scoop out the neutral clutter that has no value, we make more room to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is casting aside the weight that slows us down.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

But we must also not forget to pursue God’s wisdom.

Pursue God’s Wisdom

[34:00 on video]

God is all wise.

Job 12:13
With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.

Isaiah 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Man has always had to fight the temptation for self-reliance. Eve ate the fruit. Man built the Tower of Babel.

The U.S. is plagued with man’s wisdom. It is a nation known for its pioneer spirit, creativity, and innovation. We’ve had over a century of the pragmatism movement. On top of that, our ministry models have been heavily influenced by the Church Growth Movement and Peter Drucker’s mentorship of Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Movement), Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Association), and Bob Buford (The Leadership Network).

I am not saying that all of this is bad, but we do need to be aware of the pitfalls we risk by living in such a culture.

1 Corinthians 1 – 1 Corinthians 3 (ESV)
(Chapter 1) Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

(Chapter 2) And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

(Chapter 3) But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Romans 8:5-10 (Message)
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
9–11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms.

Not much more needs to be said about man’s wisdom versus God’s wisdom. So we abide in Christ, pursue God’s wisdom, and then obey.

Obey the Holy Spirit’s Guidance

[59:20 on video]

How do we obey God?

  1. We follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and peace.
  2. We follow God’s Word.

Before you start using the principles of man, lay a firm foundation with God’s principles. We don’t throw talent and intelligence out the window. The key is to conform your life to God’s Word rather than conform God’s Word to your way of doing things.

Sometimes we create complex yet comfortable systems to replace the simple yet uncomfortable mandates of Christ.

Everything you do must be built on a strong foundation of Biblical principles –

  • abiding in Christ,
  • the gospel,
  • the Great Commission,
  • the two love commandments,
  • the Beatitudes,
  • Galatians 5 fruit,
  • spiritual gifts,
  • the armor of God,
  • worship,
  • and the pursuit of purity.

If you excel at one of these things, then the rest begin to fall like dominoes in alignment if you keep pursuing God. These principles are a rock. Once you have this as a strong foundation then you can add the best practices of design, leadership, management, technology, whatever.

Consider the Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:1-12
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Just look at how powerful the first Beatitude is! Being poor in spirit isn’t just a strong foundation of humility. It is living in such a way that nothing in life’s circumstances matter except your relationship with Christ!

Consider the Galatians 5 fruit.

Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Consider the importance of spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 – 1 Corinthians 13:3
(Chapter 12) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

(Chapter 13) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

In chapter 12, Paul explains how important it is that we embrace our individual roles in the Body of Christ and do them well, but he segues into chapter 13 saying that it doesn’t matter how great you are at your job if you don’t have love, it is worthless.

Are we willing to obey God well?

It is easy to let selfish ambition creep in, which James 3 says is divisive and demonic. It is easy to assume and boast about tomorrow, which James 4 warns against. We covet other ministries and their staff.

We hesitate to obey God when it hurts and makes us vulnerable. Are you willing to obey God even at the cost of losing a big donor? Are you willing to obey God even if He says to close the doors on your ministry?

When his influence was slipping away, King Saul fell into deeper sin and murdered to keep his empire. In contrast, when John the Baptist influence was slipping, he said, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:25-36)

Focus on obedience not empire building.

Be like a Berean of Acts 17 and challenge all ideas and best practices against Scripture.

Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Let us pray.

Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.