Last year at a leadership retreat, my friend, fellow pastor, and the global leader of NewThing, Patrick O’Connell, led a devotional for a group of ministry leaders from all over the United States. He shared three “greats” that Jesus gave to us, and as he spoke, I watched a room full of reputable pastors from all over the country experience a paradigm shift. As a Lead Pastor, I am intentionally considering these three “greats” of Jesus as a humble reminder of our King and our calling:

The Great Commission

Chances are that if you’re a ministry leader, you’re very familiar with The Great Commission found In Matthew 28. The Great Commission may very well be part of why many of us have said “yes” to vocational ministry, and it is certainly a foundational mandate for church planting. Jesus, after having overcome death itself, looks at his disciples and says, “I came to you, now you go and make disciples.” He blesses them, then He sends them out.

To follow Jesus is to be sent by Him on a rescue mission everywhere that people live and breathe. We are called to go.

The Great Commandment

Jesus gave us the Great Commission: we are to go. Jesus also gave the Great Commandment: we are to love.

In Mark 12 when Jesus is asked to define the greatest commandment, Jesus recites the known-by-every-Jew Shema, “The Lord your God is one. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.” But then Jesus expounds upon this command and declares that equally important is His new commandment: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

To follow Jesus is to grow in love for God and for people. We are called to go in love.

The Great Collaboration  

And here is the crux; the pivotal paradigm shift that we must embrace if we are to be the most effective emissaries of God’s Kingdom that we can be:

Jesus told us to go in love with a very clear desire that His people would go in love…together. In John 17 as Jesus is preparing to go to the cross, He prayed for us to be unified. He prayed that His Kingdom, His family, would be whole. Jesus called us to The Great Collaboration.

What I find interesting is that in John 17:20-21 Jesus repeatedly prays that we would be unified and adds, “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” It is our unity–our “oneness”–that will truly be the means to seeing the Great Commission fulfilled.

When we are divided, when we battle one another and cause dissension within the Church, we not only impede the Jesus mission, we destroy it. The world ignores our message when we can’t even get along. Conversely, when we unite together, when we are unified across race, gender, socioeconomic, and even some theological lines like Jesus modeled, then people are attracted to Christ in us and among us.

We are to be on the same team, have each other’s backs, champion each other’s best, hold each other accountable. We are to break down silos, focusing on God’s Kingdom, and not just our individual castles.

This is one of the biggest reasons why I value network church planting. I believe that reaching out to other local pastors, strengthening those ties, and saying, “We can’t do this alone. Let’s lock arms,” brings a smile to Jesus’ face. Church planting is a critical part of Jesus’ mission, and choosing to unite as a network is a powerful way to build relational bridges. It also allows each one of us to have a place at the church-planting table, no matter the size or budget of the church we lead. Our engagement means furthering the mission of Jesus, while simultaneously being united, sharpened, strengthened, and encouraged by other church leaders.

To follow Jesus is to be united with His people. We are called to go in love…together.

This Christmas, I hope that you will join me in taking time to pull back from the hustle and bustle of the season, and to reflect on the King who came to us with great love, and built a team–a family on mission–to reconcile the world to God, and has called us to do the same. Merry Christmas, and may God bless you with His presence and peace.

Onward and Upward,