Love. There is nothing more important in the life of a pastor than love.
In fact, if the two things that are spoken of us the most at our funerals are not our love for God and our love for people, then we will have missed the primary point of life and ministry. Sure, there will be a lot of nice things that are said about us, but if people are just sharing about “what a gifted leader” we were or “what a great preacher” we were, then we will have missed our fundamental calling. Our fundamental calling as pastors is to love God and love people with all that we are.
Mark 12:28-31 gets to the very heart of this truth, where we read Jesus’ response to one of the scribes who asks him a question...
“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
When we feel like we are inept in so many areas as pastors and leaders, Jesus says that what is most important is to love God and to love people. We don’t have to be a rock star at everything we do, but we need to be men who love. Reflecting on the love of Christ shown to us at the cross, John writes in 1 John 3:16,
“By this we know love that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
Jesus loved us by laying down His life for His sheep. In our lives and in our leadership, we need to be marked by that same kind of sacrificial love. Pastoral ministry is all about people. This means we must learn to be Christ-like, loving leaders.
D.L. Moody was right when he said,
“There’s no use in trying to do church work without love. A doctor or a lawyer may do good work without love, but God’s work cannot be done without love.”
Similarly, D.A. Carson has written,
“No amount of good works, wisdom, discernment in matters of church discipline, patient endurance and hardship, hatred of sin, or disciplined doctrine, can ever make up for lovelessness.”
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 the Apostle Paul is clear on the absolute necessity of love when he writes,
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 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. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
If the ingredient of love is missing in our lives and it’s missing in our leadership, according to the Apostle Paul, we are nothing. Nothing!
Lord, grow us as loving leaders for your glory!