Charles Hewlett invites us all to examine our relationship with Jesus, especially those who are in leadership roles in the church.
How do you take care of your relationship with Jesus? Do you proactively monitor your faith and evaluate how you are doing? Do you take stock of your excitement and fervour, confidence and trust, hope and expectation? What about your resilience? What words would you use today to describe your relationship with Jesus? Think about it for a moment.
And what about the more active questions. Are you growing in your love for Jesus? Is your knowledge of him increasing? Are you serving with greater delight?
I wonder if these questions are important to you in your leadership. Do you actively concern yourself with them?
There was nothing more important to the Apostle Paul than his relationship with Jesus.
In Philippians 3:7-11 he speaks of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Knowing Christ was so awesome to him that everything else paled in comparison. He writes:
Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, first-hand, 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 (MSG).
Nothing was more central to Paul than his relationship with Jesus: knowing him, gaining him, becoming one with him, experiencing the mighty power that raised him from the dead, suffering with him, and becoming like him.
Wow! This is intense. Determined. Passionate.
Taking stock of my relationship with Jesus
I have developed six simple questions to help me audit my relationship with Jesus. They are not exhaustive. But they help me to take stock of the most important thing in my leadership—my affection and devotion to my Lord, Saviour and Leader.
1. Am I listening to God?
In Christian ministry it’s easy for the Bible and prayer to become nothing more than a work tool—instruments we use in our pastoral care of others. What daily disciplines do you incorporate into your life where you are forced to slow down and listen to the voice of God? Personally? Hearing his Word? Talking with him? For your own life?
2. Am I helping in my world?
It’s also easy in Christian work to become so focused on our personal ministry and its success that we forget about the one for whom we are labouring, and seeing where he is perhaps most at work.
I believe that making the space to volunteer in scenarios outside my everyday work ministry has helped me to grow significantly in my faith. For example, it has revealed to me just how expansive God’s love for people is—that he doesn’t just work in the formulaic ways I presume and through the people that I expect. It has forced me to trust him with new and different things, and to realise that maybe my problems aren’t so significant after all. I have had to make my gifting work in unfamiliar situations, and to serve rather than lead. The inspiration and growth that comes from observing the faith of others is significant!
3. Am I accountable to another?
Effective leaders are open to learning from others—proactively giving mentors permission to speak into their lives and to hold them accountable. This is particularly important when it comes to growing in our love for Jesus. Who is the person you have given permission to ask the question, “Where are you in your relationship with Jesus?”
4. Am I caring for my body?
This is the question I have been working on the most over the past 12 months. And it’s not always easy! But the Apostle Paul does ask:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
I am celebrating weight loss through improved diet and exercise. My regular meeting with a counsellor/supervisor has become important to me in maintaining healthy thinking and decision-making. The Carey Centre for Lifelong Learning helps with my intellectual development. I have no doubt these things greatly benefit my relationship with Jesus, and make me a better leader.
5. Am I remembering my calling?
The truth that God shaped and formed me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), and that he created me, by Christ Jesus, to join him in the work he does (Ephesians 2:10), is enormously encouraging. Regularly reading my personal ministry statement, ‘To keep the eyes of the Baptist Union of New Zealand on Jesus’ reminds me of my purpose. It fuels my passion, helps keep my focus on Jesus and his Kingdom, and encourages me to do better. Can you articulate your purpose?
6. Am I asking myself questions?
I have found it helpful over the years to proactively ask myself a series of questions based on Philippians 3:7‑11. I pull them out of my drawer from time to time. It’s amazing how quickly they bring focus!
- As a result of my learning, listening and serving this week, do I actually know Jesus more?
- Do I appreciate him more?
- How is my relationship with him growing stronger?
- Am I becoming more aware of the things that are important to him?
- Am I displaying the fruit of the Spirit more?
- Am I experiencing the resurrecting power of Jesus more and more in my life?
- Am I becoming more fervent about sharing my Jesus with others?
- Is my desire growing to see people and communities transformed by Jesus?
- Is the idea of sharing in the sufferings of Jesus just a little less scary than before?
How would you go at answering these six questions? Why not try it? May we consider everything a loss compared to the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
Story: Charles Hewlett
Charles is the national leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand. He is often heard saying, “I love Jesus. I love the Bible. I love the gospel. I love the church. And I love mission.”
Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright ©1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.