The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him….To this John replied… The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. …He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:26, 27a, 28-30)
John the Baptizer pointed people to Jesus. His ministry experienced incredible growth. People from the whole region poured in to hear his preaching. Thousands clamored to be baptized by him in the Jordan for the repentance of their sins. And yet, when John sees Jesus coming over the hill, he drops what he’s doing, points to Christ, and says: “Look there! There is the One who can truly deliver us!”
Shortly afterwards, John’s disciples begin deserting him to follow Jesus. John is not dismayed; rather, he’s delighted! John worships Jesus by declaring Christ’s singular worthiness. John knows that the world ultimately does not need him; rather, the world needs Jesus. So John is happy to divert attention from himself and direct it to Jesus. “Look there!” he cries.
In contrast, we in ministry are often tempted to say: “Look here! See how our church can help you! Listen to our amazing pastor! Hear our great music! Experience our impressive lights and sound! Did I mention our cool youth program? Notice how seamlessly we segue from one part of the service to the other!” Not that these things aren’t important; it’s just that they’re not the things we should ultimately be pointing to.
Skye Jethani, senior editor of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, frames the issue by asking “Is my church a ‘destination’ or a ‘vehicle’?”
So how can we become better at saying, “Look there!” instead of “Look here!”? That’s a tough question.
The answer begins when we examine our motives and ask, “Am I pointing people to Jesus or am I pointing them to me and my ministry/organization?”
And it’s not enough for me to simply believe my intentions are good; I must also ask, “How are my actions being interpreted by those I’m called to serve?” If I say, “Look there” but they are really looking “here,” I have failed to point them to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
This is a sobering thought.
For the better part of four decades, I have been a “professional Christian,” making my living promoting faith-based products and services. But who or what have I really been promoting? My tribe? My worldview? My self-interest?
Even those who stand on the platform on Sundays to preach, teach, and lead worship are tempted to point the spotlight of adulation toward themselves.
When we redirect our praise toward the preacher, the teacher, the singer, or the musician, we--by definition--direct it away from Christ.
If only we could live more like John the Baptizer. He had a dynamic, influential platform. And yet, John truly understood that it’s really not about him. The more transparent he was, the more apparent Christ became…and the more lives were ultimately transformed.
Lord, help us learn to say, “Look there!”
--For more practical thoughts about shaping your worship services as well as developing a theology of worship, go to www.discoverworship.com