I wrote this article years ago and have held off posting it because as a staff person, I didn’t want a particular pastor or church to see this and to try and “read between the lines.” Most of this are lessons I have learned as serving as a senior pastor and the mistakes I have made as a senior leader. Having served in most typical church positions (excluding music) and as an executive director, these are lessons from various churches, various positions, various regions of the country. That being said, now the article.
Leading a staff is never easy. There are various personalities that sometimes need a little extra effort to “get along.” Others click very well at the exclusion of the rest of the staff. Throw in a church that is filled with differing expectations, vision conflict, personal drama, life circumstances, and you have a storm off the starboard bow. All of these things are compounded the larger the church and the larger the staff grows.
There is also behind the scenes, a very real enemy who seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy.” It is the Enemy’s goal to stop the gospel from going out, and to keep the church void of any genuine work. At the helm of all these complications is the pastor whose job is to navigate through these treacherous waters. Often times in all the squalls of life we allow ourselves to become too focused on the immediate and lose sight of the big picture. The following is a quick reference guide to what staff need from their pastor. They are simple ideas, but if ignored the pastor will run the ship right into the rocks.
Plan to have a regular time where you convey information that you know as pastor that the staff may not be aware of. You sit in on meetings and are briefed on topics the general congregation is not aware of. The staff should never find out information alongside the rest of the church, deacons, or other volunteer leadership. If you cannot trust the staff to use discretion with information then you need to address the issue with the vocal/informative staff person, not shut down all information to the whole staff. There are few things more demoralizing to staff than for them to find out information behind literally the entire church. You don’t like to get blindsided or surprised, so don’t do it to your staff.
Don’t expect them to support something if they are the last to know. They need time to think about the topic and see how they can support it in their given areas. By them receiving this information with everyone else, you are indicating to them that at a minimum you don’t need (or want) their support, and worse case don’t need (or want) any expertise, advice, prayer, etc. they may offer on the topic. It doesn’t slow the process down to drop back and explain things to your staff.
2. Clear Direction
If you have a direction that you would like for the staff to go toward, then take the time to make that very clear (even put it in writing; e-mails, texts, notes, etc.) The best way to do this is to have a designated time when you meet face-to-face (or Zoom) and talk about specific topics.
A very helpful first step is a job description and yearly evaluations. Motivated staff want to know that they are working toward a common goal and direction. They hate having to backtrack to go in another direction. Staff with limited budgets, hate having to constantly change direction because it wastes those limited resources. Don’t waste their time and energy because you want them to go in one direction but have not taken the time to make it clear to them. Don’t assume that they can read your thoughts, or what you assume they should understand from your body language.
3. Genuine Affirmation and Respect
When you affirm them in the public setting show genuine respect. You are not showing someone respect when you constantly call them by the wrong name, or haven’t taken the time to learn their kid’s names. Avoid irrelevant platitudes like “she’s so good with the kids.” Instead, give recent real life examples of how the staff person is doing a good job. If you don’t respect your staff, they won’t respect you. This respect also overflows into meetings, and general office settings. Professional courtesy goes a long way toward guarding against frustrations and anger among staff.
4. Honor Boundaries
Each staff person was hired to cover a specific set of job responsibilities and you should assume that they take that ministry very seriously. While working against developing silos (click here for an article on this topics) senior leadership should recognize and honor how there are boundaries in specific areas within the church. When changes are made in one area of the church, be aware that those changes, more than likely, will affect other areas of the church (click here to read an article on how systems affect each other).
Boundaries can also mean days off, personal time, or even asking them to do things for you personally that are not directly related to their ministry positions. If they were hired as a full time staff person then that means those responsibilities on the job description would take the full amount of time. In other words, don’t keep adding things to their job responsibilities that will affect their time at home, weekday evenings, etc. Yes, there will be times when staff need to help the team do things that were not on the job description, but it should not be a constant expectation.
5. Give Staff What They Need To Do Their Job
Often times this takes the form of a budget. Work to see that they have what they need to lead the ministry that they have been hired to do. It is with in the pastor’s position to guide and direct various committees to go in various directions. Because you have taken the time to talk with your staff and understand the direction they are leading their various departments then you have accurate information to be able to see they get what they need.
If they are constantly requesting more funds, donations, volunteers, etc. and they feel you are doing nothing, then they will feel frustrated. It will feel like the staff person is drowning and you are just standing there watching, making no effort to help.
6. Have Their Back
Staff members should never doubt that the pastor supports them, what they are doing, and gives that support vocally and publicly. Work out differences privately, but when the staff try new things get behind them and push (hard). If you want to have a high rotation of staff, then keep throwing them under the bus or stepping back away from them when things go “sideways.”
If they ask you to use your pulpit to support them, then see how it could be blended into a sermon or some other way to emphasize it. Remember that innovation, change, and steps forward come at the price of trying things that don’t work. If you don’t support them in those times of mistakes, then they will eventually quit trying and do what they know is “safe.” When staff begin to all do what has always been done, the way it has always been done, then there will be the eventual plateau and decline. But before you blame the staff, take a hard look in the mirror.
7. Make the Hard Calls
The pastor (or senior leader) holds the position to lead and make the hard calls. This often involves strong personalities, spiritually immature, and selfish people. Don’t let these sinful people run rough shod over your staff. If a hard decision needs to be made, make it. Don’t ignore it, wait forever to make a decision, or avoid it. Often the staff can’t move forward until you make a decision — just realize that the senior pastor holds his position because hard calls need to be made. If you don’t make these calls it can be detrimental to your staff moving their specific areas forward. Yes, you may make the wrong call, but that’s ok because your staff and leadership will have your back (see#6) because you have supported them, and they know why you are making the call the way you did (see #1). No one expects senior leadership to make the right call 100% of the time, but if you wait too long to make calls then they are wrong 100% of the time.
8. Get to Know Their Ministry
As a pastor, if you have never served as a staff person or in a specific area (children, youth, senior adults, etc.) then take the time to see what the ministry is like and what is involved to carry it out. You should never have to ask “why do you need a budget increase?” or “why are are you not able to add this new responsibility to your weekly work schedule?” You should know (see #2 & 5). The church has chosen to hire a specific staff person to do a specific job.
This usually involves a designated (or expected/required) amount of hours and responsibilities. Help to guard their plate by not allowing others (or yourself) to continuously add responsibilities to staff. All positions have busy (i.e. stressful) times of the year (for the Children’s Pastor it may be Vacation Bible School i.e.). If you know this, then it would be very helpful to the staff for you to stand guard for them as they do their job, or (heaven forbid) even help in these areas during these stressful and very busy times.
Andy Stanley has what he calls “the gap.” This is where a staff member does something that appears to break the rules or cultural expectations of the organization. Stanley gives the example of arriving to a staff meeting late. When this happens, and with no explanation given, people naturally fill “the gap” with why they are late. If they are given the benefit of the doubt then the person who observes the late staff person will say to themselves, “his car must have broken down,” or “someone must have stopped him for a ministry related issue,” etc.
What ever they place in this gap, it should assume the best of the person. Staff members need to know that their direct supervisor has faith in them and is not always assuming the worst. If their “boss” is always assuming the worst every time something appears negative, then it can be very frustrating and demoralizing. It will wear on them after a while — they will always feel like they have to explain everything. Always assume the best and good quality people will rise to the expectation. Always assume the worst and people will rebel and harbor ill will.  This is really a matter of trust. Does the senior pastor trust the staff? If so, trust them to do their jobs and assume they are doing their job to the best of their abilities.
10. Grow Your Staff
Staff need to know that you love them and want what’s best for them (and their families). When you meet with and talk about their ministries, if they begin to pick up that you see them as disposable tools and that they are there to make you look good, then they will not be supportive of your leadership. One of the best ways to convey this attitude is for you to constantly focus on their ministry numbers, performance, events, etc. and not really care about their future (or their family’s future). Staff are not there to make your name known, they are in ministry to make Christ’s name known. If you will invest in them and help them grow, then the kingdom of God is better served for it, and they will respect you.
So there you have it, 10 things staff need from their pastor or senior leader. Let me know what you think in the comment section below. Thanks for taking time to read the article!
 This is assuming that the staff person is not constantly late for reasons of irresponsibility. If a staff person earns the reputation for having negative reasons for the gaps that is another issue entirely. It is really hard to assume the best in a staff person if they are always having “gaps.” If they know they are going to be late, for example, then they should call. This does not make being late “ok,” but it does show the leader that they are aware of the gap and are trying their best to rebuild the trust.
First Baptist Church of Valdosta began a special needs ministry called PURE about two years ago. We have experienced many wonderful events including multiple Respite evenings and the highlight of the year was Tim Tebow’s sponsored Night to Shine. We have several families with special needs who are an essential part of our congregation and our prayer is to be a place where all are welcomed, loved, and ministered to. Not only does FBCV, but the the entire Body of Christ have a responsibility to love them, befriend them, to lead them to Christ, and to partner with them in ministry.
But what keeps this from happening in many churches? The following are some things that often keep believers from participating in these wonderful times of ministry, and how we can over come them.
The Problem of Misunderstanding (v. 1-2)
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus was escaping a mob who desired to kill Him. In chapter 8 Jesus was teaching among many things that, “anyone who was without sin should cast the first stone” (8:7), and the He was the Light of the World (8:12). Eventually, the Jewish people became so mad that they picked up stones to kill Jesus, but He slipped away.
In spite of the heavy mood, Jesus was never in too big of a hurry to minister to someone in need. While Jesus was looking to minister, the disciples were looking in judgment. With “who sinned,” the disciples assumed that it was someone’s sin that caused the man to have this condition. They believed that sin was the primary cause of all suffering. According to their dogma, if anything bad happened to you in life it was because of your sin.
We see the opposite in Job 1:8 when it says “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job was righteous and blameless yet his worked was rocked.
Regarding families with special needs, there is no reason to blame, but every reason to support the family, and to help display God’s mercy, kindness, love, and hope in their lives and the life of the child. Families have questions that they may need help answering. “Why did God allow this to happen?” “Is it permanent?” “Can I afford the care?” “How do I discipline my child who has a disability?” “What do I say to people who stare at my child?” “Will my child ever be able to accept Jesus?”
The disciples were asking the wrong question, and instead of helping they were judging.
The Purpose of the Man’s Condition (v. 3)
3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
When it says, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” we see that God seeks to display himself in the lives of those who follow Him.
What works of God were displayed?
A. God’s compassion was displayed. No one “saw” this man except Jesus. Many times those with special needs are ignored as if they are not there, or they are judged as inferior or being deserving of their condition. In some churches those with special needs are even asked not to come back because it makes people feel uncomfortable. In both of the churches where I have served and been apart of a special needs ministry, there are parents who have told me of horror stories of how they were asked or told not to come back. Jesus noticed him, explained that it was no one’s fault, and that God had a plan for this man’s life (as He does for everyone’s lives).
B. God’s person was displayed. Jesus healed this man showing all who saw that He was from God. Jesus said in
John 10: 25 “…The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, …” Miracles were expressions of God’s salvation and glory.
When in jail John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to see if Jesus “was the one to come” (Matt. 11:3). Jesus told them to inform John of what He had done: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (11:5). Miracles were proof of who Jesus was (God) and the presence of the kingdom of God (Matt. 12:39).
When John wrote about miracles that Jesus performed he believed that they held deep spiritual truth, demanding obedient faith. Thus, Jesus feeding the five thousand (6:1-15) was Jesus’ presentation of Himself as the True Manna, the one who gives life and sustenance.
In John 9 Jesus is presenting Himself as the light of the world. He gives spiritual light to all who are in spiritual darkness. Jesus also understood His miracles as evidences of the presence of the kingdom in His ministry (Matt. 11:2-5); 12:28). Every miracle was a sign that God’s salvation was present.
His miracles were performed on the most unlikely of people. Jesus brought the salvation of God to those who were rejected by society. He healed the lame (Matt. 9:1-8), the mute (Matt. 9:32-33), the leper (Luke 17:11-19), and the blind (John 9:1-3). Jesus brought the kingdom to all, regardless of their condition or social status.
C. God’s empowerment was displayed. Not only is he empowered with new sight but he was bold before the Pharisees and other religious leaders. John 9:30 says “The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
This man who was blind from birth would have known nothing but begging his whole life, now he stands before the religious authorities and tells them spiritual things they can not understand. We are empowered by God whenever we tell others about Jesus. He will always give us the words to say and the Scripture to use. We are also empowered by God to do what ever it is that he has called us to do.
The Partnership of All Believers in the Ministry (vv. 4-5)
4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
In the Jewish agrarian society all work had to be done during the day. When night came the work must stop. Jesus is saying that there will be a time when Jesus’ work would come to an end. We are to do the work that God has given us to do, and like Jesus that time is limited. All of our days are limited. In the time we have, we must work to build His kingdom.
Jesus is also clear that we are to partner with all believers in the work of God. Those with special needs are usually designated as receivers of ministry. But have we asked the question “What is their calling? What has God designed them to do for His kingdom?”
We are to partner with all believers and minister together. The church is to help people discover their calling in this life and to pursue God with all of their heart. 1 Corinthians 12:22 says, “on the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” (v.25) “ …its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus did not stop being the “light of the world” when he ascended into heaven, but the light was brighter when He was here. He continues to be the spiritual light of the world (salvation) and he is also the physical light of the world (healing this man’s eyes allowing him to see the light.)
The Power of The One Who Sends (vv. 6-7)
6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
We are reminded here with “he spit on the ground” of Gen. 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Siloam is Hebrew for sent. Jesus was the one who was sent by His Father to earth. Jesus sends the disciples to continue His work. Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” God used the man who was born blind in a way that he could never have used the disciples. The man was able to witness for Christ six times in verses 1-42.
Witnessing is nothing more than telling someone else what Jesus has done for you. The disciples can not share this man’s testimony with the same impact, and no one can tell your story with the same understanding. When we are obedient to Christ we too will see things that we never could have seen before. God always calls us to faith in Him, then washes us of all sin, and through this process we see things differently.
Having a relationship with Christ is the only way for us to see the world (and people)
as God desires for us to see it. Many of you have only been saved a few years but when you look back on the things you did and enjoyed when you were lost, you would say “WOW, look how I have been changed!”
There is understanding in a relationship with Christ, purpose in a relationship with Christ, there is fellowship and friendships in a relationship with Christ, and there is power in a relationship with Christ.
The Puzzlement of the People (vv. 8-13)
8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded. 11He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 12“Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. 13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.
In ancient times, such severe physical deformities like congenital blindness sentenced a person to begging as the only means of support. But now he had been changed. “How then were your eyes opened?” The man simply tells what Jesus had done to him. He explained how he followed in obedience, and how he received his sight. People, when they see the change in our lives, will demand to know how you were changed.
“Where is this man? is the sensible next question for a person inquiring about the man who did this miracle. Another way to say this is “how can I meet Him?” “Can I be changed too?” If you have never met Jesus you can not lead another person to Him. He had not as of yet met Jesus. The man finally met Jesus in vv. 35-39.
35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Those who knew this man, his neighbors and acquaintances, saw him after the healing. Some believed, some did not. Why? Some people simply will not believe in Jesus simply because they choose not to, even though all the evidence they need is right there in front of them. These people were faithless by choice. All those who have received the saving power of Jesus, where he allowed us to see the truth (the light), have never seen the hand that healed them. We can only see the effects of Jesus in our lives.
A Man named Nicodemus came at night and asked Jesus some questions, and:Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.”
Salvation may seem to be strange or mysterious but we can look at the event of this man’s life. First, Jesus noticed the man. He calls us at different times in our lives to salvation. Then he required that the man show faith in him to be healed. We show faith in Christ by believing that Jesus died for our sins, and that he rose again. We then are able to see things through a new pair of spiritual eyes.
If you have never met Jesus or understand who He is, ask Him to heal your spiritual eyes and He will.
 Jim Pearson. Exceptional Teaching. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing. p. 215.
 R. F. Youngblood ed. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville:Nelson Publishing. p. 847.
 John MacArthur. The MacArthur Study Bible, Nashville: Word Publishing. p. 1601.
* The following is an approximate transcript of the sermon preached at First Baptist Church Valdosta, Georgia.
If you have ever seen the movie Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory then you know that there is a feverous search among the entire world to find the five golden tickets. Then one by one each is found and eventually the tickets are turned in for entrance into the magical chocolate factory.
For many Christians, the gospel is treated like this. Once you have “prayed the prayer,” “gone down front,” and “received Christ,” then you leave the gospel behind and move into discipleship. But what we will discover today is that the gospel is yo stay with the believer, it continues to change the believer to become more and more like Christ every day. The gospel is more than a ticket into heaven, it is the God given means to grow in your faith.
Lord if it were not for your grace and mercy we would be without hope. You have provided the only means of salvation, and you alone are worthy to be praised and worshipped. Help us this morning to understand your great commandment to receive the good news of Jesus Christ, and to share this gospel with those around us. We pray that you will bless the teaching of your Word this morning. Amen.
Please stand as we honor the reading of God’s Word.
Matthew 28:17-20 “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.(ESV)”
In the 28th chapter of Matthew, we see a description of the events immediately following Jesus’ resurrection. Two women, disciples of Jesus, go and tell the other disciples of their conversation with the resurrected Jesus, and how he had told them to go and tell them to meet Him in Galilee.
In John 20:17,18 “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and that he had said these things to her.
Matthew:17 “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” The word for “doubt” in Greek is distazo and refers more to hesitation than to unbelief. Jesus had been crucified for the salvation of the world. For the 40 days following the giving of the Great Commission Jesus would appear to various groups, even groups of over 400 people. And eventually he would tell the disciples that He must go, so that the Holy Spirit may come.
So the way they had operated and lived with Jesus were about to change. Some worshiped him and were quick to follow, “while others were hesitant because they didn’t know what they were supposed to do now. When Jesus was there with them, “ he told them what to do, where they would go, even how to dress and what to say. But now, they were hesitant and didn’t know what to do. People will always have this response when they don’t know what to do.
How had the resurrection changed things? Jesus now appears and disappears (as in the upper room with Thomas), He can allow people to recognize Him or hide His identity (the road to Emmaus), Jesus has gone to cross, resurrected and now changed from mortal flesh to a glorified body.
So some of the disciples are worshiping some are hesitant and confused so Jesus comes to them and gives them a clear mission. “18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples.”
What we will see is that it is through obeying this command of Jesus to “go and make disciples” that the disciples will begin to realize how they are being made more like Christ and how they have been changed as well.
This “Great Commission” is for every believer to share the gospel with the lost world around them. As the body of Christ we must continue to share and preach the gospel to ourselves, but the “going” is not to church, but to the world.
Imagine you are at the mall and you and your family have just sat down to eat at a Chic-Fil-A. You are enjoying your waffle fries, and chicken sandwich. The kids are inhaling their chicken nuggets so they can play on the playground and about that time a girl comes around with a tray of tiny cut up samples of chicken with a toothpick stuck in them and asks, “would you like a free sample?” Doesn’t this seem like a waste?
She should take her tray and stand out in the mall to the people passing by, she should go to the McDonald’s line and hand out samples. The people sitting down in Chic-Fil-A with their chicken are already committed. The sample girl would have the greatest impact if she went to those who weren’t already committed to chicken.
We have the most precious message that has ever come to mankind in all of its’ history, “creation and Creator can be restored. We have been saved from sin and depravity, “our lives can be changed and brought into the image of Christ. We have the power of the gospel, salvation and the only means for people to have eternal life. Where do we go with this message? Where do we share this message?
There are a couple of things that we can infer from Jesus’ commission to us:
1) You have to believe that people really are lost. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Your neighbor who is a really great guy, who fixed your stove when it broke, “yes if he doesn’t know Christ he will be eternally separated from the Father for all of eternity in hell. No one comes to the father apart from a saving relationship through Jesus Christ. Hell is a very real place that those who don’t know Jesus, that’s where they go.
2) You have to believe that people really will respond. If we don’t really believe that anyone will respond we simply won’t do anything. We have been commanded by Christ to tell others about Him, we reach out with the gospel, “and people will respond. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ, and when you share the gospel.
3) every Christian is to duplicate themselves in the life of another person or people. You have received the saving message of the gospel, so we share it with others who in turn give their lives to Christ as well.
So once we shared the gospel, and they have responded to the gospel and are growing in their relationship with Christ, “ what then? The next step is to welcome them into the church. “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
The Christian reaches out and shares the gospel with non-believing people. They receive Christ and are brought into the church body and fellowship through baptism. Then they begin a life long process of learning about Christ and following his teaching in obedience.
So up to this point, I have mentioned the “gospel” several times, but I want to make sure that we are all on the same page as to how we define this term that means, “good news.”
There is one God who is the ruler of heaven and earth. He created all that is including mankind. They were created in his image male and female. They were given dignity, value, and purpose. He made us to worship Him, but we chose to rebel against him and worship the creation instead (which includes ourselves).
As a result of this rebellion, we are separated from God. We all have believed the foolish myth that we are our own god, so we believe we have the right to make our own decisions, do we what think is right, and live by our own moral code.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 “Now I would remind you, brothers,1 of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . . (ESV)“
The man Jesus is also God, or Christ, (fully God and fully man) was born of a virgin, and lived a sinless perfect life even though “he was tempted in all ways like us.” Jesus died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins. He was our substitute, “he took the punishment that mankind deserved.”
Just like mankind’s first parents substituted themselves for God in the garden, now Jesus (as God) substitutes himself back for mankind. He took upon himself all the sin (past, present, and future), of those who would come to trust him.
He gives the gift of salvation freely to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life. Jesus as a man took my place, paid my sin debt to God, and purchased my salvation.
Jesus’ dead body was then laid in a tomb and three days later (on a Sunday) He rose again to conquer sin, death, demons, Satan, and hell. Then as he ascended into heaven he commissioned us as missionaries to tell this amazing story to the world. This good news is that there is a God who passionately loves you and gave His one and only Son to die for you and your sin.
He continually pursues us, “He passionately chases us because He loves us with a love beyond our comprehension or anything the you have ever experienced. After the resurrection, He ascended into heaven where then and today, and for all of eternity He will rule and reign over all of creation. He is and always will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is commanding everyone to repent of their sin and turn to Him through His Word.
He is also coming again to rule as judge where everyone will have to give an account of their lives and how they are in relation to Him. Those who have believed in Him will enjoy eternity in heaven and those who have rejected him will suffer apart from Him for eternity in hell.
That is the gospel. It is this message of top priority that must mark every ministry, every lesson, every thing that we do must rally around the only message that can save mankind from their sin. The church is a group of people who have believed this message and are passionate about sharing it with others.
Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners, we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways. The first is religion/spirituality and the second is the gospel. The two are opposites in every way.
But as believers we tend to think of the gospel as something we leave behind so that we can get strong. We receive the gospel to get saved, then we leave it behind to become religious. However, we are strengthened by God, through the gospel, every day.
Religion says that if we obey God He will love us. The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey.
Religion says that the world is filled with good people and bad people. The gospel says that the world is filled with bad people who are either repentant or unrepentant.
Religion says that you should trust in what you do as a good moral person. The gospel says that you should trust in the perfectly sinless life of Jesus because He alone is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.
The goal of religion is to get from God such things as health, wealth, insight, power, and control. The goal of the gospel is not the gifts God gives, but rather God as the gift given to us by grace.
Religion is about what I have to do. The gospel is about what I get to do.
Religion sees hardship in life as punishment from God. The gospel sees hardship in life as sanctifying affliction that reminds us of Jesus’ sufferings and is used by God in love to make us more like Jesus.
Religion is about me. The gospel is about Jesus.
Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God. The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.
Religion ends in either pride (because I think I am better than other people) or despair (because I continually fall short of God’s commands). The gospel ends in humble and confident joy because of the power of Jesus at work for me, in me, through me, and sometimes in spite of me.
Sanctification “is the process of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness.” Sanctification is where we as believers become more like Jesus, as we turn from sin over our lifetime.
How do we grow in our faith? How are we sanctified day-by-day? As we make a concerted effort to go out into the world (all nations), and share His love. In this process of going we are sanctified.
As in the “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we show believers how to serve, relate, and love the body of Christ. As the local church we grow in how we deal with other people.
As we “20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you “we are sanctified as we learn how to teach others, “you learn far more and at a much deeper level when you teach others.”
But what if I make a mistake, don’t know what to say, where should I go, how do I do this? God has given us His Word, and “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” “ we have Jesus beside us every step of the way.
The gospel is not a ticket that we leave behind and use later to get into heaven, “ the gospel is Jesus’ command that we follow and it stays with us our entire lives as we grow in Him. It gives us salvation, purpose, and a means to grow in Christ.
This past Sunday I ran in a marathon in Orlando and afterward we walked around Disney and they encourage you to wear your metal. Honestly, I didn’t want to wear it, but my family were like, “dad you have to wear it.” So I said, “Why don’t you guys take turns wearing it.” So all throughout the evening, people would make comments to my kids, asking them their time, if they met any Disney characters, etc. to which they loved.
But as people were making comments to them, I found it enjoyable, even though I had run the race. My kids got to enjoy the rewards of running a race that I had endured.
Jesus went to the cross and bore the weight of mankind’s sin. He died in our place. We get to enjoy the rewards of being forgiven of sin, even though Jesus ran the race to Calvary. I get the reward, He gets the punishment, “but it brings Him joy to see His creation” bring glory to the Father.
 Ronald F. Youngblood ed. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee; Nelson) 1126.