How to Know Your Ministry is Cross-Centered
1 Corinthians 1-3
There is never an end to new programs, gadgets, or gizmos when it comes to “ministry”. A casual walk through a Christian bookstore these days, will give you no end to the “newest” thing that will help make your ministry a “success”. Do not misunderstand me; there is a place for resources and tools. Object lessons are wonderful tools to proclaim the glories of the cross. A play – in the right context – can bring alive the story of God’s redemption. A book can communicate what biblical gospel ministry should look like. Even Christ left us with His creation, which on a visually level constantly declares the glory of who He is [Ps. 19:1].
However, ministry has become increasingly pragmatic. We are afraid we will offend people; we want people to feel like they fit in; and this leads to fashioning our churches to have a more hip and relevant appeal. But lets not just pick on the “liberals” of ministry. How about the so-called conservatives? We look for ways to attain unto Christ through our “holy standards”. Human effort as opposed to faith in the grace of God motivates us. The fear of being “worldly” leads us to believe that being “in the world” will destroy us. Or maybe, you are one of those who fits somewhere in between…
The question remains: how are we to discern if our ministry is centered in the work of the cross?
The glory of God vs. the greatness of a man
Cross-centered ministry has not a morsel of space for the building up of ones greatness. When you proclaim “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”, it is a message of Christ alone. When Christ is proclaimed, the individual must decrease and Christ must increase [John 3:30]. This is the measurement of successful cross-centered ministry. This is how you know. No matter how seemingly wise, indispensable, or far reaching the success of a person’s ministry, if the cross is not their glory and their passion for you is not the same, they proclaim another gospel. Paul rebuked the Corinthians believers for their attachment to men rather than Christ – i.e. “ I follow Apollos”, I follow Cephas”, or ‘I follow Christ” [1:10-17.
Realize your message is foolishness to the world
The world cannot and does not understand the things that are spiritually understood. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing [1:18].” Man’s wisdom says, “You have what it takes to be what you want to be.” The gospel tells us, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of Christ.” “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God [Eph. 2:8].” Remember: we proclaim something that is as completely foreign to the world as a fish out of water. All have sinned and because of that sin, man is blinded to the “foolishness” of the cross.
We proclaim the cross; the Spirit reveals cross
Do you fall into the trap of thinking that you are the one who reveals to people the truth? Do not. You cannot reveal the truth; only the Spirit of God can. 1 Corinthians 2:10 tell us, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything even the depths of God.” It is your job to proclaim the cross. It is the Spirit’s job to reveal the truth. Do not take responsibility for something that the Lord never gave us. Do your job – proclaim the gospel – and pray for the power of the Spirit to work. Adrian Rodgers said, “I can preach truth, but only the Holy Spirit can impart truth.”
The cross implicates your ministry work
We have already touched upon some simple yet profound implications. As we draw this post to a close, I leave you with a quote from D.A. Carson:
“Ultimately wisdom if from the world and is opposed by God, or it is God-given and tied to the cross. There is not middle ground. Those who try to create some middle ground by imitating the Corinthians – who confessed the Jesus of the cross but whose hearts were constantly drawn to one or another of the public philosophies and values of the day – will gain nothing but the rebuke of Scripture.”