“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
(John 3:30 ESV)
We see in John 3 that, as Jesus began his ministry, he was baptizing those who came to him. John the Baptist also continued to baptize those who came to him. However, John’s disciples noted that, while the people once came to him, they were now going to Jesus for baptism.
These feelings are understandable. Having followed John, and being devoted to him, it seemed that he was being displaced. John had born witness to Jesus’ identity, and now his ministry was being sidelined. And this set up a competitive spirit among John’s followers.
John, however, was unconcerned. He responded to his followers saying that a person can receive nothing unless it is given him by God. And he reminded them of his testimony. He knew that Jesus was the Christ, and that he was not. For this reason, he rejoiced at the coming of Jesus. He understood that Jesus had to increase while he, and his ministry, had to decrease.
His focus was not on himself, but on Jesus. He understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promises. He understood that, for this reason, Jesus was to be at center stage.
We must all come around to this mindset as well. As we carry out God’s calling, it’s easy for us to become focused on ourselves. It’s easy for us to adopt a competitive attitude. And, in this way, we push Jesus to the side. We push him to the side even though salvation is found only in him.
Churches will, at times, become competitive with one another. They want to have the biggest congregation. They want to have the best ministry. Their focus is not on making disciples for Jesus. Their focus is on building their own kingdom.
Pastors and church leaders can also fall into this mentality. They can become focused on worldly success. They want to be esteemed by the people of their congregation, and also the community. And they become more focused on building their own following than they are on proclaiming the good news of Christ.
It’s even possible for your average congregation member to fall into this mindset. They continue to take on roles and responsibilities in the church not because they desire to serve. They do so because they want to build their own reputation. They want to be noticed and applauded by others.
However, like John the Baptist, we must understand that Christ alone is central to our ministry. Our focus is not to be upon ourselves or even our own congregation. Our focus is to be on Christ. And, as we minister to others around us, our goal is simply to direct people to Jesus.
We are not seeking to make disciples for ourselves, but disciples of Jesus. And, because of this, we must, like John, approach ministry with the attitude that Jesus must increase while we must decrease. We must rejoice not in the fact that people are coming to us. We must rejoice in the fact that people are turning to him and following him. And we must simply thank God for whatever blessings, for whatever responsibilities, he assigns to us.