The second half of John chapter 3 gives us insight into the earliest denominational feud. Allow me to paraphrase in my style, will you?
Jesus finishes his discourse with Nicodemus and moves to the Judean countryside where he finds a spring called ‘Aenon’ that had formed a wide and flourishing waterbody — somewhat of a large pond, if you will. He almost immediately starts baptizing people who kept coming to him.
John the Baptist, who was technically the only one baptizing before this, was at another corner of this same waterbody doing what he did best, baptizing people too! Note that this is John the Baptist. His surname (or the one we’ve given him) is Baptist. This is what he did. If there’s one thing John knew to do well, it was baptizing. He had a big advantage to Jesus in terms of years of experience. He had a long and impressive resume of people he had baptized.
John was going about his ministry that day (simultaneously when Jesus was on the other side too) and his disciples came to him to tattletale. They begrudgingly pointed out that Jesus was also baptizing in the same area and most people were going to Him instead of John.
I can imagine their frustration. This is what they did. They were disciples of John and it pained them to see people going to another ministry to get the exact same thing they’ve been offering for a while now. This looked like a classic turf war. It didn’t seem fair at all. I feel for these chaps.
But here’s John’s exact response to his flustered and well-meaning followers, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30)
Erm, wait a minute, John T.B.!!!? (shortening his middle and last name cos’ let’s admit it, it’s too long)
Are you saying you are okay with your ministry numbers going down? You’re actually fine with your identity as the “the Baptist” being encroached on by someone else? You’re perfectly fine with decreasing? But, this makes no sense! That’s the opposite of what I want to happen with my ministry, John!
In his response to his followers, John T.B. taught me a few truths about ministering to people that I’m going to probably (and hopefully) not forget. Can I share them with you? (rhetoric, I am going to!)
- Any man can only receive what is given him from heaven.
John basically had a clear understanding of where his ministry came from and hadn’t got so caught up in it that he assumed it was “his man-made entity” for even a second. Whatever he got was from God and he wasn’t going to forget that.
Note to self: I need to never forget this. Everything I am, I am because of Him. I don’t have anything that I do of my own doing, it’s been handed to me.
- “I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him”.
John reminded his followers that He was, in fact, not the Christ.
Note to self: I think I need to remind myself of this often. I am not the Christ. I am not the main deal. I am not what everything revolves around. Reminding myself that I’m not a king or savior and Christ is the Only One is so humbling and can automatically change my response in a situation.
- The bride belongs to the Bridegroom.
John does something pivotal here. He makes it clear that he is aware that the Church, God’s people, belong to God and not to him. In saying so, he once and for all established, that none of us need to crib about which church or ministry another one is a part of, because everyone belongs to God anyway. Why aren’t we constantly reminding ourselves of this? Why aren’t we screaming it out to each other when we have conflict? Why do we roll our eyes at those other churchgoers? Why do we fret when people we’ve ministered to choose to move to another part of the Body – the Body that forms the same Bride ultimately?
Note to Self: I need to genuinely be happy when someone else’s “similar” ministry and impact flourishes more than mine.
- The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
John compares himself to a best man here (or a groomsman) of Jesus. He says that it brings him ultimate joy to see Jesus being united with His Bride and that’s the perfect analogy for me of how our attitudes should be towards people embracing Christ. It shouldn’t matter to us who brings a person to Jesus so long as they are united with Him. If we’re in ministry of any sort, we’re all best men or groomsmen and let’s not forget that Christ is the Bridegroom.
Note to self: He is the ONE who I must lead people to. What purpose does it serve to draw people to myself, when the marriage is between them and Christ? I am not going to be that grump at the Wedding who is unhappy about not being given credit for introducing the Bride and the Groom. Or the one who sulks in a corner because my role in this Wedding wasn’t as big as someone else’s.
- He must increase and I must decrease. The only sign of a ministry that is thriving correctly is if Christ is increasing and the minister is decreasing. Such an opposite of what we’re all mostly going for.
Note to Self: I need to have this put up on a big signboard in my house somewhere, because I tend to keep forgetting this. I must decrease and He must increase. Less of Becky and more of Him.
I feel humbled today after taking this quick Degree course on Decrease by Prof. John T.B.
John the Baptist knew that he wasn’t the main Baptist and Jesus was the MVP. The OG Baptist, if you will.
Becky the Artist, Becky the Writer and Becky the Whatever should always remember that God is the OG Artist, Writer and the Main Everything. He’s the lead and I’m the supporting actor. He’s Batman and I’m Robin. Maybe even Alfred (sitting in the bat cave, working behind the scenes).
I plan to post musings from my personal journaling and study on the gospel according to John more regularly on this blog. Please enter your e-mail address below to subscribe and get notified each time I upload something.