Loving People Or Fixing Projects?

From Paul Tripp Ministries


We’re about to embark on an extended series examining four aspects of a healthy, intentional “personal ministry” relationship with a brother or sister in Christ.

I put “personal ministry” in quotes because we could use interchangeable terms. You might prefer discipleship, mentoring, accountability, or even simply, friendship.

Whatever vocabulary you prefer, the goal remains the same: God plans to use people in need of change—you—as an instrument of change in the life of someone else in need of change.

The four aspects are: Love. Know. Speak. Do. It’s important to remember that these will all be ongoing simultaneously. There is some logic to the order, but it’s not as if you start at Love, graduate from that phase, and then move on to the next, never to return to Love again!

The words of 1 Corinthians 13:8 couldn’t be more true in the Love. Know. Speak. Do. ministry model: “Love never ends.”

So, let’s dive into Love!

LOVE. Know. Speak. Do.

When I was a seminary professor, I taught a biblical counseling course that students needed to take before graduating from the pastoral track. The class was populated by young guys who were incredibly passionate about preaching the Word of God from the pulpit.

While we should protect and esteem the pulpit, there was a flaw in the logic of many of my students. They thought that if the truth was declared corporately on Sunday, the congregation wouldn’t need discipleship, pastoral care, or biblical counseling.

One semester, a frustrated student said aloud, “Dr. Tripp, we know we will have these projects in our churches. Just tell us what to do with them so we can get back to the work of the ministry.”

Yes, he actually said that aloud. And yes, he was referring to the people he would pastor in the future. A hush covered the room. But before you judge this young man and snicker at him like his classmates did, ask yourself: do I view any of my personal ministry relationships as projects?

This is why we often get stuck in the mess of discipleship. We don’t want ministry that demands love. We don’t want to serve others in a way that requires so much personal sacrifice.

Are you trying to lob grenades of truth into people’s lives rather than lay down your life for them? Are you treating the work of personal ministry more like an assembly line, where people are objects, and you move them along quickly and mechanically?

The church is not a manufacturing plant, assembling and repairing machines and robots. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification center, where flawed people place their trust in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he has designed.

Personal ministry relationships are messy and inefficient, but it is God’s wonderful mess—the place where he radically transforms hearts and lives.

The foundation for heart-and-life transforming gospel ministry is love. Without love, our ministry is a boat without oars. Or, in the words of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.”

Love is what drove God to send and sacrifice his Son. Love led Christ to subject himself to a sinful world and the horrors of the cross. Love is what causes him to seek and save the lost, and to persevere until each of his children is transformed into his image. His love will not rest until all of his children are at his side in glory.

Can we expect to be called to do anything less in personal ministry?

A Prayer for Today: Lord, would you help me to love others in a way that reflects your love for them? Please help me to love the people in my life as you designed. Open my heart to everyone you have placed in my circle of influence, and give me the eyes to see them not as projects to be fixed, but as human beings you have created and love. Lord, I lack the strength to do this, but with your power, all things are possible. Please make the impossible possible in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

God bless,

Paul David Tripp

Discussion Prompt for Children

Who are the people you see all the time and find difficult to love? Why is it hard for you to love them? How can we pray for each other in a way that changes our hearts toward the difficult people to love?

Reflection Questions

1. Why do you think God wants to use you (a person in need of change) as an instrument of change in the lives of other people in need of change? Why is the element of love such a powerful part of those relationships God is calling you to? How does the phrase from 1 Corinthians 13:8—Love never ends—apply specifically to you and the people God has called you to love?

2. Do you view any of your personal ministry relationships as projects? Why do you think it’s so easy to do that? Why does God call us to love others not as projects, but as human beings he has created?

3. Why is personal sacrifice such an important part of loving others? What specific elements (time commitments, money, energy, etc.) push you away from others if they are difficult to love? In what ways can you be praying for your own heart to change toward the people in your life who are hard to love?

4. Knowing that personal ministry relationships are messy and inefficient, how and in what ways is God calling you into his wonderful mess? How might God use those wonderful messes to change not only the people you minister to, but your own heart as well?

5. Take some time to pray for your own heart to be transformed more and more into the heart of Jesus. Pray for the difficult people in your life who are difficult to love and pray that God would change your posture toward them so that you might grow to love them despite their propensity to be difficult.

Loving People Or Fixing Projects?

New Hope Presbyterian Church Bridgeton, NJ

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