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In late 2007, Pastor Bill Hybels and the leadership team of the Willow Creek Community Church shared the startling results of a study they conducted of their own church—as well as other so-called “seeker churches.”
The results, Hybels said, were “the greatest wake-up call of my adult life.” Among other findings, they discovered that their ministry to “seekers” was very effective for introducing Christ to those who were new to church.
No big surprise.
But they had not been as successful in fulfilling their mission statement to turn “irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.” That is, they had not been as strong in developing the spiritual lives of those who had trusted Christ. As a result of a conversation Hybels had with his executive pastor, Greg Hawkins, they realized:
I’ve been involved in a serious study of Scripture for more than fifty years of my life. In all that time I have found only one place where Jesus Christ—in His own words—describes His own “inner man.” In doing so, He uses only two words. Unlike most celebrities, those words are not phenomenal and great. Jesus doesn’t even mention that He was sought after as a speaker.
Although it is true, He doesn’t say: “I am wise and powerful,” or “I am holy and eternal,” or “I am all-knowing and absolute deity.” Do you remember what He said?
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. (Matthew 11:28–29)
I am gentle. I am humble. Both are servant terms. “Gentle”means strength under control. It is used of a wild stallion that has been tamed. “Humble in heart” means lowly—the word picture of a helper. Unselfishness and thoughtfulness are in the description. It doesn’t mean weak and insignificant, however.
Frankly, I find it significant that when Jesus lifts the veil of silence and once for all gives us a glimpse of Himself, the real stuff of His inner person, He uses gentle and humble. When we read that God the Father is committed to forming us to the image of His Son, qualities such as these are what He wants to see emerge. We pastors are never more like Christ than when we fit into His description of Himself.
And how do those things reveal themselves? In what way do we best reveal them? In our obedience. Servanthood and obedience are linked together like Siamese twins. And the finest illustration of this is the Son Himself who openly confessed, “I do nothing on My own initiative . . . I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28–29).
In other words, Jesus’s self-description was verified by His obedience. Like no one else who has ever lived, He practiced what He preached. That’s my goal too. Is it yours?