By David Dummitt
In all honesty, sometimes I just want to get through the Christmas season. As a pastor, Christmas usually means work. Lots more work. I can start to allow productivity and busyness for God’s kingdom to outweigh sacred wonder and worship of the King who has come for us.
Earlier this year at a leadership retreat, my friend and fellow pastor Patrick O’Connell, the global leader of NewThing, led a devotional for a group of ministry leaders from all over the United States. He shared three “greats” that Jesus gave to us, and as he spoke, I watched a room full of reputable pastors experience a paradigm shift. This Christmas, I am considering these three “greats” of Jesus as a humble reminder of our King and our calling:
The Great Commission
If you’re a ministry leader, it’s likely you’re familiar with the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. The Great Commission may be a reason many of us entered vocational ministry, and it is certainly a foundational mandate for church planting. Jesus, after having overcome death itself, looked at his disciples and said, “I came to you, now you go and make disciples.” He blessed them and then sent them out.
To follow Jesus is to be sent by him on a rescue mission everywhere that people live and breathe. We are called to go.
The Great Commandment
Jesus gave us the Great Commission: We are to go. Jesus also gave the Great Commandment: We are to love.
In Mark 12, when Jesus was asked to define the greatest commandment, he recited the known-by-every-Jew Shema: “The Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (vv. 29, 30). But then Jesus expounded upon this command and declared that equally important is his new commandment: to love our neighbors as ourselves.
To follow Jesus is to grow in love for God and for people. We are called to go in love.
The Great Collaboration
And here is the crux—the pivotal paradigm shift we must embrace if we are to be the most effective emissaries of God’s kingdom we can be.
Jesus told us to go in love with a very clear desire that his people would go in love . . . together. In John 17, as Jesus was preparing to go to the cross, he prayed for us to be unified. He prayed that his kingdom, his family, would be whole. Jesus called us to the “great collaboration.”
I find it interesting that in John 17:20, 21, Jesus repeatedly prayed that we would be unified; and then he added, “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (v. 23). It is our unity—our “oneness”—that will be the means to seeing the Great Commission fulfilled.
When we are divided, when we battle one another and cause dissension within the church, we not only impede Jesus’ mission, we destroy it. The world ignores our message when we can’t even get along. Conversely, when we unite together, when we are unified across race, gender, and socioeconomic lines—and even some theological lines, as Jesus modeled—then people are attracted to Christ in us and among us.
We are to be on the same team, have each other’s backs, champion each other’s best, and hold each other accountable. We are to break down silos and focus on God’s kingdom, and not just our individual castles.
This is one of the biggest reasons I value network church planting. I believe that reaching out to other local pastors, strengthening those ties, and saying, “We can’t do this alone; let’s lock arms,” brings a smile to Jesus’ face.
Church planting is a critical part of Jesus’ mission, and choosing to unite as a network is a powerful way to build relational bridges. It also allows each of us to have a place at the church-planting table, no matter the size or budget of the church we lead. Our engagement means furthering the mission of Jesus, while simultaneously being united, sharpened, strengthened, and encouraged by other church leaders.
To follow Jesus is to be united with his people. We are called to go in love . . . together.
This Christmas, I hope you will join me in pulling back from the hustle and bustle of the season to reflect on the King who came to us with great love and built a team—a family on mission—to reconcile the world to God. And Jesus has called us to do the same. Merry Christmas, and may God bless you with his presence and peace.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church in Michigan, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. He is also on the lead team of NewThing, a catalyst for reproducing churches worldwide.