The Great Commandments have been familiar to me for as long as I can remember: Love God and your neighbor. About ten years ago I was studying in a remote Arkansas mountain-cabin when God gave me fresh eyes on the text. They immediately brought much needed clarity into my life and ministry.
That was the day I intentionally became a Great Commandment pastor.
For two decades prior to this experience I had aspired mostly to be a Great Commission pastor, which had been working out pretty well if you measured success by the conventional ministry scorecard. In retrospect, I was very short-sighted. My focus and energy had been hyper-focused on going, evangelizing, baptizing, and teaching—which are all good.
Actually, they are great…as in the Great Commission.
Unfortunately, in my pursuit of leading Great Commission churches, I stopped leading a Great Commandment life. I had allowed erosion to creep into my relationships, even with Jesus. I was stuck in a rut and those who lived and served around me were being affected. It became painfully obvious that I could not possibly turn the world upside down for the gospel if my personal world was upside down.
I eventually realized that the key to a sustainable Great Commission ministry is a healthy Great Commandment life. If I got the Great Commandments right, I would eventually get the Great Commission right, which is my working definition of what a healthy, intentional pastor really is.
The Great Commandment
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)
The Great Commission
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Our Lord makes it crystal clear that there is not a more important thing we can do in our day or our whole life than love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. His preeminence in our lives and ministries is a consistent theme throughout Scripture, and we will look at how this looks for the 21st century Christian. Without Him we can do nothing, and through Him we can do anything (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13).
The Second Great Commandment, to love our neighbors, is about our love for the people God has placed in our lives. The term “neighbor” gives us hint where to start, as it means “nearest one.” My nearest one is my wife Janet.
The Great Commandments not only show us how to love best, but who to love most. Everyone is equal in God’s sight, but you and I are not God. My prayer as you read this is for you to see God’s divine pecking order for your life so that you can boldly protect it.
As you well know, your church benefits from having Great Commandment deacons, elders, teachers, ministry teams and committees. The bottom line is that healthy churches are led by healthy leaders who love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. And their neighbors like they love themselves.