He must increase, but I must decrease. Jn. 3:30
There is something about our flesh that thinks, “While Jesus increases I can increase too.” Have you ever desired your influence to expand while expanding Jesus’ kingdom? Perhaps more people involved in your small group, or any area of ministry in or beyond the local church? Many of us have, and I confess that I have too.
John 3 records when Jesus came to Judea, multitudes received Him and were baptized. John the Baptist’s ministry was established and thriving, but now people were going to Jesus rather than John. John’s disciples were concerned. From their perspective John was “The Guy;” John, however, knew he wasn’t. John’s mission was to proclaim and point to Jesus who is the Christ – The Guy. John realized the ministry success he experienced was the result of God’s blessing and not anything inherent to himself, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” . John likened himself to the best man at a wedding (in this case the marriage of Jesus and His Church) who understands that the groom is to be blessed, and that the best man’s joy flows from helping to bring the bride to the groom and the groom’s contentment .
Then John declared the Kingdom principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease” . The reason for this principle flows from John’s next declaration, “He who comes from above is above all …” . The reason Christ must be preeminent or exalted is because He is above all or has all authority. This all seems very reasonable to us as church leaders – He must increase. The stumbling block is the condition “I must decrease.” For us to be effective leaders, we need to become less visible or prominent. It must be both He must increase and I must decrease.
The consequences of failing to decrease are truly significant. Here are three reasons why he must increase and I must decrease:
- First, as a church leader, you compromise experiencing the joy John the Baptist discovered. The formula: He must increase and I can increase too – does not produce lasting joy, only intermittent glimpses of happiness that are connected to the church leader’s perception of ministry success or prominence.
- Second, but more important, is the negative Kingdom impact. Failing to decrease hinders the growth and development of other Kingdom leaders. The longer we continue to hold onto the illusion that we are “The Guy” or “The Gal,” the longer we keep others from being used by the King for His Kingdom purposes.
- Third, and most important, our failure to decrease hinders the contentment of Jesus. When the best man or friend of the Bridegroom fails to graciously take their rightful place in the background, Jesus’ contentment is impacted for Christ and His glory are obscured.
When we decide to live the principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” we are declaring our belief that He truly has all authority. That step of faith is likely to be tested. When our local church made the transition to a teaching rotation, some people who had been part of our church for years left for other local churches. Of course, our leadership was concerned, and some expressed that we should leverage my teaching to correct the decline. Nevertheless, we determined to stay true to the conviction that developing Kingdom leaders was what we were called to do. At the end of the first year the average attendance was the same as the preceding year (actually a one person variance). God was gracious indeed as He brought people who were blessed by the vision of a teaching team and the development of Kingdom leaders.
Again, in the second year when the growth of the church appeared stagnant, some urged me to become more prominent in the teaching ministry and leverage the gifts God had given me. I recognized that if I returned to a more prominent role I would not, in fact, decrease, as I believe God called me to do. So we remain committed to a course of developing Kingdom leaders and God has graciously blessed our transition towards being a more Kingdom minded local church.
The transition to Kingdom leader development requires a commitment to live the principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” that will inevitably be a challenge of faith and a struggle for some, or perhaps many, church leaders. For example, imagine a plan to develop multiple worship leaders and teams. The best worship leader and team are clearly ready for the big room – or Sunday morning gathering, but on the other hand, the other leaders and teams are gifted and anointed but clearly not as capable as the best. Putting the B-team on the platform is likely to be perceived as a potential risk to the local church. You can imagine the concerns: people won’t be attracted to the church, or people will leave. Those concerns tend to put a chilling effect on developing Kingdom leaders because of presumed threats to the “personal kingdom.” Nevertheless, you can’t develop Kingdom leaders without choosing to decrease and trust God.
If it’s all about Christ and not about you, choose to decrease so that He can increase. Come to grips with your own desire to be “The Guy” or “The Gal.” Decide to discover an area where you can decrease, then develop, share, and implement a plan to live the principle.