This week I have been struggling with coming up with a memorable theme verse for the ministry year. I thought about using 20:14 as a verse reference, but sadly discovered that while all scripture is God-breathed not all scripture is suitable for a memorable theme verse (although I did consider for a moment using Exodus 20:14). I thought about using the words ‘one for’ – ‘1 4’ – as an angle (and even found a variant translation of John 13:35 that would have been a very memorable theme verse) but reconsidered and felt it was too forced. So, it is now 10 days into the new year and I still have no scriptural ‘hook’ on which to hang this year’s church calendar.
So here I sit in my office wondering if I even need a theme verse; after all, Jesus’ ministry didn’t have one, did it? Sure, there are passages that sum up aspects for Christ’s purposes on earth (John 3:16, Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:6-11), but you’d need the whole of scripture to encompass all that Jesus’ work among us accomplishes. If we, as a church, were to embrace ministry in a manner worthy of the Lord, where would we start? How did Jesus interact with his congregation, his community and his critics? Perhaps there is insight in a question I have noticed popping up in his interactions.
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. Mark 10:36 (NIV)
Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. Matthew 20:32 (NIV)
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” John 1:38 (NIV)
Whether it was two men following after him and questioning who he was, or a pair of disciples of his wanting to be seated in the VIP section of heaven or a couple of blind men hoping that someone would show compassion, Jesus wanted to know what THEY wanted. Even though God the Son knew what they needed, he wanted them to verbalize what they wanted. Maybe that is what his church should be doing more frequently: when visitors bless us by crossing our threshold, asking what they are looking for may be of benefit to us; when those dismissed or disenfranchised by society step out from the shadows and into our path, requesting what they long for may be the best course of action; when leaders rise up among us, searching for the place of their heart’s desire in ministry may be exactly what pleases us all.
The gospel of Christ is about giving – God gave His son, Christ gave his body, we give our lives – and God’s church must be about giving, too. Perhaps it is too difficult to encapsulate all that God calls us to do and be in a single verse of Scripture; perhaps there are too many variables. I wish I could find a verse that says, in so many words, that we ought to live lives that reflect our compassion and conviction in Christ no matter what life may throw at us.
Philippians 1:27 (NIV) – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”