Lessons from John 21 – #3. Ownership in Ministry.

Ethan and Aaron, my two boys, love to work with their hands. Not too long ago, I had some spare wood in the garage – 2×4’s, 1×4’s, and some 1×12 sheets of MDF – leftover from projects past. Ethan wanted to make a cross, and being the proud Daddy that I am, I gladly obliged. It may have been a little crooked, and you certainly wouldn’t want to run your hand down the back of it – for fear of excess screws and nails poking through – but it resembled a cross. And on the back of it, Ethan wrote, “Jesus loves you.” How can a Pastor-dad not be proud of that?! Aaron wanted something more functional, so we decided on a table. Simple enough. Not the sturdiest table I’ve ever seen, but it was recognizable. However, I had no plans on ever using it. Just a quick project for them to enjoy.

About a week later, Ethan and I had caught some fish. When I clean the fish, I usually set up our two trash cans and stretch a piece of plywood across them to serve as a make-shift cleaning table. I had done it a thousand times before. But Aaron, this time, wanted me to use the table he had made. So… I did. It was a little short for me, and it wasn’t the most stable cutting board. But he took pride in the notion that I would use his table – the one I had helped him make – even though I didn’t need it.

After Peter flopped into the water and flailingly swam to Jesus (see my last post), the other disciples rowed up in the boat about three or four minutes later. They pulled the net full of fish onto the shore, and miraculously, it had not torn at all. There were so many fish there! 153 of them to be exact… and they weren’t guppies… they were “large” fish (John 21:11). After a whole night of not catching a thing, you can imagine the adrenaline and excitement that these guys felt when dragging that big catch on shore. They knew Jesus was the One who helped them catch the fish. After all, He was the one who told them where to throw the net! But they still had some ownership in this haul.

To their surprise, Jesus already had the fire going, and guess what?… There was already fish on the grill and bread ready to serve (vs. 9, 13). Jesus had breakfast waiting on them. He didn’t need more fish. But Jesus discerned the disciples’ excitement over their catch, and He said to them, “Bring some of the fish you caught!” Their fish were not in any way better than the fish Jesus already had on the grill. And it’s not like Jesus didn’t have enough fish… like He hadn’t expected the disciples’ company. So why didn’t Jesus just tell them to hang on to their fish, and come eat those which He had already prepared? One word. Ownership. Jesus was the Provider… no question there. But He allowed the fishermen to have some ownership in that blessing. They were proud of their haul, and excited to dig in to it.

This is definitely a model we should follow, especially those of us in leadership roles. In general, people want to have some kind of ownership in ministry. If church leaders do all of the work, and simply ask others to come and enjoy the fruit of our labor, people are grateful… but there’s no sense of ownership in the vision, direction, and accomplishments of the church. Sometimes we leaders need to educate our people. Often times, we have to guide them in their service. We might have to say, “Hey, try throwing the net on the other side of the boat.” But then, we’ve got to let them haul in the catch. And when they do, we need to allow them to enjoy it. We need to applaud them for it. And enjoy the blessings along-side them.

I bet Jesus was smiling like a Father relishing the excitement of His children… People get so ecstatic, and sometimes even a little giddy, when they accomplish something great. Jesus was wise enough to do four things here:

1. To guide the disciples into success by showing them the avenue for success.

2. To allow them to do much of the work.

3. To hold His tongue and not claim credit for the accomplishment.

4. To enjoy the blessing with them, not for them, and not apart from them.

On what levels do you set up others to succeed? When someone else is accomplishing great things, do you share in the blessing with them, or secretly harbor bitterness toward them? If you helped in the process, how quick are you to claim some of the credit?

Grace and Peace,

Tony

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