The Primacy of Love

2013 RightNow Conference


Pastors can be easily tempted to define the success of their ministry on attendance numbers or podcast downloads. In this 21-minute session from the 2013 RightNow Conference, JR Vassar pushes back against this view of ministry success, calling pastors back to their primary commission to love. JR is Senior Pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, TX. Prior to that, he served as founding and Lead Pastor of Apostles Church in New York City.

As you watch this session, take notes and write down thoughts about how this session can impact your life and ministry.




JR built his session around two main points from John 21:15–23:
  • "Jesus is primarily concerned about our love for Him, not our usefulness to Him."
  • "Jesus, secondarily, is concerned about our love for His people, and not their usefulness to us."

Peter’s denial of Jesus was not a sin of cowardice, but of lovelessness. So, as JR pointed out, Peter’s restoration in John 21 does not come by behavior modification, but by deeper love for Jesus. Are you more inclined to fight sin by behavior modification or by fostering a deeper love for Christ? How are you intentional about pursuing a deeper love for Jesus?
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Fruitfulness in ministry is often equated with attendance records, inclining pastors to work toward seeing numbers increase. This is often reflected in staff retreats that are heavily weighted on strategy. When was the last time your staff retreat was about seeking Jesus and not strategy? What did you spend the majority of your time spent on? How did prayer and worship fit into the schedule? How can you lead other staff members in seeking Jesus to sustain your ministry instead of seeking a strategy that will sustain your ministry?
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JR confessed that there were many times in his ministry when he was more "audience minded" than "people focused." Compare and contrast a heart that is "audience minded" with one that is "people focused." Where in your ministry have you been more concerned with what people thought about a worship service than with the condition of their hearts when they left it? How does fostering a deeper love for people keep your ministry "people focused"?
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JR contrasted a ministry that was fueled by personal ambition with one fueled by a love for Christ and a love for people. What thoughts or feelings do you experience when you see the Lord blessing someone else's ministry? How would you respond if God were to do a powerful work in your city, and your only part to play was the hidden work of prayer? What practical steps could you take to kill the tendency to let personal ambition fuel your ministry? Who do you trust to hold you accountable in this area?
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Taking an honest look at your motivations for ministry often exposes difficult truths. What starts as a desire to fulfill God's calling and bring glory to His name can turn into a means of seeking glory for yourself. This is a temptation that all pastors face. However, as you foster a love for God and a love for others, the power of this temptation diminishes. Your motivations realign with God's purposes: to love Him and love His people.


For information about the upcoming RightNow Conference, go to rightnowconferences.org