Hey Leader, Are You Treating Jesus as a Mascot?
As a church pastor, I’ve become convicted about how many church leaders—including me—have treated Jesus. In far too many of our meetings the crowd is thick, the band is hyped up, the team is fired up, and the teaching is good. But Jesus is merely a mascot. Just a mascot! What does that mean? Could this be true in your life or ministry?
David Bryant, author of the book Christ is All, says in convicting fashion that:
Once a week…we ‘trot [Jesus] out’ to cheer us up, to give us new vigor and vision, to reassure us that we are ‘somebodies.’ We invite him to reinvigorate our celebration of victories we think we’re destined to win. [Jesus] lifts our spirits. He resuscitates our souls. He rebuilds our confidence. He gives us reasons to cheer…We’re so proud of him!…Then, for the rest of the week, he is pretty much relegated to the sidelines as our figurehead…our cheers may be for him, but our victories are for us. There’s scant evidence that we think of ourselves as somehow utterly incapable of doing anything of eternal consequence apart from him.
Ouch! Let this conviction lead us to repentance and reflection on how Jesus is regarded in our ministries.
What Does Your Ministry Say About Who Jesus Is?
Bryant reports visiting dozens of Christian conferences and barely hearing the name of Christ mentioned—not from the main stage, nor in hundreds of lobby conversations. Is it the same in our large group meetings? Our small groups? Our social events?
What might you find if you simply spent time listening to the conversations happening all around your ministry? How often do you think you’ll hear Jesus Christ mentioned at all, let alone explicitly referenced as Messiah, Redeemer, Savior, and Returning King? In other words, what does your ministry say about who Jesus is?
If Jesus is who he says he is—indeed, if he is who we claim he is—we can’t treat Jesus like a mascot. He’s far more than that. He’s King. He’s supreme. He’s high and exalted. Jesus is not the mascot. He’s the coach, the quarterback, the field, the end zone, and the audience. It’s only out of his lavish grace that we get to play on his team at all!
Signs You’re Treating Jesus as a Mascot
How do you know if you’re treating Jesus like a mascot?
- If the only time his name gets mentioned is when you say “in Jesus’ name, amen,” then he’s probably a mascot.
- If the time spent in your meetings or services is meant simply to entertain or have fun, not to glorify Christ and extend his Kingdom, then Jesus might be a mascot.
- If the songs you sing are more about what you’ll do for God—or what you want him to do for you—instead of worshiping Jesus for who he is, and what he has done, is doing, and will do, then he might be only a mascot.
- If you’re so worried about offending seekers that you do a lot of vague “God-talk” without mentioning much of Jesus, then he might not even be a mascot.
- If what you’re endlessly saying and doing isn’t from the heart and mind of Jesus and for his purposes and glory, then he’s just a mascot.
We must acknowledge that even well-intentioned, Jesus-loving leaders can functionally relegate Jesus to mascot status. So how can we make sure Jesus isn’t merely a mascot in our ministries?
Ways to Keep Jesus Exalted and Supreme
Here are just a few ways we can more intentionally lift up the name and infinite worth of Jesus Christ in our own lives and ministries:
- Go deeper in studying the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is dangerously easy to believe that we’ve learned all that we need to know about Jesus. But we never come to the end of him, and it is his praises we will sing forever in heaven! Let’s not settle for what we know now; let’s go “farther up and further in” in our knowledge of Christ. Christ is All is a great and concise resource for this, and ChristNow.com, including its compelling video series The Christ Institutes, has been specifically designed “to expand [our] vision of who the Son of God is right now, in the majesty of his spectacular supremacy.”
- Let’s repent of any areas in which Christ has not been made supreme. Are there areas of unrepentant sin that we haven’t surrendered to him? Do we function as if we are coach and quarterback? Do we think that we can achieve anything of eternal value without his supernatural power permeating all we do?
- In our teaching, let’s find the road to Christ in every Scripture passage, as Spurgeon used to teach. Plenty of us bemoan the prevalence of “moral therapeutic deism” among students and our congregations, yet perpetuate it by dispensing moral lessons and inspirational pick-me-ups that are devoid of the manifold glories of Christ and the gospel. Let Jesus be the sum and focus of our teaching—Christ-centered, not human-centered.
- Let’s make sure that all our “God talk” is actually “Jesus talk,” and that mentioning him is not relegated to the end of our prayers. How do our songs, the testimonies, the teachings, and even the announcements point to and glorify Jesus Christ? How can we make sure that Jesus is not just central to our ministry, but infused throughout it and supreme over it?
- Let’s charge our leaders to speak more of Christ not only when they’re up front, but also in casual conversations over meals, in the lobby, on social media—you name it. Wherever people are talking, let’s bring Jesus in to the conversation.
In all these things (and more), let’s exalt Jesus as supreme—for the sake of those we lead, for the health of our ministries and the expansion of the Kingdom, and for the glory of Jesus Christ. “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).”
What are the ways you keep Jesus the focus and ruler of your ministry? Let’s encourage each other with our ideas! Please comment here.
About the Author: Steve Lutz
Steve Lutz is a pastor with Calvary Church in State College, PA. The author of King of the Campus (2013) and College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture (2011), Steve frequently speaks and writes on college ministry and related issues, and consults with college ministries across the country. You can follow Steve on his blog or Twitter.