Not long ago my wife introduced me to the best show on television... Chopped. I love it. Hands down noting beats it. A simple show in concept: four chefs compete against one another using a basket of mystery ingredients - yet so captivating!
Why? Because the ingredients equalize the playing field. Whether the chef be a novice out of culinary school or a multi-restaurant owner veteran, each chef receives the ingredients at the same time and must respond to them accordingly.
The ingredients are the star of the show. They call out the character of the chef. Not the other way around. It's the ingredients that define the path.
One night, I thought to myself what ingredients make up ministry? What key ingredients must be in the basket of every ministry leader (or chef) in order to determine the most faithful way of leading others?
A few ingredients came to mind:
I could easily write an entire essay on each one of these values. Indeed, many great thinkers already have. And certainly, you could think of many more attributes to add to this list, the great virtues of the Christian faith, along with essential characteristics that make up a great leader. In all honesty, as I sat down to write this post, I had already outlined some key thoughts for each one of the aforementioned ones.
But something shifted in my heart.
I stopped, thought about what I had just written, and then realized that something even more basic and fundamental exists that must define every leader. You and I could list a hundred ingredients for a thriving ministry, but what about the basket? Which ones are the KEY ingredients?
If you've seen the show Chopped, then you know that anything in the Pantry (which by the way contains an amazing assortment of foods and spices) is available for use to make the meals, which must contain the key ingredients. The list that I made are some of my favorite items from the pantry, but I soon discovered that they are not the key ingredients from the basket.
As we develop as leaders, we need all the items the pantry affords us to become more well rounded, tasty in our leadership ability. Yet, the core ingredients come from a different place: the basket.
The basket is a gift.
It is not something that we own, nor can purchase. It si not even something that we can word at achieving. The ingredients contained within the basket do not belong to us. We do not deserve them, yet we get them!
Toward the end of his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul summed his letter by telling the church that as the Spirit takes control of our lives, then these fruits begin to grow, undeservingly, and without our ability to produce them on our own:
Then Paul states, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
These fruits do not grow because we will them to grow, or possess enough smarts to make them grow. They only appear because of a life grafted into the vine, the source of all life!
You must get every one of these ingredients on your plate; everything else adds flavor and value. For these fruits signify that you know your creator, live surrendered to Christ, and rest in the presence of the Spirit.
I know humble, driven, willed, clear, focused, passionate, and smart leaders, and some of them demonstrate the very fruits of the Spirit, while others clang like resounding gongs.
I want to follow a leader whose life is characterized by the fruits in the basket before going to the pantry. I need a leader who does that. We all do.
May you live a life that demonstrates the fruits of the Spirit, not as an obligation, but as an overflow of your relationship to Jesus Christ.