Heart-to-Heart Ministry Is Rooted in Our Relationship With God

Bill Mowry
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“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
—Matthew 22:37–38

Remember the eleven men on the hillside in Matthew 28? Remember how they obediently waited at Jesus’ pre-appointed location?

When the Lord showed up and the disciples saw Him, “they worshiped him” (Matt. 28:17 NIV). We don’t know what this worship looked like, but we know it was probably spontaneous and heartfelt. No one had instructed them to do this, and the Master did not require it.

What can we learn from this example? Before Jesus issued the command of “Go and make disciples,” the men showed their love for Him through worship. Here’s a basic principle: the Great Commandment of loving God always precedes the Great Commission of making disciples. If we don’t get this priority right, we will fail to minister in heart-to-heart ways. Loving God is the bottom-line requirement for passing on the faith to others. Love is the “royal law” of the kingdom (James 2:8).

Author and pastor John Piper gives a wonderful description of what it means to love God with all our hearts:

I define loving God mainly as treasuring God. That is, it is an experience of cherishing, delighting, admiring, and valuing. . . . Love for God is an affair of the affections . . . an affection of the heart.[1]

Jesus so values this love that He rebukes the Ephesian church because, as He told them, “you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4 NASB). No one wants this accusation leveled against them by the Lord. How can this happen to a life? Let me describe how it happened to me.

Consider this: how many sermons do you remember? I’ve heard a lot of messages in my lifetime but one stands out.

I was halfheartedly listening to Lucas, a guest speaker at church, when he made a statement that caught my attention. “It’s easy for us to perfect the means in the Christian life but miss the end,” he said. The Holy Spirit nudged me to pay attention.

Lucas described how we can live the Christian life by erroneously focusing on perfecting the “means” to knowing God. What did this look like to me? I had developed my discipleship checklist. I was working on my prayer life, trying to read the Bible more, and looking for ways to share my faith. I was focusing on quantity (how long did I pray?) and technique (did I share my faith the “right” way?), and not on my relationship with God. Praying and witnessing are good to do and they’re biblical, but I realized that I was missing the “end”—loving God. I was perfecting the Christian disciplines but not loving God! I began to seriously think about what it meant to love Jesus and not perfect the disciplines of the spiritual life.

This Holy Spirit moment shifted my heart from doing to loving.

This Kind of Ministry Brings Us Joy to the Glory of God

Lucas’s message showed me that I’m a recovering perfectionist. I’ve been working to change this condition ever since. Like anyone in recovery, I needed a new “why,” a new motivation to replace my former one of mastering the Christian life. The Lord opened my heart to Psalm 27:4, using this passage to chart a path to recover my first love.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

I want the psalmist’s passion to be my passion—seeking God should be my number-one priority.

Now, notice what the author wants to find in this search. He wants to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”

Things of beauty always draw us back to look or taste again and again. We have favorite songs, restaurants, or scenic spots that draw us back like iron filings to a magnet. That’s what it means to me to treasure our Lord. I’m drawn back again and again to taste His goodness and beauty. This lifestyle is more soul-filling than one of mastering the spiritual disciplines.

The Puritan authors referred to the beauty of the Lord as suavitas, Latin for “sweetness.” To appreciate beauty is not simply an abstract idea but a genuine feeling of pleasure, a sweetness of the heart.[2] Our hearts become emotionally engaged in the object of beauty. As Christ followers, knowing God is the sweetest thing we can experience.

What makes our Lord so attractive, so pleasurable? We use a variety of words for becoming a Christian today. We talk about “being born again,” “receiving Christ,” or “accepting Christ.” Over a century ago, “the words used to describe the breakthrough into a personal relationship with Jesus were: ‘I was seized by the power of a great affection.’”[3] Isn’t that a thrilling statement? Because we’ve been seized by a great affection—God’s love—we respond from our hearts to Him.

Disciple-making is fundamentally about helping people love God and live for Him. What changes lives is not my ministry competencies, my assured answers, or my moral conduct. It’s my life in Christ, a life “seized by a great affection,” a life passed on from one person to another. Like the apostle John, we want to take the life we have in Christ and invite people into fellowship “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). This is true heart-to-heart ministry. This is what it means when we invite people to walk with us as we walk with Jesus.

Our love for God is the well from which all life and ministry flows. Jesus promised to be the one who fills this well, satisfying the thirst of our hearts so that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” through us (John 7:38).

I fill this well by treasuring my Lord, cherishing Him for who He is, and experiencing His sweetness. This cherishing needs constant renewing and refreshing. James K. A. Smith quotes writer Geoff Dyer who said, “your deepest desire is the one manifested by your daily life of habits.”[4] This daily life of small habits can be the key to loving God.

If you’d like to read more about Heart-to-Heart Ministry from Bill Mowry, check out the entire series of articles:

You can learn more about Bill Mowry here, and more about the work of The Navigators here.

[1] John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 84, 86.

[2] Terrence Erdt, Jonathan Edwards: Art and the Sense of the Heart (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980), 11.

[3] Brennan Manning, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005), 224.

[4] James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2016), 29. This quote is from Geoff Dyer, Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (New York: Vintage, 2012), 161.

For Further Reading:

Walk With Me

by Bill Mowry

Have we over complicated, over systematized, and over formalized making disciples? When our hearts are changed by Christ, it’s natural...

book cover for Walk With Me