Jump Start # 2993
John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Our verse today comes from the words of John, the baptizer. He was the cousin of Jesus and he fully understood his role. He was going out and Jesus was coming in. And, boy, did Jesus come in. When Jesus first multiplied the food, Matthew tells us that there were 5,000 men, not counting women and children, in the audience. The crowd easily could have topped 10,000 or more. Luke tells us that on another occasion, that there were “so many thousands of the multitude,” that they were “stepping on one another.” Massive crowds. Popular. Great demands. Someone always needing Jesus. Someone always wanting Jesus. He must increase and I must decrease.
The role of John was to be a forerunner or pave the way for Jesus. They were not rivals. They were not in competition. One was gaining favor and the other was fading out. One would have long lasting followers, the other would not. One would have people calling themselves after Him, the other wouldn’t. One would do more, so much more, than what the other ever did. This was all according to the plan of God. This was exactly the way it was to be. This was by design, God’s design. John would decrease and Jesus would increase. John didn’t go out kicking and screaming, burning bridges and shouting insults. He knew. He understood. This was the way it was supposed to be.
Now, some lessons for us:
First, the principle of increasing and decreasing well illustrates generations within a congregation. The older generation decreases. They become less visible. They have less of a voice. The younger generation increases. They are the ones teaching now. They are the ones who lead worship. A baton is passed and this is the way it is supposed to be. But, the increase-decrease principle can come with some jealousy and friction.
As preachers age, the calls stop coming in. No churches call to ask the aging preacher to move there. Fewer meetings are scheduled. And, around him, younger preachers seem to be excelling. They are doing more than the old preacher ever did. They are popular, in demand and good. And, this can bruise the ego of the older preacher. If he is not careful, he can become critical and even cranky towards younger preachers. John was to decrease and Jesus was to increase. Did John ever feel jealous of Jesus? Did he ever think, “I never had the crowds like Jesus does?” Did he ever think, “My sermons are just as good as His?” The Bible doesn’t reveal any of that, and I certainly hope John never went there.
The older generation of saints can feel neglected and abandoned. It’s not right to push them out of the way. Find ways to include them and use them. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that they have. Maybe they can’t teach an entire period or quarter of classes, but use them for a one time session. Seek their advice.
Second, the spirit of those decreasing can help those who are increasing. If one kicks, complains and is sour about the next generation coming on, a battle will be brewing on the horizon. Jesus didn’t have to pry the fingers of John off of the leadership role. John understood. He was decreasing and Jesus was increasing. With great anticipation, help and encouragement, the older generation can be such a blessing and benefit to the older generation. There are mistakes that the younger generation do not have to go through. The older generation did. Their lessons can help steer others into better attitudes and better ways of following the Lord.
I see this especially necessary in the two–preacher arrangement that are in many congregations. One preacher is older and the other is younger. The older in time must decrease. Age alone will cause that to happen. The younger must increase. More people will turn to the younger than the older. This can be natural, beautiful and right or a real dog fight can take place. The spirit of the older preacher sets the atmosphere. If he is depressed, jealous and feeling left out, because the younger preacher is increasing, then trouble looms. Don’t be this way, older preacher. Be a blessing and a help. Not only are you helping the congregation, but you are putting an example before the younger preacher. In time, he will be an old preacher. How he treats a younger preacher may be a reflection of how you treated him.
Third, John understood his role. He played a vital role in the beginning. He was the first to announce the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. He baptized Jesus. And, Jesus paid him the highest compliment by saying no one born of woman is greater than John. The increaser recognized the role of the decreaser. He was thankful for what he had done. This wonderful relationship made the transition smooth.
When John died, Jesus got away with His disciples to reflect. So many parallels. John was family. John was young. John died violently. John died innocently. John died telling the truth. John was executed by the government. In a short while, Jesus would follow those same steps.
John decreased. Jesus increased. As, we close a year and head into another new year, full of plans, goals and activities, let us remember this principle. Both John and Jesus, in their roles honored God and fulfilled the plans of God to His glory. May we always do the same.
Increasing and decreasing…it’s a part of life.