Increasing and Decreasing

Read: John 3:22-30

He must increase, but I must decrease. (v. 30)

There was an old-time baseball manager who once said of his team, “I managed good but boy did they play bad.” That’s the opposite of how leadership should be measured. What matters is not the brilliance of the head but the tone of the body. Great leaders take the spotlight off themselves.

John the Baptist illustrated this in these verses. A question about purification quickly devolved into a question of popularity. Did it bother John that Jesus was drawing bigger crowds? Was he jealous? Envious? His answer is a model for Christian leaders, especially leaders who may notice that another church’s parking lot is full while theirs has plenty of room.

First, John said, don’t forget that everything comes from God. As one commentator puts it, “The best antidote for envy is the conviction of the sovereignty of God” (Frederick Dale Buner, The Gospel of John). Second, John reminded them that his ministry was never about him. He was the best man at this wedding, not the groom. Narcissism is a temptation leaders face, and John’s humility modeled the right attitude. It had always been about Jesus: he must increase while John decreased.

If church growth in other places bothers you, who are you serving? If the congregation crumbles after the charismatic leader leaves, who were you following? Our role is the same as John’s: to bear witness to Jesus. Indeed, Jesus must increase while we decrease. —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, ask for John’s humility.

About the Author

Jeffrey Munroe is the Executive Vice President of Western Theological Seminary and, in addition to being the author of the best-selling book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, is also a poet, blogger, and essayist. His work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, US Catholic, and The Reformed Journal.

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