John 3:26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
To some of his followers, the ministry of John the Baptist had become a movement with it’s own existence as its primary goal. This was not God’s intended goal, and John knew that fact even if his disciples did not. John’s ministry was ordained by God to be temporary. It had the threads of death woven into its fabric.
John’s disciples displayed a serious flaw which seems to be omnipresent in human character. We tend to struggle for control in matters that belong solely in God’s hands. We set goals and ends for God’s institutions that He never set. This is a sort of religious covetousness that corrupts vital Christianity and turns it into empty man-made religion.
I spent the first 20 years of my pastoral ministry trying to help troubled churches. In one case I allowed the survival of the institution to become my driving goal... under this guise of survival I allowed myself to use methods and engage in actions I now regret. By trying to do what I thought was good I was actually fighting God, because good is defined by His will not mine. And, whatever His will was, it was clearly not what I was pushing so hard to attain. So... I know first-hand the defection of John's disciples.
When confronted with this obnoxious specter John answered by pointing to God’s Sovereignty over all the affairs of men. He saw his disciple's feigned concern for what it really was: jealousy and envy that flowed from covetousness. They had become followers of John… not followers of God. John must have been dismayed by their defection.
The first loyalty of any Christian must be to God, even if it means our “decrease” or death, or the end of a movement, church, or ministry we value. We must trust God's sovereignty. He always knows best, and makes no mistakes. We must not make more of something He intended for less, even if we believe more is better.
Their loyalty was misplaced. John believed true ministry was in the hands of God, so he simply did what he was ordained to do, and left the rest with God.