I’ve been on a little bit of a John the Baptist kick the last couple weeks. My favorite thing about John is his dedication and faithfulness to his call to prepare the way for Jesus. In addition to that, I love the humility that comes with his faithfulness. His whole ministry revolves around him decreasing so that Christ can increase. I hope to be half that type of leader and follower. There have been times, while leading various ministries that I have had to stop and check myself to make sure that I wasn’t trying to build my kingdom, over God’s Kingdom. In those times I would reflect on John the Baptist to help baseline what I was doing and to check myself before I wrecked myself. I am truly sorry for that, but it was necessary.
In that baseline, there were a few measures that I used as filters to help determine whose kingdom was being built. Obviously this isn’t all inclusive, but they were helpful. Here’s three ways that know that your pastor/church leader is more concerned about building God’s Kingdom, rather than his.
1. He points people toward Jesus, rather than himself.
The most important thing that John knew to be true was that nothing was about him. He knew that he existed for one purpose and that was to point people to Christ. He spent his life preaching the coming of The Christ and that rattled and frustrated the religious leaders. There was a lot of speculation that he might be the Messiah, or Elijah or the Prophet of old, but John was quick to confess, “I am not the Christ.” In fact, John was very clear in what his purpose was. He said that he baptized with water “that he [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel.” Everything John said pointed people to Jesus.
I heard a story at work last week about a lady that said she was surprised at how much they talked about Jesus during an Easter Sunrise Service. I’m not going to mention how ridiculous that statement is. The point is, that should never be anyone’s response to our churches. Even if the only thing an unbeliever knows about Jesus is His name, they should not be shocked to hear it over and over in our churches and dare I say our everyday life. As Christians in general, everything we do; the way we talk, work, interact with others, lead, follow, serve, love, everything, should point toward Jesus. That requirement is increased with church leaders and pastors because their positions only exist to point people to Jesus; and yes that includes preparing people to work in His ministry. Leaders that talk about their accomplishments more than what God is doing, are probably more concerned about their kingdom.
2. He prepares goers.
Even before Jesus commanded His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations,” John the Baptist was preparing disciples to follow Jesus. John explained himself as “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” He saw himself a person called to prepare people to follow Jesus. He knew his task, his calling, was to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival, identify Him once He had come and then move out of the way. A leader that is concerned with building God’s Kingdom prepares people to follow Jesus and equips them to go “do the work of the ministry.” Leaders and pastors are preparers; they are equippers. If a pastor doesn’t understand that, then they don’t understand their role in the body and they’re likely to be less concerned about building God’s Kingdom and more about building one around them. The other side of that coin reveals a leader’s willingness to release people as they’re prepared. Not only did John prepare people to go with Christ, he didn’t stop them when it was time for them to leave. That brings us to our last point.
3. He doesn’t discourage people from leaving.
John the Baptist was a pro at this; you might miss it if you don’t read carefully. John 1:35-37 says, “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” John was so pro, he didn’t even say anything to the two disciples; he just let them go. They knew what they were called to and they followed, with no objection from John and both stayed with Jesus. John had been preparing people for Jesus’ arrival and that included his disciples, who he obviously expected to eventually leave him so that they could follow Jesus.
I once heard a pastor say, “The right way to view your congregation is to consider every person, sitting in every pew a church planter.” The point he was making was that Jesus didn’t make any of His followers exempt when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” and “…you will be my witnesses…to the end of the earth.” All His followers received the Great Commission and we’re all obligated to building His Kingdom. Of course that doesn’t mean that every congregant will plant some huge mega-church, but everyone is gifted to contribute to building The Kingdom in some way. When I’ve had the opportunities to lead, I always tried to encourage an atmosphere of “Yes”. If someone came and said they wanted to start something new, my first response was “Yes.” That didn’t mean I led it, funded it or even resourced it, but I absolutely encouraged them, spent time cultivating the passion for it and providing guidance and counsel as I was able. If it didn’t work, ok, try again next time. If it did work then sweet. While discernment is a gift and wholly important, I struggle with the idea that a leader can or should tell someone that they’re not called or meant to lead or minister in a certain area or way. It almost places your vision higher than what God may be calling them to and because we’re not able to see how God works in another’s heart, I’d rather say yes, than be the roadblock to God doing what He wants.
I never wanted to lose people, I loved them and moving on sucks, but if they came to me and felt like God was calling them to something new, I didn’t try to make them stay or discourage them from what they felt God was saying to them. As a leader it wasn’t my place to define God’s call on them. Instead, I was called to equip them to leave. When you view it that way, it becomes far less about your ability and kingdom and completely about God’s infinite ability and The Kingdom.
Building our kingdom is about adding. We add until we overwhelm an area. We add until we’re confident we have enough to be a “major player” in whatever game we’re in. It rarely involves multiplying. It may involve duplication, because we can still control that because it’s simply and extension of the same. But, multiplication is different than duplication. (To be clear and before any pastors flip out, this is not a dig on churches planting campuses. I attend a church with seven campuses and they have a heart for sending and it’s evident that the lead pastor is wholly concerned with building God’s Kingdom.) Multiplication is not “more of the same” and brings the very real and almost assured element of change. There may be similarities, but multiplication in God’s Kingdom, surrenders human control to divine control and allows that new thing to be what God has called it to be, for the sake of His Kingdom. Not everyone will go, but as leaders our commission it to prepare everyone as if God is going to call them to go.
What are some other ways that might show a leaders heart for building God’s Kingdom?
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