Ministry Achievements Don't Count for Greatness in Jesus' Kingdom
Beware if the World Applauds You
There are only two kinds of greatness--greatness in this world and greatness in the Kingdom of God. True Jesus believers cannot get both--friendship with the world is enmity with God, says James. The reverse is also true--friendship with God is enmity with the world. You cannot expect both to applaud you. Watch this:
"Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets," [Luke 6].
When the world speaks well of you, beware.
But unfortunately, that's what most churches and pastors seem to aim today--acceptance both in the world and in the Kingdom of Jesus. Remember, the Master was crucified by the world. A student is not above the teacher, he said.
He further said, you cannot serve two masters. Count on it.
It's Not About Who's Got the Biggest Church
Why do we want to have the biggest church? Of course, we'd refer to the great commission--spread the Good News of salvation. But why do we have to name the church after our denominations? Why do we need to make the world see that "we are this type of Christians, not the other types!"
You see, minus all the crap, it all boils down to acceptance from the world. We crave recognition from the world. We want them to say, "Ah, that particular type of Christians are the greatest! I think I want to join them!" And that answers the question, "Why do we need the world to see what's the greatest church of all?" Of course, it will augur well if we are pastoring the greatest church of all.
Often, church ministry is nothing but self-aggrandizement. Self promotion.
Jesus never did these things. He spread the Gospel but carefully made sure he never gained the world's applause. The cross and the world's approval can never mix. Paul said, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (the ways of Jesus are foolishness to the world)," [1 cor. 1.18].
In fact, the world's wisdom empties the cross of its power [1 Cor. 1.17]. You can't be great in both the world and the Kingdom. You'd love one and hate the other. Indeed, friendship with the world is enmity with God. So, what's the point of greatness in this world?
It's All About Who's the Least
I know--it's been preached about and memorized for centuries in church, but to this day, very few really get it--the greatest in God's eyes is the least of all. But no one wants to be "least of all." We see great people in the world--with their posh cars, houses, properties, offices, business empires, gadgets, titles, degrees, positions, clothes, etc.--and we want to get what they have. So we work hard in ministry.
We look up to pastors with big churches and church incomes and get inspiration from them. We don't preach the Gospel with the heart of Jesus but with the heart to be big and popular. We fear being irrelevant and insignificant because we see that as weakness. We want to be with the strong and powerful. So we do everything to be at par with them and make sure we get the recognition.
Just look at how some pastors today in the Philippines want to be allied with politicians, standing behind them in their political campaigns, "praying" for them during big political events so they'd do God's will, whatever that means. This is trash because Jesus never did them. He is the Way and we need to do everything according to how he did it--through the cross.
But the cross is "foolishness to the wise and a stumbling block to the Jews." And we want to be smart with the world so we treat the Word and the Way as obsolete, not applicable anymore to modern times and modern needs.
Does God Favor Small Churches Then?
Jesus told us to make disciples of every nation. That's big! The banquet parable in the bible shows us how God wants to fill up the house. But Jesus balances all that with the Narrow Door principle--only a few will find it. So, go after everyone but be aware of quality. And do it all with selflessness--everything for the Kingdom, not men's empires. Not even for yourself.
But even if you fill up the house, that is never the greatness standard in the Kingdom. I don't know why church folks always think that big churches are so because they get more of God's favors. The misleading perception is that big churches (and their pastors) are greatest in the Kingdom of God. And pastors with big churches act that way--they think they're superior, wiser, and more authoritative than pastors who have smaller churches.
When will this junk mindset stop?
Who do we see in conferences talking to us about church growth? It's always the pastor with the big church. Because our minds operate as the world does--he who has the biggest church and biggest amount of money is the wisest. We never think in terms of "the least is the greatest." So we invite pastors with 20,000 members in their churches to tell us how to do it. What they say is always correct.
In a sense, we think that everything a pastor says about church life is correct just because his church has lots of money. We use the world's money-value system, not God's system. In God's system, the least is the greatest. Jesus, though rich, became poor so he can tell us how to be rich. Remember? You cannot be talking about ministry success as long as you hold on to your laurels--and money.
Look at John the baptizer. He had nothing and yet some Pharisees and Law teachers came to him and he told them what to do! See?
And Jesus made himself nothing, says Philippians.
Remember this Kingdom Principle
In God's Kingdom, the greatest is the one who has been so blessed but has also learned to give up everything he has--and has actually done so, to remain with the least. Why? To make others rich. Or, so he can tell us how to do it. Without that giving up everything factor, you cannot be a channel of blessing to others. You cannot tell others how to do it.
We've had lots of "successful" pastors and ministers, here and abroad, tell us in big conferences how to do ministry successfully. This has been happening for decades. Yet, the church remains a powerless minority working hard to gain the world's respect. Nothing as radical as what happened in Jesus' ministry and the Acts church (they turned the world upside down) has happened because no one wants to give up everything. Everyone just wants to talk and stand up and be seen on stage and be applauded.
Paul said, "neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything" [1 Cor. 3.7]. So, why assign importance to yourself? And, "we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world," [1 Cor. 4.13]. The key to greatness is to be rejected by the world.
You see, as long as churches advertise and promote themselves to gain membership, it shows their powerlessness and conformity to the world's standards. If they get to the point where, without any effort on their part, people voluntarily flock to them for truth (as what happened to the ministries of Jesus and John the baptizer), then they have indeed achieved greatness in God's eyes. Then, genuine Kingdom building on earth through the Jesus glorious church starts.
Greatness in the Kingdom is a Kid Principle
One day, the disciples argued among themselves who was the greatest. You'd see the same thing in churches today. They're in a rat race of who's got the mega-iest church, the tallest and most modern church building, the greatest ministry, the highest titles and degrees, and the most number of membership and church income.
But Jesus called a child and had him stand in their midst. "Unless you change and become like little kids," the Master stressed, "you'll never make it to the Kingdom."
Then watch this--
"Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest."
Now, that kind of humility, no one wants. A humility that is selfless, faceless, rewardless, and very low-profile. Do we know that kid's name? No. Do we know his family background? No. We don't know anything about him--Jesus never formally introduced him. Was he promised any great reward after? No. And yet he was a model of who's who in the Kingdom. You get the idea?
Kingdom greatness is not synonymous with worldly status or power, and neither is it rewarded materially. The humble child was declared the greatest in front of who we consider today as great apostles, and yet no promises were given him.
Jesus did not say--"Okay, the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who has the biggest congregation and church income, most modern and comfy church building, who has lots of souls saved in his ministry, and who has the most number of outreaches."
The mechanics is simple--humble yourself like a kid.
But How About Obedience to the Great Commission?
Don't take me wrong. I'm not saying church should be small. Some people worry that if greatness is not through big church memberships and the number of churches planted, pastors may not be inspired to go out and evangelize and just be contended with their small numbers.
God is very particular about our obedience to his Word. But having big congregations and great achievements in ministry don't equate to obedience. Just read the Book of Revelation to see how productive churches were denounced as dead or dying in faith. The most highly commended were Philadelphia and Smyrna. Philadelphia had "little strength" and Smyrna was in "poverty" and "affliction." Clearly, greatness in the world is not greatness in the Kingdom.
We should doggedly share the Gospel with all and produce Jesus disciples in great numbers. But doing this does not amount to greatness in the Kingdom, You may be recognized by men who are ignorant of true Kingdom standards (what most church people know is their denominational standards which are really worldly standards), but God's standards are different--as the heavens are higher than the earth.
Dying to Self, Sin and the World
When you don't care about bigness or smallness anymore--and don't let yourself be measured by the same--you have died to self. Your ego has perished. Jesus made himself nothing [Phil.2.7] and never gave in to the devil's test about greatness in this world.
Lots of pastors today direly need to prove their worth. They need to do this and have that so people will acknowledge them. If they have attained a measure of success, they want you to look up to them and they want to tell you what you should do. It feeds their ego so much.
But you should know who to listen to--only those whom God has given favors and yet have chosen to make themselves nothing, thinking others better than themselves [Phil. 2.3].
Ministry achievements don't count for greatness in Jesus' Kingdom. If you have lots of them, good and praise God. If not, their lack don't mar your worth in the eyes of God.
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