What is True Greatness…?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached what I would call long-term political fatigue. Whether you feel that too or not, the one thing you have to admit is that–no matter your political persuasion–this past year was a spectacle. How does a person who is a real estate mogul turned hollywood personality become the President of the USA? Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign he was super abundantly clear on one message that he made sure stood out above the rest, “Make America Great Again.” He appealed to an instinct that resides within every human—especially Americans! We love winning and we love winners. While many will not agree on Trump’s personal, political, or whatever else principles, you have to agree that he masterfully appealed to humanity’s primal instinct to be great.

Now, what happens when that instinct to be great bleeds over into the church—into a ministry where you serve, invest your time, energy, and effort? Is that ok? Is it bad? Does it make a difference? I think the answer to all those questions is, “Yes.” It can be bad, and at the same time it can be good. And so, we need to define what is true greatness, because at some level we’ve all pursued–and still should pursue–greatness in ministry.  

So, what is true greatness…in ministry?

True greatness is not jockeying for a position. Check this out…

“James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”
Mark 10:35-37

Here, James and John, are jockeying for a position with Christ, and the net result is division. Look at how the other 10 disciples responded to James and John… “Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.” 

And so, as you invest in ministry, your first principle is to not waste your time pursuing a position of power, a position of authority, or a position of prestige. Why? Because that type of greatness pursuit leads to division. Many a good-hearted person(s) have started serving in a ministry–deep down–thinking that greatness in ministry was found in their position(s) within ministry, and they therefore jockeyed for position(s) to achieve their desired greatness ambitions. This is a temptation that the disciples faced, and it’s one that you will have to fight as you face it in ministry–at some level–as well.

So, what is true greatness…in ministry–then?

True greatness is found by following Christ’s model of service. Check this out…

“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:43b-45

While James and John were referring to an eschatological position with Christ, here, our Lord draws down upon a universal principle that was applicable to them at that time, as well as us today. What Christ is saying is that their greatness pursuit is good, to the extent that it is directed toward a selfless service to those within their community. In other words, being great is a wonderful pursuit–assuming it is correctly pursued. Therefore, if you want to be great you must be willing to be selfless and serve those within your community. It’s an upside down definition. While some think that greatness is found in a position of power, influence, or authority, Christ is saying just the opposite. Greatness–Christ is saying–is achieved by being a servant to those within your community. 

How does this apply to us today?

Do not view your current role in ministry–whether paid or not–as a launching pad for the next–so-called better–role in ministry.

Instead, you should…

  1. View your position in a ministry as “the” opportunity to live out a life of service to those within your ministry. It’s easy to look past your current sphere of influence to the next sphere of influence, and that should be rejected outright for what it is–selfish ambition.
  2. Make certain that your reputation in your ministry where you invest is one of service and not ambition. Whenever you move from one position to another—if that does happen—your reputation should be that of a servant and not one who jockeyed for position–leveraging people to bolster their own ministry presence or prominence.
  3. Pick up a used copy of Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, and make it part of your daily prayer time. It has helped me tremendously.

And so, true greatness is not seeking a position of greatness or a position of power. Instead–in the context of your investment within a church or ministry–it is following Christ’s model of service. The key then to being great–in ministry–is to view your current position–in ministry–as the one that God has provided for you to be a servant. Don’t leave until you have cultivated an environment of quality discipleship, love, and service. Then you will you be ready for the next position of influence–in ministry.

Will your–ministry–investment(s) be marked by selfish ambition or selfless service? You have the choice today to lay a proper and Christ-like foundation of true greatness!


— November 10, 2017