Being Great


talk-about-the-white-elephant-in-the-roomOkay, I am going to admit the elephant in the room. I want to be great. When pastors talk with each other about their vision and future ministry — it is envisioned as great. As a church planter, I never think, “I hope our church is adequate;” “I hope my ministry is sub-par;” or “May our legacy be good.’ No, I want our church to be great! In fact, I do not know a single person who wants to be mediocre. Even the 35 year old male living with his parents playing video games dreams of being great! Why do we not talk about this? Are we ashamed of what others might think?

“How dare you say what the rest of us are thinking!” How dare you desire to be great! Wait, are you saying you want to be the greatest? Because if that is what you are saying then you want to be greater than me too. How can you say that?

But it is true. Every one of us wants to be great. I want my church to be great. In fact, I want you to be great!

Now, here is the best news you are going to hear all day. Jesus wants you to be great too. Yup, it’s true. He wants all believers to be great. Wow! My greatest desire aligns with Jesus desire. The Lord is good!

“Jesus, do you want me to be great?”

Charlton Heston 1924 - 2008“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:24-28).

There you have it. Jesus not only desires we be great, but he defines greatness and how to achieve it. Jesus defines greatness as being a servant and slave. A slave is great. A servant is great.

This brings up the natural question. What is a servant? What kind of picture is Jesus giving us to follow? Jesus says, “just as . . .” These two words cannot be overlooked in the text. “Disciples. You need to go serve others and be a slave to them the same way I, Jesus the Messiah, serve and love you.” In other words, follow Jesus example.

Jesus exemplifies greatness. He should have been served, but he came and served. Jesus the Christ, the glorious, blameless, spotless, king — worthy of all adoration, glory, honor, pageantry, attention, red-carpet, paparazzi, Time “Man of the Year,” and knees bowed came to earth and served as a slave. HW-2010-0955 No knee bowed when He was on the cross. Instead scorn, mockery, and laughter accompanied Him from trial to the cross. He died so we can be redeemed. Our greatest problem, separation from God, resolved by His death on the cross. The greatest service ever rendered? His death in my place as the lamb from God, shedding His blood for me, so I can be forgiven, justified, cleansed, and perfected.

Jesus life exemplified serving too. He served the people by healing them, preaching to them, loving them, praying for them, giving countless hours to them, feeding them, and training His disciples. Everything He did honored the Father while considering what is best for His sheep. Those are not contradictory goals, but one in the same.

Jesus served with love. Love fuels service, it characterizes the Lord’s slave. Without love serving will be a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Without love serving will grow old and tiring. When results do not appear, service will flicker out like an old candle. If I serve to be noticed, then not noticed, I will move on or quit. But when I serve because I love Christ, results will not influence or discourage me. Love will endure. I will be patient with others and believe the best. Knowing Christ loves me with long-suffering will encourage me to love others the same, “For the love of Christ controls me.”

Jesus served with humility. Matthew quotes Jesus, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12). Jesus says great servants are not motivated by self-honor, self-glory, or to be seen by others. Servants exalt Him by serving others. We who love Christ are called to consider other people as more important. Serving requires sacrificing time, exerting effort, and considering other people’s needs as more important than my own. In prayer time, it means intercessory prayer on behalf of others. It may inconvenience football time or require altering your daily plans. DVR. (By the way, it is not our time — it is His). Make yourself available to others.

Serving requires forethought. Before gathering with the church on Sunday, Bible Study night, or a fellowship dinner, get prepared to serve. In conversations look for opportunities to serve others. If you only learn ways to pray for people, then trust the Lord, and pray for them. Keep your nose down, grind away, and look for more opportunities to serve. Go ask a leader in the church how you can serve. Then do it even if it seems menial and unnecessary. Great people do not need lights and attention.

Dan-trashman for a day. 1/31/02Imagine a Christian conference. The clean up crew gets little to no attention, works hard, labors, and only when the trash overflows then their work gets noticed. In fact, when was the last time you left a major event and thought, “Thank you clean up crew?” or heard, “Janitors win! Celebrate our janitors!”? Probably never. Serving the Lord is similar. You work hard, labor, and love others because you love the Lord and want to honor Him. We may never receive “thanks,” plaque, or recognition. Be thankful. That stuff probably goes to our head.

Jesus changes the definition of greatness! Now, how does the opening to this blog read? I want to be great a servant! I want you to be a servant too. I pray servants fill the church for His glory.