Church Planting Doesn't Make You Great

Jan 07, 2014

As a church planter, the role of announcing the good news of the kingdom of God in unusual places is just part of everyday life.  As one who talks one-on-one with people in coffee shops and bistros, pubs and sidewalks, and who speaks more formally in our hip downtown venue on Sundays, I find myself championing the grace of God a lot!  Talking about Jesus as the one who forgives sin, who reconciles us to God, the one who paid the price for our sin - this is just what I get to do, and I love it.  Calling people to repentance, to genuine fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and calling them to enjoy the amazing relationship we have as sons and daughters of God Himself is such a privilege.  But I can also be so busy doing all these things that I forget to take advantage of all these benefits that I have in God.

I was reading this morning in Luke 7 when this scripture jumped  out at me:

"I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.  Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."  (Luke 7:28, ESV)

Jesus had just declared that John was not just a prophet, but more than a prophet:  he was the "messenger" whom the prophet Malachi had foretold would come to prepare the way for the Messiah (See Malachi 3:1).  In that sense, John was a pretty big deal.  However, after this statement Jesus then proclaims that the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John!  What?  How can this be?  How can the greatest prophet be lesser than a brand new follower of Christ?  (To be clear, Jesus wasn't saying John was excluded from the kingdom of God.  John was looking forward to a kingdom that he could not yet fully understand.)

To participate in the kingdom of God is better than to talk about it!  To be a great preacher of the glories of God cannot compare to experiencing them!  To live as a citizen of God's kingdom, as a member of the New Covenant in Christ's own blood, a citizen of grace and truth, freely approaching the very throne of God Himself, is a completely different reality than to declare that this is available.  While I could personally call people to repentance and call them to respond to Jesus - and I do - yet, I could still stand distant from the enjoyable benefits He has provided for me.

It was not John's "prophet" status that would cause him to become great in the kingdom of God; it would be his embrace of the King.  It would not be his austerity or good works that signified greatness but his faith in the Greater One.  In the same way, being a church planter doesn't make me great.  It's not that I come as a prophetic voice into my city of Spokane.  God hasn't called me (or you) to be "merely" a mouthpiece for His kingdom, a herald of things to come; he has called us to be active participants in His covenant of grace.  He has called us to relationship, to citizenship in Himself.

I can hear your theological gears working:  "But greatness in the kingdom is all about serving!  Jesus said that!  What about serving?"  You would be right, but what's the motive for all this serving?  Our service, whether it's declaring the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, clothing the poor, or feeding the hungry, is best given from hearts that enjoy the abundant provision God daily lavishes upon us.  Citizenship in the kingdom of God never begins with us serving God, but with Him serving us.  He opens our blinded eyes, softens are hardened hearts, brings us from death to life, fills us with His very own Spirit, and causes our hearts to then beat in sync with His!  The leastin the kingdom of God can enjoy these benefits of grace; the greatest servants in the kingdom - whether they are cancer-ward volunteers, church leaders, or poor widows who pray for them all - will serve greatly because they are rooted and grounded into the grace, truth, and love of their all-sufficient Savior.

Here's the prophetic call:  take some time to enjoy the very benefits you love to talk about!  Yes, search the Scriptures, but also come to Jesus and enjoy the life He provides.  Speak from that place.  Love from that place.  Serve from that place.  Maybe even plant churches from that place!