I walked into an immaculate church building recently and was blown away. It was brand spankin new. You could still smell the sky blue colored paint. It was equipped with everything you would need to do traditional church stuff; sound system, keyboard, projector, laptop, new kitchen, open cafeteria, all-you-can-drink powdered coffee and guestrooms with air conditioning. The church could house people, feed people and accommodate over a hundred for worship services. The only problem was the context.
The church was built in a small village in a southeast Asian country surrounded by millions of people who follow Buddhism, Animism and Islam. Down the same street were vendors selling vegetables, wooden houses on stilts and a Buddhist temple. The church itself had 3 people who followed Jesus; an educated pastor with a 4 year Bible degree from the capital city, a middle aged handicapped man and a 63 year old woman who walked with a cane. For hundreds of miles all around there was spiritual lostness and social apathy towards anything related to Jesus. It was the logic of the pastor – and the foreign missionaries that funded the whole project – that by building a modern looking church lost people would come to them.
I feel compassion for lost people. I want to point the lost to Jesus. I want to point them to God’s people, His church, but I can’t because many times church has no likeness to Jesus. I love the church and its people but what I hate is the damage we do towards the advancement of God’s Kingdom by seeking to build our own kingdoms. With the noblest and purest of intentions we as missionaries and church planters serve, give and build…but we forget that Jesus commanded us to make disciples and not build buildings.
I’m guilty of seeking my own fame. I’m guilty of building my own kingdom and living for my own legacy. In the age of celebrity Christians, online pastors, super denominations, cutting edge strategies, blogs and tweets we are all guilty of seeking our own fame and living for our own legacies. The only legacy that really matters is Jesus’.
Yet Jesus’ entire strategy during his three years of ministry was to raise up faithful leaders to lead IN HIS ABSENCE. Jesus was intentional about dying to his own fame and preparing for his departure. He left a pattern for Kingdom building that we can still follow today.
Jesus modeled his way of life with a small group of people, his disciples (Matt. 16:24, John 21:25). He didn’t just tweet about it. He showed his followers how to live offensively / missionally for the Kingdom of God. Jesus took his merry band of misfits and went to where lost people were. He wasn’t concerned about building anything on the outside but kept pressing for a changed heart on the inside. His investment was a spiritual one and focused on leaders who would one day invest in others. As you go and live out your faith take someone along with you in order to train them.
Jesus assisted his disciples and helped them put their faith into practice (Matt. 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11). As is the custom when following a Jewish rabbi, the disciples literally walked alongside Jesus and began to do the things he had just done. From town to town the disciples took on more responsibility as they got more experienced in “fishing for men” through serving, story-telling, discussing, preaching, questioning, praying, healing, etc. As you are consistently taking someone along have them assist you by doing some of the work. Give them more responsibility over time.
Jesus watched his disciples from a distance and coached them when they returned (Matt. 10:5-15, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6). After giving the disciples specific assignments and sending them out, He celebrated their victories and honestly critiqued their mistakes when they returned. He kept reminding them of his future departure and gave them more and more responsibilities outside his presence. Send your trainees on specific training assignments and observe from a distance, then evaluate and encourage them when they get back.
Jesus left earth to assume a new role from heaven because he expected every one of his disciples to raise up a new generation of leaders (John 15:28, Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). Jesus did not abandon his followers but empowered them in his departure by sending the Holy Spirit. He gave his leaders room to grow after giving them everything they needed. Finally, allow your trainees to become the trainers by finding someone else to start the modeling process with…then you go find yourself a new person to train.
Jesus set a pattern of Kingdom building that is completely opposite from how we so often think today. We think that influence can be built on websites and books. We think that legacies can last through buildings and deeds. Yet Jesus modeled discipleship and death as the only way to build the Kingdom and contribute towards eternity. Whose kingdom are you building today?