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Defining Greatness: Part II

Last week I shared with you a quote from Zack Eswine’s book entitled The Imperfect Pastor. I want to share that quote again this week and comment on a different part of it.

“The point I’m making is this. Our desire for greatness in ministry isn’t the problem. Our problem rises from how the haste of doing large things, famously and as fast as we can, is reshaping our definition of what a great thing is. Desire greatness, dear pastor! But bend your definition of greatness to the one Jesus gives us. At minimum we must begin to take a stand on this one important fact: obscurity and greatness are not opposites. p. 29

I commented on the last phrase of this quote last week. This week I want to focus on the idea of “bending our definition of greatness to the one Jesus give us.” Perhaps you are doing great things. You just have the wrong definition of greatness.


Jesus’ definition of greatness

As Eswine says, Jesus had a very different concept of greatness than our culture has. The challenge in the church is whether we are going to buy into the culture’s concept of greatness or into that demonstrated and taught by Jesus. The following three passages define greatness from Jesus’ perspective.

“You know that the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark:10:42-45

“Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.””  Luke 9:48

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”  Philippians 2:5 – 9

In those three passages there are a lot of interesting words used to define greatness like servant, slave, give, least, nothing, nature of a servant, obedient and death. These may be a strange set of words but they describe greatness from Jesus’ perspective.


Do you want to be truly great?

I think that all of us would like to have at least a small taste of greatness at some point in our lives. The problem is that only a select few will ever experience greatness in the eyes of the world around us. I am not usually asked for my autograph when I’m out for an evening. I never have crowds of people gather around me when I walk down the street. I have never been asked to appear on a late-night talk show. The closest that I have ever come to fame is the fact that I once served as the pastor of Bobby Orr’s grandmother. I am sure that I will close out my life here on earth without ever achieving even a hint of the kind of greatness that our world desires.

That doesn’t, however, describe true greatness. To see true greatness we need to “bend our definition of greatness to the one that Jesus gave us”. True greatness happens all around us but often we are looking so hard for what the world defines as greatness that we miss what is right in front of our noses.

So where have I seen true greatness?

I’ve seen it in the person who went to the hospital every day for months to feed someone who couldn’t feed herself.

I’ve seen it in a lady who would slip into the home of a working mother with eight children and do laundry and clean house for her never mentioning that she was the one who did it.

I’ve seen it in a man who quietly renovated the home of a single mom, involving her children in the renovation so that they would have a sense of accomplishment when the job was finished.

I’ve seen it in a woman working with HIV/Aids infected people in Africa because she had a deep desire to love them as Jesus had loved her.

There are opportunities for greatness all around us. There are people who need someone to come along side them and just be the instrument of Jesus’ love in their lives.


Greatness and the small church

If you are attending a small church, let me remind you that you don’t have to be large in order to be great. You just have to adopt Jesus’ definition of greatness. You aren’t called to be a large church. You are, however, called to be a great church, a church in which people are looking for opportunities to serve. Your greatness isn’t measured by the number of people who attend but by the number of people who quietly bring the love of God into other people’s lives.

So let’s strive for great churches but let’s bend our definition of greatness to the definition that Jesus gives us. You just may be attending a great church and not even knowing it.

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