By Brad Watson
You’re likely attracted to blogs and sites like this because you want to live out the cause of Christ in a tangible way and influence that movement in others. You can write your personal mission statement on any napkin in the world. You have an elevator speech. You have a calling and a mission. However, you are God’s mission. Christ came to save you, and for you to be reconciled to God. This is the substance of living the gospel. Any calling you have beyond receiving the gospel is for the sake of reinforcing that belief within you. You are called to receive from God before influencing for God.
Too many leaders forget they are first and foremost to enjoy God, know his love, and grow in loving him. We forget that we are God’s mission and on God’s mission. You and your community were created to live the gospel in unity with God. To taste the grace of God through repentance and faith. To worship God through confession. To know the depth of God’s love by listening to God. Leslie Newbigin correctly corrects us: “Mission is an acted out doxology. That is its deepest secret. Its purpose is that God may be glorified.” Too often, we forget that our life’s purpose, even our leadership’s purpose is simply to grow towards Christ. To know his love. To receive his love. To worship. Many times, effective mission isn’t happening in our organizations because genuine worship of God isn’t happening.
3 clues you’ve forgotten God is the point of leadership:
1. Your Prayers are Focused on Your Tasks, Initiatives, and Plans
There is a striking difference between my prayer life and the prayer life of the apostles. When the Apostle Paul prays, he prays for the church to “know the heights and depth of God’s love.” Often, my prayers are, “Give us a good building, fill my budget, or help that person fulfill the role I gave them.”
When our prayers are focused primarily on our tasks, initiatives, and plans it reveals our spiritual disconnect. We equate leadership with objectives completed and dreams attained. Christ equates leadership with service, sacrifice, and dependence on his grace. My prayers reflect a soul that’s forgotten to enjoy the fruit of the gospel.
2. You are at the Center of Your Daydreams
I regularly imagine myself at the center of a coliseum. On my more humble days, I simple imagine someone telling me how great my sermons are, or how impactful my book has been. I regularly daydream about our church multiplying, growing, and increasing in influence. I rarely have visions for completeness or wholeness in others.
If Christ truly has our affections, our visions will be of him and his glory.
My daydreams show my distance from my first love, Christ.
3. You Influence People Toward A Strategy Not Their Savior
You view people as cogs or pawns who can further your self-actualization and missional accomplishments. You hope in your ability to leverage their talents for a the cause. Therefore, you put a disproportionate amount of energy, worries, and dollars getting people into the program you’ve devised over the redemption program. We nudge, we prod, we advance, in our minds, God’s mission.
However, God’s mission is not directed by human hands. It’s directed by the Him. There is a clear difference between building an empire of God stuff and seeking the Kingdom of God and the resurrected King.
Do you use your influence to help people discover and grow in the gospel? Or, do you use your leadership skills to move people into positions and slots for greater missional ‘productivity’?
Leaders, we must stop marveling at the the work of our hands, and instead turn our gaze upward to the God who creates, sustains, and empowers his mission. We must never settle for an idol of ministry leadership that consumes our souls, to the neglect of the One we speak about.
Do not seek your own kingdom. Do not get lost in advancing the mission without God. Do not bask in your own agenda; seek the glory of God in his.
Brad Watson is a pastor in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities. He also serves as the executive director of Gospel Centered Discipleship.