Recently I got my latest copy of Outreach Magazine. Somewhat confused when I received it, I thought I must have accidentally gotten a previous copy or edition. This couldn't be a NEW issue. Hadn't I seen this front cover 12 times before? Once again Outreach was asking me to spend my time reading about the churches that they had strategically pinpointed as the Top 100: the biggest, the fastest growing, the most strategic....the bestest, fastest, mostest, coolest! Seriously?
Let me say right out of the shoot that I hold nothing against any of the churches mentioned in any of Outreach's top anything lists. So many of the churches identified and highlighted are bringing and growing the Kingdom in their communities and are seeking - above everything else - to "make disciples". But that's just it. Isn't THAT what we're in this for? Making disciples? Leading people to an authentic life of following Christ? Aren't we in this (as pastors and leaders and churches) to put ourselves at the end of the line, remove ourselves from ANYONE'S pedestal, and humbly love the lost and preach the Word?
How does this edify the church?
What does a Top 100 list do for the sake of the Kingdom?
I know for many - probably thousands of pastors and leaders everywhere - it does one of several things:
- It gives us the idea that we must become like someone else's church rather than what & WHO Christ has called us to be
- It puts misguided goals in front of us - not that we would admit it, but come on, we're freakin humans with egos - that to truly "make it" we've got to "make the list"
- Many start buying the lie that "Well, if it works for them it will work for us!"
- It puts leaders who are already at war with their flesh and their pride into an even more ferocious battle for humility
- It sets some of the most precious, unique, gifted, and wonderful people up for failure that they never deserved or asked for
Maybe you're thinking, "Brian, you are WAY overblowing this!" Maybe. But probably not. And if you're tempted to think (or say) that, I would bet you're either a) fooling yourself, b) currently following someone on the list more passionately than you're following Christ, or c) new to the list and haven't figured out all the crap & baggage that's going to come along with your newly found status.
I know, we're in a time of strategic movement and courageous leadership and innovative presentation and yack yack blah blah. Jesus Christ made it very clear what it means to follow Him and come after Him. And as pastors, if we're not setting that example, who is? And if what we're reading and buying into is pumping our heads & hearts full of false ideals, why not everyone else? Is this ridiculous ranking not something that Christ would (and did) preach against?
I write this mainly for anyone out their who's been discouraged, misled, or disappointed because you're not someone else or you didn't make the list or because the person you lofted too high finally fell back to earth. You are not called to make a list! You are not called to status! You are not called to amass 10,000 followers on Twitter! You may one day - but God help you if/when you do! There are very few who are actually CALLED to be in that position. And of the few who are called, even fewer actually survive what it will cost them.
Go out - get really stinking dirty - and get in the trenches with the unknown guy who's faithfully leading his 100 to take their community for the Kingdom. That's the guy I want to read about! The leader out their washing feet, not getting his shoes shined!