John Elderidge was speaking with a Pastor in his thirties who had wound up working in the publishing industry. As a young man fresh out of seminary, he’d wanted to become a famous pastor with a church bigger than Swindoll’s. “He wondered aloud why God hadn’t let that happen. ‘Perhaps’ I offered, ‘because you wanted a church bigger than Swindoll’s’ He didn’t like my answer. And that was the end of the conversation.”_
When you jump out of an airplane, for a split second, as your racing gravity to pancake city, a thought races through your mind. “Why did I ever want to do this?”
That’s a motive question.
Better to have that question answered before you jump rather than have it flash through your mind as you plummet back to God’s flat earth. I’ve seen it happen, and more than the church planter get taken out in the process.
Church planting is sexy in contemporary Christian culture, but is the planter a roadie or rockstar? John the Baptist was once faced with that same question. You gotta love John the B. He’s like a young version of Obi Won Kenobi living out in the Dunes, waiting for Luke to arrive. He’s got a head full of dreadlocks, eats locusts, and bellows truth bullets at religious people. He had one job…to stand and point at Jesus. When the Pharisees come and ask him if he was the Christ, “he denied it, and confessed” that he was not; The moment of truth when he made a confession that he was nobody special. Just a nobody telling everybody about a special somebody. John confessed that he was merely a roadie; merely setting the stage for the solitary rock star.
That’s a motive question. Am I in ministry because I want people to see me, or because I want them to see Him better through me? John was only out there because he considered himself a roadie, and decided to help Jesus shlup his gear and do some promo. John knew what an honor it was to share the stage with a rockstar. That’s a privilege roadies have, but only to set up for Him; never to upstage Him. We share the stage, but only to get others ready to see Him. I once attended an Eagles Farewell Tour concert in Twickenham stadium, London. I couldn’t wait for the show to start. The crowd went wild as one of the roadies walked out silhouetted by the backlit stage and the crowd went wild as he picked up the guitar…
…to tune it.
He looked left, then right, and suddenly jammed across the stage playing a Joe Walsh riff. The crowd cheered again, but this time with mixed laughter. It was obvious to them that they’d been mistaken. Thousands had mistaken a roadie for a rock star, and it happens all too often. Unfortunately in the one place where it oughtn’t. It primarily happens in the church when Jesus stops showing up. There’s only one rockstar in the Kingdom, and as one puritan wisely said, “When the son shows himself, even the stars hide themselves”.
We have a whole host of Christian stars that could take some lessons from John the Baptist. My concern is that many young church planters are viewing church planting as a pathway to glory. Eager to become the next John Piper or Mark Driscoll, they embark on church planting believing that soon, the multitudes will “chant my name and give me goodies” like Nacho Libre. We live in an age where the world so desperately needs to witness us chanting the martyrs refrain “no king but king Jesus”. Instead, their motive is much like Nacho Libre’s “I want people to chant my name, and give me goodies”.
Whitefield writes about his own popularity and how it almost destroyed him as a young man. “The tide of popularity began to run very high. In a short time I could no longer walk on foot as usual, but was constrained to go in a coach from place to place, to avoid the hosannas of the multitude. They grew quite extravagant in their applauses, and had it not been for my compassionate high priest, popularity would have destroyed me. I used to plead with Him to take me by the hand and lead me unhurt through this fiery furnace. He heard my request and gave me to see the vanity of all commendations but his own.”_
John the Baptist turned his backs on the crowds and devoted himself to lifting up Jesus until it got him killed. Are you willing to lift up the name of Jesus in Tanzania? Some of the best church planters in the world are there and have planted 350 churches in the last ten years through viral church planting. They take men, carry them throughout the bushland, and then drop them off to plant. Their final exam is that they have planted churches that have planted at least one church. Returning within 3 years, they find that the student’s church has planted ten churches that have planted churches themselves. If all you were ever known to was a bunch of tribes in Africa, would you go there and do that? Even if it meant long range impact but lesser visibility?
I’m afraid that most American planters in our current ministry climate would choose short-range impact, but widespread popularity…
Which would you pick?
That will put your motives in perspective…
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.