Christians Are Called To Be Great (Part 1)
Maybe you don’t think you’re one of the great ones. Maybe you do. Either way, this message is for you.
One of the most damaging, disastrous failings of the church in our age is that you and I, “ordinary Christians,” have not responded to God’s call to be great.
I’m talking about great influence. Yes, that. Not just great devotion to Christ, but powerful, wide-reaching impact in his name.
No one doubts we should seek greatness of soul: the true depth of worshipful yieldedness to God, and love for Him and for our neighbors, that mark the truly mature follower of Christ. Greatness in that sense is foundational to what I am focusing on here, but it is not my topic in this message. There is another meaning of “greatness,” which has to do with how large one’s influence is upon their community and world. It’s the greatness of leadership, of impact.
This kind of greatness seems to scare us away. Though not all may be called to it, I believe more of us have been called than have responded. We are at risk of missing a great opportunity to change our world and experience the incredible thrill of seeing God do mighty things through us. The world is poorer for it, and we’re missing out on the joy we could be living.
The World Needs to Know Truly Powerful Christian Leadership
Not long ago I heard Admiral Richard Denton, USN (Ret.), himself a leader of considerable impact, speaking about his release from prison in Vietnam in 1973 following more than 7 1/2 years as a POW. He spoke of how Christ gave him peace and serenity in cramped cells and conditions of torture. I was intrigued by his comments on re-entering the world following years of isolation. They showed the returning POWs a newsreel review of U.S. and world events; things he had missed since 1965. His abrupt exposure to the country’s moral decline upset him so greatly that after half an hour of viewing, he was sick enough to vomit.
That was thirty years ago. Who could deny that our world is in worse shape morally now than it was then? Who would not want to see Christ and His Kingdom really change our world–for many to commit their lives to Him, and for His imprint to be pressed anew on the cultural landscape? There are still billions who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. This will only happen if men and women of God—ones who are great in their soul—stand up and have a great impact.
The body of Christ needs both kinds of greatness, greatness of soul and greatness of impact. Greatness of impact certainly includes the idea of being a “great leader,” one whose influence is felt by thousands. Though not all of us are called to that role, still I wonder: Is it possible that God is calling us to be greater than we are? Are we missing opportunities to expand our influence for Christ’s glory?
Aversion to Greatness: Why?
It’s rare to hear a pastor urging us to dare to be great. We seem to have an aversion to the whole idea. I believe there are two major reasons for this. The first is a mistaken understanding about what the Bible teaches regarding greatness and humility.
Humility is certainly among the chief virtues. Jesus said he “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Shortly before his crucifixion, his disciples argued over who would be greatest in his kingdom, and Jesus rebuked them for it. In the Beatitudes he tells us it is the meek who will inherit the earth. Many who would be great have stumbled badly over their own pride.
Still, there is greatness throughout the Scriptures, evidenced by godly men and women who were willing to step forward and lead. Consider Moses, Joshua, the great kings of Israel and Judah, Esther, the powerful prophets, the apostles.