Christians and Personal Empire Building

“A church ought to be friendly to genuine seekers, but the church ought to recognize that there is only one Seeker. His name is God! If you want to be friendly to someone, if you want to accommodate someone, accommodate Him and His glory, even if it is rejected by everyone else. We are not called to build empires. We are not called to be accepted by men. We are called to glorify God. And if you want the Church to be something other than a distinctive people, a people marked out by holiness as belonging to the God of heaven (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9), then you want something God does not want.”

Many folks want to make a name for themselves and want to be great in various ways. This can be good or bad, depending on the ends in mind. Sometimes it means amassing power, control and dominance over others. Sometimes it means seeking to do some good in the world, even if no one knows your name or what you are doing – but God knows.

Both Christians and non-Christians can seek to build their own empires, their own kingdoms. As I say, it partly depends on what sort of empire you want to build, and for what ends, that can make all the difference. A recent news headline got me thinking once again about such matters. It had said this:

Crikey! How Irwins built their multimillion-dollar empire

Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin have successfully carried on the environmental legacy crafted by Steve. Here is how the family has built their very own conservation empire.

Now let me say that because what the Irwins are up to is basically neither here nor there for me, and because the article was behind a paywall, I could read no further. But the title about building an empire was enough for me to want to turn this into another devotional piece.

I have often talked to Christian leaders and those in ministry over the years – especially those just starting out – and if and when they ask me for a bit of advice, usually the first thing I say is that we must be careful that we do not end up being an empire builder, a kingdom builder.

We must be very careful, in other words, that in our effort to serve the Lord, we do not get a big head, do not get proud, and do not think we are going to be the next best Christian thing since the apostle Paul or the Great Awakening. Staying humble, and being willing to work with others and to share the glory with others, is crucial.

Too often those in ministry are NOT all that willing to work with others, and too often they do NOT want others to get any credit or any glory. I find this so often in various parachurch groups and in certain churches. And of course at the end of the day none of us deserve the glory – only God does.

A quote attributed to Harry Truman fits in well here: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Whether or not he said this, or said it in quite that way, the general principle is sound – especially in the Christian church.

I find so many leaders and pastors who do not seem to be very interested in working together with others. Part of the problem is they want to do things their way, and they want to get all the credit and all the glory. They want to make a name for themselves.

But that is not how it should be for any Christian worker, whether a megachurch leader or a humble church janitor. Our aim should be to glorify God in all that we do and let him get all the credit. But having been involved in all sorts of ministries over the decades, I have seen too much of this empire building.

Now don’t get me wrong here. There is a fine line between having godly ambition and wanting to see great things done for Christ and the Kingdom, and just wanting to be in the spotlight, wanting to get the applause of men, and wanting to be seen and praised.

The quote by William Carey is appropriate here: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”. So in one sense, yes, we should seek to see great things happening, to see many folks getting saved, and to see our churches being filled.

Read More

Previous ArticleNext Article