It was 6:30 Sunday morning. I was reviewing my sermon notes at the kitchen table. My executive assistant texted me to let me know he had arrived and was waiting out front. He helped me get my gear in his car then handed me a grande dark roast from Starbucks. He drove me to the church and paid the tolls along the way.
We pulled up to a reserved front row parking spot. A member of the security team opened the door of the church building for me. I made my way straight to the “green room”. A special order breakfast from a great local restaurant was warm and waiting for me. Members of the production team gathered around me as I ate. We went through the service details together.
Just before the start of the first service, I made my way through the lobby. I briefly paused to greet arriving worshippers. I sat down in a reserved seat on the front row. I sang with the congregation then made my way up front to preach.
Following the sermon, I returned to the green room and debriefed with the production team. The room was well stocked with snacks and coffee. I enjoyed both. I stayed there until just before the second service started. This time, I met my family out front as they parked in a reserved space near the building. We walked together to our saved seats.
Following the second sermon, the director of our media team let me know the message was capture worthy. My work was all but done for the day. The video from the second sermon would be used during the remaining services for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t need to be present.
I sang a few more songs then shared communion with my family. I stayed after the service ended to pray with people along with several other pastors and volunteers. These leaders had been there when I arrived earlier that morning. And they would stay at the church serving others long after I left.
I left the building for the day and headed to meet my family for lunch. My oldest daughter called me from out of state. She asked me about my ministry day, “Dad, were you great today?”. I responded, “No, not at all really. But the people who served me were great. I am the one who was served.”
Jesus said this while criticizing the bad pastors of his day, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
The bad pastor exalts himself instead of Jesus. The bad pastor leads without serving. The sermon showcases his speaking skills. The podcast builds his platform.
Listeners are viewed as potential consumers who will fund bigger paychecks, buy more books and fill bigger buildings. The bad pastor is mostly rested, highly praised and strongly supported. In contrast, those who are great according to Jesus are overworked, under appreciated and thoroughly humbled.
Jesus doesn’t condemn the desire for greatness. However, he suggests an alternative path to the goal. One he paved with his own humility and service. Those wishing to be great will walk down this path with Jesus. Like him, they will serve others. Like him, they will be humbled.
More than likely, Jesus isn’t very impressed with the same leaders you and I are. And more than likely, you’ve never seen or heard those he considers to be the greatest. They are quietly serving in the shadows far away from the bright lights. But Jesus’ coming kingdom will reverse the existing order. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. And Jesus will be exalted above us all.