Friday, September 21, 2007


Anyone who leads an organization will seek loyalty from those who participate. This is normal and natural. The question, however, for a Christian leader is "loyalty to what or whom?"

May I suggest a few inadequate objects of loyalty?

1. Personality

Some Christian leaders build their organization on personal loyalty. They want participants to be loyal to them - to their personality, winsomeness, agenda, success, etc. It has been proven over and again that Christian ministries can indeed be built this way. Recipe: find one charismatic leader, add water, stir, enjoy. This has also proven to be a recipe for disaster. When charismatic leaders fall or move on, the entire organization crumbles, because the organization was based on the charisma of that leader. Avoid the cult of personality. Remember John the baptizer's words, "He must increase, I must decrease."

2. Program

It is tempting to want to build your organization around programs - particularly if you have good programs. There is a fine line between celebrating programs because they are "working" and championing these programs as the reason why things are "working." The program, after all, is just the carton. It is not the real "stuff." The real stuff is always God's personal work in people's lives. The program - the carrier for this work - can change. No, I understated that: The program must change; if not now, then soon. This is the wine v. wineskins deal that Jesus was talking about. Love the pitcher less, the water more.

3. The Organization

When a ministry is "successful" it acquires a fan base. People love to be a part of something that is on a positive trajectory. As the organization "delivers" there is growing brand loyalty. But loyalty to the brand can be short-lived. What happens when a better "brand" comes along? Well, the answer is often that people move on. Building your ministry around brand loyalty creates fickleness, and may be the basis of much of the "church transfer" growth that you see. Studies show that the vast majority of mega-church constituents are people who have come in from other other less-popular churches; that is transfer growth, not conversion growth.

So what are adequate objects of loyalty?

1. Christ

Christ is not just worthy of loyalty, but worship. Call people to Christ. When people center their lives on Christ they find true, deep satisfaction. Christ said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me." Christ is alluring, beautiful, fascinating. There is no one who compares. There is nothing that compares. There is no suitable substitute. When you drink of Him, you never thirst again. Jesus offers the best answers to the most important questions. You can't go wrong by building your ministry around Christ.

2. The Mission

The mission that God has given to us is the greatest enterprise on planet earth. His Kingdom dwarfs all others kingdoms (small k) in comparison. Build your ministry around eternal goals and objectives. As Christ said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." Call people to the mission. Call people to service and sacrifice. Ask people to invest their lives in something that will outlast their lives. It is the highest calling and the most thrilling adventure people can know.


You might ask, "Well what do I do if I have developed strong personality, programs or organization? I would say, first of all, thank God for this, and second, use your strong personality, programs and organization to direct people to Christ and His kingdom. Godly people are inspired when they see strong personalities pointing humbly toward Christ. Participants love it when programs are really just conduits for learning to love the Lord. Adherents are blessed when organizations serve as hand-maidens to the mission. There's nothing wrong with personality, programs or organization. But reach for something higher. Don't settle for playing the notes. Make music!

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