Our national conference had been an enjoyable time with fellow pastors and missionaries. Denominational leaders warmly welcomed us.
Then it happened. An official told us about someone beginning a new ministry, who was leaving a "significant" work. We knew exactly what he meant: that pastor had left a large church. Suddenly the encouragement of the conference turned into a gut-churning moment.
Why did that innocuous statement bother me so? Was it jealousy, envy, or insecurity? Or did it strike a deep chord because I was already wondering if my ministry, much smaller and in windy Wyoming, was really significant?
Whatever the cause, it forced me to wrestle with the powerful word "significant."
If I left my present pastorate, would anyone say I was leaving a "significant" work? Would God?
Amid these stormy questions came a gentle breeze of perspective. At that meeting another leader was introduced: Dr. Bingham Hunter of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. What he shared has stuck with me like a close friend. It helped me get a grip on my significance. It still challenges my shallow thinking.
Dr. Hunter's thesis was simple—define your ministerial significance by ascertaining how God measures success. The ambitious question of the Twelve in Matthew 18:1, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" pleads for an answer. Dr. Hunter focused on this and two other passages in Matthew that answer that question.
Obedience is significant
The first time Jesus addresses greatness in his Kingdom surfaces in Matthew 5:19. He says that "anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be ...