If Anyone Wants to be First, He Shall Be First

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The title above expresses the unspoken mantra that drives much of our Church world. The mindset is that God’s elite are those who accomplish big and visible results. This often leaves “ordinary believers” feeling as though their lives don’t really matter.

The truth is that this man-centered, superstar-driven mentality is “from the world.” We have our iconic celebrities, talented musicians, gifted writers, ingratiating media personalities just like the world does. The unspoken inference is that the important people in God’s Kingdom are those who have achieved fame and fortune. Not only does this “success-is-everything” mentality create a system that is ripe for slick-talking, ear-tickling charlatans, but it also leaves laypeople feeling as if their efforts to please the Lord don’t mean much.

My personal opinion is that many of the accomplishments of famous Christian leaders that seem so huge from a worldly perspective are overrated. I have been around enough famous Christians to realize that they are just people, and from God’s perspective, they aren’t much different from you and me.

One day each of us will stand before Jesus Christ where our lives will be examined. Our thoughts, motives, attitudes, words, deeds and everything else pertaining to the way we lived our lives will come under the all knowing, all seeing eye of the One who did it perfectly. I can assure you that Jesus Christ is not impressed with best-selling books or popular radio programs. He will be looking at the motives that drive people’s actions. In short, He will reward those who truly loved and served other people.

The disturbing reality is that talent has a lot more to do with advancement in the American Church than does godly character. In fact, some of its biggest stars are the most prideful and self-centered people in the Church. I say that because outward success tends to foster pride and selfishness in the best of folks. Fame has ruined more men of God than we can imagine. I know because it could have easily ruined me.

Within the first couple of years of ministry, I had shared my testimony before millions of viewers on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other national media programs. Where does a young minister go from that heady beginning? I’ll tell you where: down!

Let me make my point through a small incident that occurred recently when I found myself seated next to an elderly lady on a one-hour flight. I resisted my natural tendency to bury myself in a book and, instead, “got out of myself” and engaged her in conversation. She lit up when I began to ask her about her children. By the time we reached our destination—which was a layover for both of us—I had the whole “scoop” on her family. When we deboarded, I helped her find the gate for her next flight. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she hugged me and thanked me. Why? Simply because I took the time and made the effort to show her that I cared.

How does that insignificant incident compare to me sharing my testimony before millions of viewers? The truth is that when I appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was still very much full of myself and it has taken twenty-five years of being disciplined and humbled by God and being taught what the important issues are in His kingdom to get me to the point where I would take a genuine interest in a lonely old lady.

I believe this is where God is taking all of His people. Jesus said it all in Mark 9:35: “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” What this tells me is that the way to make a splash in God’s Kingdom is not to do something big and flashy, but to love and serve other people in your daily life. That’s the way to be first in God’s kingdom.


Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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