The idea of striving for goodness above greatness is uncommon in our era. Greatness is propped up in our society while goodness is rarely recognized, at least in its most common form. The difference between goodness and greatness might also be stated as the distinction between inward character and outward appearance. Which is more important?
Tozer’s answer (see Part 1) is clear. It depends on who’s praise we long after and value most. Whether we refer to the medieval, enlightenment, or post-liberal/post-Christian/post-everything world, men and women of all types have sought to make their name known. As children and teenagers, we desire to excel in sports and academics to win the praise of our peers, coaches, teachers, and even our parents. We want to be known and remembered for all the great things we have done. And adults do not outgrow this “childish” ambition. We are told by the culture, especially the American culture, that the world revolves around us. Each person is the most important person in the world. It is strange and perplexing that we would buy into such a notion considering that one person being the most important would relegate us all to second place and beyond.
As I write this post I find myself guilty on many accounts. Speaking from experience, I believe there is so much pressure in today’s world to be unique. We are told that all of us need to be trendsetters blazing a trail of revolutionary ideas and thoughts for a brave new world. Even in ministry circles, talk often consists of the next great trend in ministry and the person who is leading the way. Then we immediately feel the pressure to not only come up with something “better,” but to also be recognized for our contributions to the history of Christianity. Again, my mind has wondered onto such thoughts and I have mentally buckled under the pressure of creating the next exploding church or writing volumes on Christian faith that would live on hundreds of years later. And so, Tozer’s words in the first chapter are sobering, convicting, and timely. “Greatness will count for nothing in the day of judgment.” Who cares what others will think of us or our ministries. Of course, balance is a word we should often remember. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing something new or different. I am thankful for Mark Driscoll and others like him who don’t necessarily fit the typical mold of a pastor. Their churches are different based on their context. Context is an important word when speaking of many things, particularly ministry. A church in Seattle may look very different from a church in Nashville. And that’s ok. There is nothing wrong with that as long as each church holds to sound doctrine, to the gospel. It’s not about the size of the church or how many books the pastor has written. What counts is faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the good news. As Tozer says, “Goodness will be rewarded before the eyes of all.” It is more important to be good than great. It is more important to be faithful to Christ and his gospel than to attract masses of people with a gospel devoid of Jesus. It is more important that people know the name of Jesus than the name of Jeff.
I urge you then to join me in pursuing goodness in the face of increasing pressure to be great. In a world intoxicated with the idea of worldly ascension and recognition, exemplify the heart and mind of a servant. Submit yourself to Christ and desire to please him above men. Leave your pride behind and chase after humility. Care less about being known and more about how you can serve others.