In the internet era, we learn something about concepts and categories by Googling. Perform a web search to determine proximity – what something is like – and proliferation – how far it has spread.
The concept of a Kingdom Leader (316,000 results) doesn’t come close to competing with a Christian Leader (4,910,000 results). And, it’s perhaps telling that the top listing on the first page of search results for Christian Leaders is ChurchLeaders.com. The next is a “List of current Christians, each a leader” – ala Wikipedia – which reads like a program from a Sunday sporting event, with all of the pros listed by weight and height (they’re church leaders who rule over systems or denominations, with titles like Pope, Patriarch, Archbishop or President in front of their given names). Church Leaders? Is that all there is?
What’s a Kingdom Leader? What does it take to rise to greatness in the Kingdom of God? Are those designations reserved only for what we call the “clergy?” Or, does the criterion for inclusion allow non-ordained people that possibility?
Since we’re talking about a Kingdom – the Kingdom – it might warrant an interview with the King. What are his requirements? How does he vet people under consideration for elevation to the higher reaches of his organization?
From his iconic address, later dubbed the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20).
In modern competitions, the field narrows to victory based on a series of tests and trials. The criterion for Kingdom Leadership is not modern, but timeless: the men and women who warrant inclusion in that august category have to come through a gauntlet of distinctions.
First: are they even in the Kingdom? Nicodemus was presumed – because of his religious status – to be among the Kingdom elite. Jesus shocked him: “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3). Nicodemus’ Platinum Card from the Temple would not give him entry to the coming Kingdom: “no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” (vs 5).
The penultimate question: does their life demonstrate adherence to the teachings of the Word of God? The directive of Jesus was to become his Disciple: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24).
And, finally, the promotion to Kingdom Leader hinges on the grand prize question: having become a practitioner of the life modeled by Jesus, are you exercising your influence over others to replicate that life in them? The long-term assignment: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Kingdom Leaders: that’s our measurable outcome. Unless we can see growth in that niche, we’ve failed our mission. What’s your measurable outcome?