Ambition. I mean the godly kind. It’s an undiscussed casualty of the pandemic and the ensuing debates over politics and power. People seem less motivated; more ambivalent. As for the church, well, there’s just a way we are wired that makes ambition seem slimy.
This whole thing has me concerned. It has consequences. If we lose ambition, churches remain unplanted, ministries stagnate, and entrepreneurs don’t fight to make dreams happen. If the church sees ambition as a threat to humility, we undermine aspirations. The church declines.
To toss some fuel on the embers, I started this blog called Tenacious Tuesdays. May it serve you by inciting your imagination for godly ambition that glorifies God!
If you want to be ambitious for the purposes of Christ in the world, you have to be committed to the local church.
Does that statement surprise you?
Once there was a young man who was so intent on following the purposes of Christ he decided to “force” himself into the church.
I well remember how I joined the church after my conversion. I forced myself into it by telling the minister, who was lax and slow after I had called four or five times and could not see him, that I had done my duty. And if he did not see me, I would call a church meeting myself and tell them I believed in Christ, and ask them if they would have me.
Okay, so “lax and slow” I understand. I’ve had more of those days than I care to admit. Once I remember asking my assistant to investigate why my new cell phone hadn’t been ringing for days. She asked me if the mute button was on. It was.
I know lax and slow.
But how do you live down almost refusing Charles Spurgeon membership in your church? (Yes, those are Spurgeon’s words quoted above.) I think that’s a memory you just permanently delete—then you make sure your assistant doesn’t find out.
But the focus here isn’t the lax and slow pastor; it’s the earnest young man trying to join the church. Just imagine: the man who would become known as “the prince of preachers” was repeatedly rebuffed in his attempts to join a church. But Spurgeon wouldn’t be deterred—and he was no fool.
You might say, “Of course, Spurgeon was interested in the church. After all, didn’t he want to be a minister?” But here’s the thing, this experience and his ambition for the church came before he ever pursued being a pastor.
When it came to the church, Charles Spurgeon was neither lax nor slow. He understood something many Christians miss today: God’s purpose for our ambition must be connected to the local church.
Building His Church
In Matthew 16, Jesus grants his disciples a peek into the future: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (v. 18). As we read these words, we’re listening in on a pivotal conversation. Peter has just made the ultimate confession on behalf of the disciples: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). In response, Jesus informs Peter that this understanding of Christ’s identity was not an original thought with Peter—the heavenly Father had revealed it to him. The content of Peter’s confession had colossal implications for the future of all believers. When Christ says, “I will build my church,” he’s giving the resolution to the relational catastrophe that occurred way back in the fall of man.
Sin separates. That was the first and most devastating effect in Eden—alienation from God followed by conflict between man and woman. Sin corrupts creation and destroys relationships. But the Old Testament resounds with the promise that division and estrangement would not always define God’s people: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).
In the new covenant, God would restore us to Himself and bind us to one another in love and truth. Those set apart to experience this supernatural grace would be called “my people”—the church. This is the promise Christ is fulfilling when he says, “I will build my church.” The church universal is called to cluster into the church local, then multiply it, all over the world.
If we want our ambitions to align with God’s, we must love what God loves.
Spurgeon understood this. Many Christians today tend to miss it. You can’t fulfill the purposes of Christ without being a part of his new covenant institution. He didn’t call you to American Christian individualism. When he calls people to Himself, he makes them a part of his body, which is the church (Ephesians 1:22–23).
Don’t be lax and slow. If you’re ambitious to serve Christ, start by loving and serving your local church.
Tenacious Tuesday Question
Have you ever thought, “I love Christ. I just don’t care much for His bride”? How might that kind of thinking be opposed to the ambition God wants to kindle in your life?
Lord Jesus, you said you would build your church. You’ve called me to yourself and called me to serve you. Please help me to love your church like you do and serve you by serving her.