Who’s the greatest? Spirited debate usually follows asking this question in regard to just about anything. You fill in the blank. Who’s the greatest athlete, team, company, actor, author, artist, or innovator? Halls and awards and statues and polls commemorate such elite status.

Obsessed with status, power, and fame, we welcome this question in most every arena in life. But what about within the church? Who’s the greatest pastor or teacher or author or worship leader? How large? How many? How fast? Who’s #1?

It should make us shudder when we hear the disciples ask Jesus over and over (including right before He washed their feet at the last supper in Luke 22:24),

“Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1 NASB).

The mere repetition of their questioning clearly revealed they just didn’t get it. Luke tells us they were even arguing about it (Luke 9:46). Its root is pride; selfish ambition and disunity are its fruit. Building His church upon those preoccupied with such personal greatness was not what Jesus had in mind.

Disgusted with his team’s attitude and effort years ago, Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, held up a football to a bunch of professional football players and proclaimed, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” In other words, “Now, let’s get back to the very basics of the game.”

As the disciples breathlessly awaited His answer, Jesus did much the same thing with His team. And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matthew 18:2-4 NASB).

Jesus loves children. Mark tells us He also held the child in His arms (Mark 9:36), but that’s not entirely the point. We must become like children – not just to enter the Kingdom, but also to fulfill our purpose within it.  But how? In what way?

– Eager to come
– Content in the arms of Jesus
– Trusting
– Dependent
– Unselfconscious
– Willing to receive
– At Jesus’ disposal
– Humble

Jesus’ church is way bigger than one person or one building. The other day when I spoke at a fellowship in north Houston, I was deeply moved as they prayed for a church and pastor just a few miles away – that the church would prosper and the pastor shepherd them well. Exactly.  It’s all about sowing, watering, and reaping, not about who takes the stage or who gets the credit. “There’s no smaller package than a man wrapped up in himself” (Howard Hendricks). God gets the glory for God causes the increase (1Corinthians 3:7-9).

“If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35 NASB).

Greatness in the Kingdom is found in a heart for service – in seeking first the Kingdom of God – in humbly giving your life away one day at a time. Perhaps it’s just as simple as this child: he heard Jesus’ call, came to Him, and stayed near Him. Jesus’ math really doesn’t seem to make sense – the greatest is the least – the first will be last?

Or does it?

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com 

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3 Responses
  1. Duncan Shanklin says:


  2. Vicky Norwood says:

    The world sure has it backwards. I pray we can teach our new little ones better. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Laura Suffield says:

    Such a great word. Loved it!
    Thank you, Tim!