Barbara and I had the great fortune recently of traveling for two weeks through Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany, visiting some very old and beautiful towns and cities. One of the highlights was touring several royal residences from the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of the things that struck me as we walked through these incredible palaces was how much time, effort, money and lives these rulers spent building themselves up and creating this supreme image. It seems their ascention was only limited by their ability to create the illusion of greatness. Most everything about these palaces from the lavish gardens to the extravagant, grandiose entry halls and waiting rooms, was to show the guest king just how important and powerful the ruler was. Their incredible castles were the ultimate symbol of their image and as we traveled from country to country I got the feeling there was tremendous competition to keep up with the neighboring emperor.
As I returned to San Antonio, I began to ask myself if there was a bit of image building in my life also. I certaninly don't place much importance in money and power. But I asked myself, am I trying to build God's kingdom or my own? Is there some inner desire to shape an image that comes from my flesh and not from an identity based on God's imprint? Have I bought into the world's idea that I can create my own image apart from God? It's a good practice to give yourself a good motivation check every so often.
In this world that demands that we reshape our image out of a need for affirmation, love and acceptance, pastors can easily fall into the trap of building kingdoms to their own selves and calling them monuments to God. I knew a pastor that actually made it known that his goal was to have a larger church than the biggest church in town! He made no bones about what motivated him. Yet there are probably hundreds of pastors who would never admit it, but are driven by similar demons of pride and the need to be significant.
Have you examined your motivation lately? Am I building God's kingdom or my own? What in my ministry is of the flesh and what is of God? Is there a way to tell the difference? What is the biggest trap that church planters fall prey to?