Ever since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity divided in the 11th century, some of the greatest fears of the once united Christendom has been realized—fragmentation and division.
Even in the 16th century when Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation, there was the hope that there would only be a few major expressions of the body of Christ—never in their wildest dreams did the reformers envision all the denominations and now various branches and networks of Christianity that have evolved—which has given opportunity for a spirit of lawlessness, independence and empire building among some insecure but gifted leaders. Whether all these expressions are of God or not is not the purpose of this article.
However, the following will show us some signs revealing when the motivation to build a church, ministry or network is akin to when the human race attempted to build their own empire-epitomized by the "Tower of Babel" which God judged and scattered across the whole earth. (Gen. 11:1-18)
In 1 Kings 11:11 and 12:16 God divided the kingdom of Israel because of religious apostasy, which is the same reason the Catholic Church was judged and fragmented—too much concentration of power in the hands of humans who deviated from the true way of Jesus and the apostles. God will judge His church and hold back revival from certain churches, ministries and regions when their key spiritual leaders are attempting to build themselves an empire rather then build the kingdom.
Leaders talk the talk but their actions speak louder then their so called "kingdom first words." The following are 17 signs you are an "empire builder" instead of a "kingdom builder":
1. You rejoice when other key leaders in your region are struggling
Although all leaders with their mouth say they are sad when another church, pastor or leader in their area is struggling, I have observed that some leaders seem to privately gloat or compare themselves with other failing leaders in their area. Whether the failing church or leader is right or wrong, it never pleases God when we internally rejoice or gloat when the body of Christ is not advanced in our region.
2. You are territorial and only work with those under your "covering"
Some leaders and denominations I know will only do outreaches with churches and leaders who have a ministerial and financial allegiance with them. If we are going to reach our communities, we have to be willing to cross denominations and networks and work with the leaders who are sincerely committed to advancing the kingdom.
3. You only support events that which can give you a platform
I have seen leaders actually pull out of a city-wide or community event because their name was not advertised on the program or because they are rivals with a leader who is part of said program. This shows that their concern was not advancing the kingdom but on advancing their own name and empire-building goals.
4. You tend to exaggerate your own importance and influence to outsiders
Empire builders treat their ministry like a sporting event—they are constantly throwing around numbers and stats and comparing their numbers to the numbers of other ministers. They say things like, "We are growing in record numbers" or "This was the most significant event in our city" or "We have the largest network in our city." Or worse yet, they claim something like "our ministry is the reason why the crime rate went down in our community or region," and they tend to exaggerate their influence, importance and results in their region or community.
Kingdom builders brag about what God is doing through His church in His city, and they also attempt to applaud the success of others whose feet they wash instead of propping themselves up for photo shoots and publicity. I have observed that several so-called revivals in our country the past 10 years have been more or less nothing more then good advertising and marketing rather then a real move of God.
5. You are jealous of successful key leaders in your region
I know I am with an "empire builder" when I am with a person who is always attempting to dig up dirt on other leaders, criticizing key leaders in their community, or giving "faint praise" when asked about other key leaders in their region.
6. You speak about kingdom unity as a smokescreen to hide your own selfish agenda
Some of the most self-centered empire builders I have known in the past 30 years have spoken the most in public about the need for unity in the body of Christ. They use this kind of talk to get "sheep pastors and ministers" to forsake their own agenda and follow them to aid them in building their empire! They know the entire lingo and have the biblical passages down, but unfortunately their actions do not correspond with their words and preaching.
7. Your name and picture has to be highlighted in every event you participate in
There are leaders I have heard speak about God raising up a movement of "nameless" and "faceless" people and yet in all their conferences, literature and advertising their picture and name are highlighted more than anybody or anything else in the program! I even attended one conference in which there was a life-size picture of the leader in the lobby with the event and program advertised in small print under his picture!
8. You try to steal the loyalties of people connected to other ministries
I have observed that one of the key signs that someone is an empire builder is when they go after key leaders in other leaders' churches or networks. I myself have had leaders representing our Christ Covenant coalition approached by another leader in my city, asking them to join his network as a representative, even though these leaders have been part of my leadership for over 10 years!
When leaders do this, they make themselves look bad, both to the loyal leaders they approach and to the other key leaders in the city who eventually find out about the M.O. of said empire builder.
9. You love those who follow you and disregard all others
Empire builders have an "either your with me or against me" mentality and approach to life.
Empire builders will not be friends with a person if they are also connected to the ministry of a rival. One of my regional leaders was actually told several years ago that he was no longer welcome to preach in a particular church because he was keeping the company of certain other leaders (me).
The reason for this is that since empire builders are untrustworthy and use their pseudo-friendships as a platform to perpetuate their own empire, they project that same spirit and mentality on other leaders in their region and thus they cut off people loyal to other networks and ministries because they suspect others are all untrustworthy like they themselves are!
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