Tell the truth. Some of you read the article title and immediately showed your teeth. You clicked-through to valiantly enter into the internet Serengeti where keyboard warriors seek to dismantle every disagreeable idea that comes limping bloody and wounded onto their social media feed.
“Ambition! Christians and churches are to leave that to others! We are not supposed to have ambition! It’s too dangerous! It’s too risky! It’s too secular!” Well, I am about 2,910 steps past “over this” kind of reasoning.
My experience in interacting with churches has not been too much ambition or sinfully misguided ambition, but no ambition at all. Most churches plod along year-after-year in a state of melancholy.
We have been given a mission! This mission will not achieve itself.
The countless thousands of people surrounding our churches who are facing a Christ-less eternity are not going to trip and fall into the Kingdom of God. We churches filled with people who call themselves Christians but do not know how to feed themselves spiritually.
We need more ambitious churches.
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) sets the direction for our efforts. We are to “go,” and we are to “make disciples.” We go to the lost and unchurched and we make disciples, which means evangelizing them, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey. Then those disciples join in making disciples. The Great Commission should be the directional orientation of every church. This is what our churches should be ambitious to run after. As pastor Doug Wilson has said (and I summarize), “Christianity is about world domination, not through force or arms, but through the gospel.” That requires ambition.
What sort of tone and fervency should accompany our directional orientation? Romans 12:11 tells us, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Faithfully serving the Lord means carrying out the Great Commission. It also means doing it with zeal and fervency. The missional tone of our churches is zeal.
The word “zeal” is a synonym for ambition. There is urgency. There is desire. There are affections engaged in this mission. There is a longing for success. We want to be successful because success means lost people are found, broken people find healing, outcast become insiders, and orphans become children of God.
The stories of changed lives never get old. Whether it is the atheist who radically comes to faith or the drug-addict who finds freedom and deliverance or the broken marriage shattered by adultery that finds restoration and healing, stories of God’s grace breaking into people’s lives are the best. As pastors, churches, and individual Christians, if we have a pulse for the Kingdom of God at all, these stories are what charge our batteries. They fire us up. They drive us to keep pressing the gospel forward. They motivate us. They give us a hunger to experience more of it.
Athletes epitomize ambition. High school, college, and professional athletes are usually striving for something. The high-schooler wants to get a scholarship. The collegiate athlete wants to be drafted. The professional athlete wants to be the best, leave a legacy. These ambitions lead to a drive and work ethic unlike most other professions.
We have greater reasons as Christians, and in our churches, for ambition. Athletes train for that which perishes. Their ambition is for a crown that fades. But we have the ambition of bringing forth God’s Kingdom on the earth. Our striving is for a crown that will never fade, a kingdom that will never end.
Our churches better be ambitious. We better get over our fear of the boogie man, ambition, and start engaging in our mission as the church. Great Commission-inspired ambition is healthy. It is needed. And we should exhibit in our personal lives and churches, for the the glory of God and the good of others.