I became a Christ follower a short while after a challenge from an attractive woman who gave me a Bible. I was interested in her so I pretended to be interested in that. She had written a verse in the flyleaf, Mark 8:34. I also pretended I knew all about religion too (enough to try to put her off God and onto me hopefully), because I was ‘already a good Christian’- but now I was stumped.
Mark.. 8.. Was this a code? I remembered her previous boyfriend’s name was Mark. Hmm. What did it mean?
She frowned as she opened the book and helped me find the verse, which she’d underlined already – ‘If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ I told her I didn’t understand what it meant – and she told me the fact that I didn’t understand it meant I was not a Christian.
She’s taught me a lot more since we later married, but that was what I needed to hear most – and not just at the start!
As I continue to read through and comment on Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird’s book Hero Maker (which will form the theme of our LAUNCH church multiplication catalyst event in November where Dave is joining us) they tell us, ‘Hero makers have discovered that dying to self and living for God’s kingdom through others is the secret of multiplied results and greater impact.’
He expands on ‘the secret’ by citing a famous American sports writer who declared that in basketball being the best ‘is really all about the team… everyone must put the team first… lots of times you couldn’t tell who the best player in the game was.. It’s the only way to win.’ I’m struck by so many comments about how England performed this year in the World Cup compared with previous years that might resonate with this. It means playing for the crest on the front of your shirt, not your name on the back.
They continue, ‘To win, you need people who will forfeit their own success for the greater benefit of the team.’
Of course Jesus modelled this – his explicit aim was that his self investment in his followers would in the end mean they would do even greater works than he.
I’m challenged by a line on page 28 of Hero Maker – not so much that ‘we have to learn to turn the spotlight off ourselves’, because in our culture I’m not sure I know too many pastors in the UK I’d describe as loving the limelight, if anything as I travel around there’s a tall poppy syndrome that stops people stepping up. But it’s more the second part perhaps, that ‘we begin to shine the spotlight on others.’
Before you comment, this is not so that they get a big head either, but so that they flourish as we choose to put our best efforts into equipping others so they emerge and are empowered. That’s the shift – from hero to hero maker, and this is the secret the book wants us to share.
It’s a very practical way of dying to self to live more for Christ and his kingdom – and personally it’s every bit as much a challenge for me now as it was over 30 years ago when Zoe first gave it to me.