(1) Those of us who advocate servant leadership instead of hierarchal leadership are less likely to produce “evangelical celebrities.” It may seem like Christians who advocate power, hierarchy, and narrowly defined gender roles are winning the day, but just because these voices are often the loudest doesn’t mean that they are the most effective, or even the most popular. When you build your church and your culture around hierarchy and power, you are naturally going to be 1) highly-organized, and 2) personality focused. But when you build your church and your culture around humility and service, you are naturally going to be 1) organic, growing at the grassroots level, and 2) less dependent on one or two flashy personalities and more dependent on the daily faithfulness of regular people.
Don’t forget that egalitarians have many, many pastors who support the equality and dignity of women. (Some—like John Ortberg and Greg Boyd, for example—are well-known, but they conduct themselves with a measure of maturity that keeps the focus off of them and on Jesus Christ.) The Mark Driscolls of this world pull in (and publicize) the big numbers because that is how they measure success.__ But while these few powerful leaders draw in the big crowds, there are countless servant leaders out there drawing in smaller, (perhaps less cool) crowds that are being transformed by Jesus Christ, who served, who sacrificed, and who—at least by the world’s standards—failed. The Kingdom was never meant to grow through power or might, but by the Spirit. And in my travels, I see it growing everywhere, in the lives of people whose names may never grace the cover of a book or the marquee of a church sign. And it is growing in the developing world, far from the celebrity-obsessed American culture, through the faithful work of both men and women who are committed to yielding to this Spirit of grace.
(2) We know the end of the story.
Most of the time, when I am discouraged about the state of Christianity, it’s because I have forgotten the end of the story.
We are part of a living, growing Kingdom in which the last will be first and the first will be last, in which the peacemakers and the merciful and the meek will be blessed, in which the tiny seeds we plant today will grow into great trees where the birds of the air will nest, in which a crucified savior is King, and in which all things will be reconciled to God in love. Control is not the end of the story. Power is not the end of the story. Violence is not the end of the story. Inequality is not the end of the story. Jesus is. Those who preach the gospel of power will come and go; they will flourish and then fade.
Living as those who know the end of the story means living with a degree of righteous anger, yes, but also living with unexplainable hope, optimism, and love. So when I get discouraged, I read the Beattitudes—and instead of fretting about the lack of these qualities in others, I focus on the lack of these qualities within me. I am responsible only for following Jesus in my life, whether that brings popularity or obscurity. And I can do this with joy and with peace because I know how the story ends.