C3 Europe Regional Director
Most want to leave a positive legacy – few don’t care. Fact is; we all will leave one, for better or for worse. If death isn’t an option then neither is leaving a legacy.
If we can define legacy we will know what it is we should be leaving. If we can’t, we are likely to think of the wrong things, or things of less importance surviving us.
A legacy should be a positive and defining influence, often, but not always, including an inheritance, left in the lives of others. Of course it can be much less than this – a legacy can also be one of failure and ineptitude, or worse. Some leave debt as their legacy; however, this is hardly the sort of legacy we have in mind.
Jesus’ legacy, which can’t be bettered, is found in the lives of his disciples. He left no other legacy than the formation and influence of his church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Initially there were no church buildings, no institutions, no charities, universities or hospitals, nor legacies in terms of tangible items. Some of these came latter, and aren’t necessarily unimportant, but it is the priority of disciples, his church, that is his prime and enduring legacy. His church is the only thing he said he would build. Most other things are temporal; they have a habit of passing away, out of use, or out of fashion. Not so, his people.
It is striking and noteworthy that the church in Colossae, to which Paul penned the stunningly revelatory insight into the reign and divinity of Christ, was severely damaged, if not wiped out by an earthquake in 61AD. And this possibly only twenty years, or so, after the church was established. Church scholars posit it had a likely maximum 60 members.
What was Paul’s legacy in this instance? It wasn’t a surviving community, much less a building. The legacy was in transformed lives, the fact that some would have left and spread the good news whether as sent, or as merchants and traders, and, of course, the Letter to the Colossians – as a magnificent legacy as can be imagined.
The Western world is replete with virtually empty historic church buildings that were once vibrantly occupied, filled. Today they are, in numerous instances, a financial noose around the neck of denominations, or a burden to the government. Whilst some denominations are renewing them with younger congregations/communities using them, many are sold, for everything from art galleries to apartments.
They looked like an enduring legacy when founded, but the real legacy has always been the lives of the people who heard and believed the gospel.
Westminster Chapel in London was once the pulpit of the luminary Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. Today it is more empty than full, and has never been filled week by week as it once was, with due respect to the excellent preachers who have since led the church. It may never be full again, in spite of our fondest wishes and prayers. The sort of building, its structure and construction, is possibly no longer relevant.
It may be that what we consider a legacy today may in fact be a noose tomorrow, if we see buildings and institutions as defining our legacy.
God’s church may require flexibility about buildings that sentiment finds difficult to swallow.
Our legacy is first and foremost disciples, the people we influence for and by Jesus Christ. These people may at any one time be scattered over communities, over cities, nations, and hemispheres. They may not see you year by year, they may long have moved on to different church environments, and yet when occasion affords it they are quick to tell you what a defining influence your life, ministry and words had on them. This is our legacy, and it trumps all others – buildings, ministries, books, titles – you name it, it won’t and can’t measure up to disciples.
For Legacy Planning make Disciples