I have seen the movie! Rise of Empire. In my mind I have stood my ground and fought for all that is right and good in the interest of the people against the tyrant. A small, but united army of brave Greeks overcoming their differences in order to overcome their powerful enemy (I don’t mean now and the EU). The very model of the power to be found in humility and unity. The power of ‘preferring the other’ over self promotion and public recognition. The establishment of kingdom. “THIS IS SPARTA”… actually this Barnsley and right now I’m sat in the Asda cafe writing a blog… I can dream, I can build an empire in my mind! I can order another latte…
The film set my mind to work and being a creative type I began to extrapolate. Over the past few weeks I have been struck by the creeping levels of leadership competition to be observed. I have been informed by one leader that he is to change his allegiance to a new network. There are are many good reasons for such a transition, however, I was shocked at the motivation of this leader, “I have a better chance to do things and more voice”. Now that is not the Sparta code! Another announced to me that as he took up the role of Pastor in a new location many of his old congregation would loyally follow him and leave their current church. To me this speaks of the priority of ‘personal’ ministry and identity not the ministry of a believer. Now that sounds very Xerxes. This is empire building not Kingdom advance.
Empire building cannot exist without parochialism and a sense of deep personal insecurity. The precondition for empire building is fear. Real accountability and open connections that form true relationships are given lip service, but no more. When faced with parochial and territorial attitudes and the barriers they build, ‘leaders’ feel that they have no other choice but to build local empires. Naturally they will never refer to ‘their empire’ preferring to speak of Kingdom, call and ministry identity. Non the less, empire is in the heart if not in the head. Personal identity, security and followers matter above all else.
What do I mean by empire? Here is my simple definition for the purpose of this blog: “Empire is the method by which attempts to assert control over people, activities and resources in an effort to gain or enhance self-sufficiency and identity takes place.”
The desire to build empires does not necessarily stem from pride and is often not realised by the perpetrators. It stems from the fear that unless a group/church leads or controls others, the church or the group will be deemed to be a failure in some way. Often, Networks and organisations permit or overlook an empire builder’s activity because their activity is seen as a faster way to meet ‘kingdom’ objectives. In other cases, the empire builder is more subtle, taking over inch by inch; by the time anyone notices, the Empire is established.
In order to advance Kingdom rather than build empire try to see the big picture. When we view things narrowly and from our perspective alone, we have already joined the road to empire building. Take other views into consideration and maintain a flexible heart and attitude. Admit that everything belongs to God and nothing belongs to you. Understand that the people and resources you have are not yours, or even your church’s. They belong to God. Let go of your fear of failure and your pride. Too often, we make comparisons with others and fear our own failure and so we grasp for power.
We don’t have ‘my turf’ and that includes everything from my seat in church, my cupboard in the office, my shelf in the fridge and my church ministry and call. God is the one who called you to ministry, so let go of your need to impress others and find true joy in serving the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 / 11:1 NIV
 … do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—  33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. …Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ