We recently did a funeral for an older gentleman that passed away in our church. I had seen him walking the halls. He had a very unique presence. He was very tall, very thin, had a walker, large thick glasses, and was almost always walking with his wife down the halls near our worship center. I had seen this man hundreds of times. I didn’t really know that much about him. As it usually does, many of the details of his life became very clear to me as we worked through the funeral details and arrangements for the service. He was indeed a very godly man and an example for Jesus. As his story unfolded in the service, we learned he had spent his life working in missions. He had spent his life directly mentoring and influencing people for Christ. He had also indirectly influenced people for Jesus. Story after story about his life showed he very much had a tremendous legacy.
The older I get, the more I think about my professional legacy. After I leave a place, or when the time comes that I leave this earth, I want to leave a legacy. Truthfully, we will all leave a legacy. The question is, what kind of legacy will you leave? My thoughts have always been around leaving a legacy of integrity, nobility, honor, and something very distinguished. I wanted to be different, noteworthy, remarkable to those that I left behind. I won’t lie, my thought process hasn’t always been Christ-centered.
When I started working in church media officially, I stepped into a ministry that was very well formed. It had been built upon the best foundation possible; a Godly leader that entrusted, equipped, and expected excellence from the staff (paid and unpaid) entrusted to his leadership. He was several seats removed from it when I took over. He had moved on and had been replaced a couple of times. But each leader between he and I had a very unique privilege to serve under his ministry, even in separation. He had built something truly amazing. He had built something that people wanted to be a part of and were more than happy to take ownership in. That ministry was his legacy. I learned how to do what I do and how to do it well because of the standards he had set so many years before I was in the picture.
Fast forward almost a decade. I am given an opportunity to build a ministry that had almost all but collapsed through various trials and tribulations. From poor leadership to no leadership to a couple of staff members desperately trying to keep things alive, it was in rough shape. It was an opportunity for me to take everything I had learned and use it. Essentially, it was the old cliché of put your money where your mouth is. I was pretty confident in my ability to lead this kind of ministry, but the truth is, I had only done it in a place where it was already established. I didn’t have to build the car, I just had to get behind the wheel. In this new place, I had to take an old rusted out clunker and turn it into a shiny new sports car.
It’s been nearly six years. It’s been quite a journey. When I got here, it was me and two very part-time people. The clock has turned a bit since then. Now I have a team of multiple full-time staff, multiple part-time staff. I was tasked with building another ministry team in the midst of everything that is now on its own with a leader that I had the chance to help prepare for the leadership role. I’d like to think my legacy here has been established, but I am not that foolish. I’m also not that prideful.
I had to take some time to build the leadership qualities in my team that they have now. I look at myself as their equipper and safety net. Essentially, I’m an over glorified assistant to them. That’s what I’d prefer. I’d rather stay at the 30,000 foot view keeping an eye on what we’re doing and where we’re going. I can dip down when needed to solve problems and on those days when laborious work has to get done. But as a leader, I can’t do everything and I can’t be everywhere, that’s what the team is there for. I just have to navigate and delegate the workload and make sure they are prepared, equipped, and empowered. While I’d like to think that a successful ministry is my legacy, it’s not. Having great production quality, seamless processes, good workflow standards that get a ton of stuff done, etc., those aren’t my legacy. To be honest, in my opinion, anyone with half an ounce of organizational skill could figure those things out. What my legacy needs to be is developing leaders. It’s helping those that work for me be the best they can be. I don’t always succeed. Trust me.
The truth is, my legacy will be the extension of the legacy of my youth pastor and his wife. It will be the legacy extension of the media director that was in my place so many years ago that developed such a good set of processes. It will be the continued legacy of the directors in between he and I that took what he had and added a little more to it. It will be the legacy of the communications director at my last church that I basically emulated the communications team at my current church after. It will be the legacy of anyone that influenced me to be the leader I am today.
Likewise, my legacy will extend far beyond me the way those people before me extends through me. My legacy will be in the media director that I’ve never worked in the same organization with that emulates the way I take care of my team. It will be in the friend that works through delegation and organization because he emulates how I do it. It will be in the people that have worked for me and move on to bigger and better roles and carry with them the influence and training that I gave them, good or bad. It will be in the people that I have had moments or seasons in their life that have been touched by my influence. It’s more than something I do, it’s everything about who I am. It’s everything about who you are.
The truth of it is, I’ll always be working on my legacy. And I do very much care that my legacy is a good one. I do care that it is Christlike. Once upon a time, I wanted it to be something noteworthy of being the best ministry example you could find. The most organized, the most efficient, the most rewarding, and the one that no one ever wanted to leave. That still shows up sometimes too. But, ultimately, my heart has changed. I want my legacy to be about helping people be the best they can be. I want it to be about encouraging people in their faith. I want it to be about empowering and equipping people and giving them courage to face their trials. I want it to be about love and faith. I want my legacy to be about pointing people to Jesus and their lives being filled with the peace that it brings. And I want that to be my personal and professional legacy.
What about you? Are you trying to leave a legacy with intentionality? Are you concentrating like I was on it being something prideful and narrow minded? Or are you trying to live your life representing Jesus and pointing people to Him every day? Are you trying to build people up and help them be better?