I believe that every church, every ministry, and every follower of Jesus Christ ought to be devoted to planting — giving away — what they have for God’s kingdom. I am not against large churches — I pastor one. But as I will show you in this book, I believe that churches that give away both their people and their resources are the churches that will expand the kingdom of God into the future.

Throughout this book I will share stories of how God brought our church (and me, personally) to this conclusion. I warn you: The journey has not been easy — in fact, at times it has been downright painful. Like most young aspiring pastors, I graduated from seminary and had my sights set on acquiring a big, notable ministry — one with a big attendance and big budget and even bigger attention for the guy behind it. But early on, God confronted me with my idolatrous and self-centered approach to ministry. He showed me that quite often when I had prayed, “Thy kingdom come,” what I really meant was “My kingdom come.”

There are two basic questions about discipleship that we have to ask ourselves over and over, in every new season of life and in regards to whatever resources God has given us stewardship over:

— Whose kingdom are we actually building: ours, or God’s?

— Do we really believe that Jesus grows his kingdom most as we “give away” what he’s given to us?

Throughout this book I will introduce a number of ministry “plumb lines” — key phrases that we use at our church to keep our ministries and our lives centered on sending. I hope that they help you evaluate the shape of your ministry and consider its trajectories.

If you are a church leader, I hope this book helps you to see that your greatest kingdom potential lies not in your ability to gather and inspire your people at a weekly worship meeting, but in your capacity to equip them and send them out as seeds into the kingdom of God.

If you’re not a church leader, I want you to understand the crucial role you play in the church’s future. I believe that the future of Christianity lies in your hands, not in ours (that is, the hands of your church leaders). That’s not pep-talk rhetoric. Jesus’ promises about the greatness of the church are about ordinary people being filled with the Spirit, turning the world upside down. As leaders, our job is not to gather you, amaze you, and collect your funds; our job is to help you discover the power and potential of the Spirit in you.

As I will show you, you — the so-called “ordinary believer” — you are the tip of the gospel spear. The greatest gospel movements in history have been facilitated by ordinary people like you, not church leaders like me. And the Great Commission will be completed only when we church leaders get serious about sending you out to do what God has called you to do, and you get serious about doing it.

J.D. Greear and Larry Osborne, Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).