the weblog of Alan Knox

The more least or the less least?

Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in blog links | 22 comments

The more least or the less least?

My good friend Dan at “Some Church Stuff” writes thought-provoking articles. His latest is called “making the least the least.”

His point is that Jesus (and the authors of the New Testament) consistently exhorted people toward humility, considering others as more important, service for others, etc. But, among the church today, we tend to revere a different set of people – those at the top, not those at the bottom.

Here is Dan’s introduction:

In the modern church people celebrate the best and brightest. The pastor is a good speaker or a good organizer or a good people manager. The people leading the music are the best singers and musicians that group has to offer (which sometimes isn’t much, but that is not the point). The guys who stand before the congregation to read that week’s bible passage are the best orators, the James Earl Jones of the group so to speak. Everyone puts on their best clothes and their best attitude and everyone comes together and celebrates the best.

It has always seemed to me that Jesus taught that the best way to lead is to serve others. On the other hand, it seems the church today has bought into the reverse notion: the best way to serve is to lead others. This results in the wrong kind of leadership and following the wrong kinds of examples.

It is amazing what happens and what God does when the quietest voices are given the opportunity to speak, and when they are actually heard. It is amazing how God moves when the weakest or the least trained are allowed to serve. It’s almost as if God is demonstrated in their weaknesses and their lack of ability.

But, then, I think I’ve heard something like that before…


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-12-2012

    Thanks for linking to my post. If we should be listening to the quietest voices then I ought to shut up because as anyone who has ever read my blog or had a conversation with me would know, I have a big mouth! I actually probably would benefit from shutting up from time to time. But seriously we all know that we should be giving God our best and there is simply no room for the weak and poor among our best. As Dwight Schrute so clearly explained it, “First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go, ‘Wow, I need this beet right now.’ Those are the money beets.” Poor people and weak people and quiet people are not the money beets, we need to give God the money beets!

  2. 4-12-2012


    Great thoughts! I totally agree, when we create a culture where a few are exalted among the man, we have a BIG problem. I actually don’t think it’s an issue of the best vs. the least, but an issue of creating spaces where the uniqueness and greatness in each of us is unleashed. On the flip side, I’ve been in communities where they gave the worst singers an opportunity to sing, and it didn’t do anyone justice. They gave people who didn’t have the gifts of teaching that place, and no one learned :)

    The problem is many churches operate from a stance of “here are our needed positions, who can fill them?” This creates a culture where those who excel at the job are exalted… naturally creating “the least” and “the best.” Probably a more Christ-centered model would be to see who is in the community with specific giftings, and create space for them to minister as they are crafted – where everyone can become the best.

  3. 4-12-2012


    Interesting thoughts. I wonder if the most Christ-centered model would be to let him be glorified in our weaknesses? I am a bad singer/musician but should that disqualify me from sharing a song with other believers? Should we not all teach and share and proclaim the gospel? I wonder if it might be beneficial for those naturally gifted to help those who are not. Maybe their giftings are given to help others learn, not to do those things on their own. Just some thoughts. I liked your comment and found it very thought provoking.

  4. 4-12-2012

    Alan, I think I’m with you (and Dan!) on this 100% but what would you say to people who point out that ‘We should give God our best’? I’ve heard / read plenty of people using this argument to justify things like always using the most skilled musicians available, always putting much effort in to the physical appearance of the church building and so on.

    And can I give a quick boast about my church?! Each of our small groups (housegroups is what we call them) takes a turn at planning and then leading the first of our Sunday meetings, so pretty much everyone in the church gets a chance to play an instrument, sing, lead a guided meditation, prepare a slide show etc. It’s awesome to discover the hidden talents that some people have when their housegroup is on the rota!

  5. 4-12-2012


    I wonder if God is more interested in our humility and our recognition of his greatness, than our ability and desire to give him our “best.” In humility we would give God our all, that seems to make more sense than our best, which sucks a lot anyway!

    BTW, I think that the approach you guys take with your church gatherings is pretty cool!


  6. 4-12-2012


    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and for replying to the comments here!


    While I don’t know what happened in your situation, when I’ve encountered the “no one learned” problem, it is usually caused by someone “teaching” using a certain format or methodology that is not necessary to help people follow Jesus. I do believe it is necessary for all of us to take part in teaching one another, although that will look different for different people and situations.


    What do you think people typically mean when they say, “We should give God our best?”

    I like the steps that your church has taken away from the traditional way of meeting together.


  7. 4-12-2012

    Dan and Alan – I was thinking of when people say ‘we should give God our best’ in the context of doing church (horrid phrase, sorry). So the finest music, the best orators etc. – like you said in the original post, really! But that approach seems so Old Testament to me, whereas in the New it’s all about every-member contribution, encouraging and challenging one another, being the body of Christ all together.

    Which does raise the question of why such a massive apparent shift from the OT priests and levites, ritual-based approach to the NT everyone can get involved ethos. Hmm…

  8. 4-12-2012

    For so long, I sought to be among those ‘best and brightest’ in the church. Pride was part of my motivation, but mostly I just wanted to belong. I wanted to be a ‘good’ Christian who had a place of acceptance in a church with a ‘spirit of excellence’ for God (a phrase repeated often). However, a series of ‘un-excellent’ struggles (finances, depression, troubled teenage child), brought me to a place of realization that mine was not going to be one of those best and brightest lives. I felt ashamed and isolated to be so weak in a community of such apparently strong people. But, my weaknesses have now become a gift to me. God is patiently teaching me to live, not to demonstrate my strength, but rather, to see and acknowledge His work, love, and mercy, in and through my weakness. NOBODY is going to follow Jesus because they hope to be as ‘wonderful’ as me. If there is anything attractive about my life, it will be Jesus, not me. That truth frees me to focus on Him, depend on Him, and praise Him for His goodness.

  9. 4-12-2012

    Kevin, I find it interesting how similar the structures of the modern church are to those of Old Testament Judaism. I feel like there are plenty of warnings throughout the New testament about reverting back to the Law, but those must have just applied to the Jews.

  10. 4-12-2012

    I work from a basic framework… if God wanted you sing, he would have gifted you with musical skills. Doesn’t mean there is no place for it. I still think we are operating from a place of both conformity and “gift envy”. I find most people want to sing, preach, etc because they have seen someone operating in THEIR gifts and aspire to do the same, rather than exploring where their own greatness in the kingdom lies. I have a feeling that if the modern worship movement had never happened, we’d have far less people wanting to share a song… I hardly see people aspiring to be a “great” as Mother Theresa in caring for the sick. But that’s much less glamorous :)

    While I believe we should learn from anyone, I do not believe that everyone is gifted to teach. I think there is a difference. One is a hear posture of learning that we should all strive for, the other if a specific ability to transfer knowledge.

  11. 4-12-2012


    Those are good questions, especially since the author of Hebrews indicates that those structures are shadows of the reality that we now live in Christ.


    Jesus chooses and works through nobodies. Welcome to the club!


    I mentioned to Kevin the passages in Hebrews about the structures in the OT being shadows of the reality we have in Jesus Christ. Do you that applies to the things we’re talking about here?


    I agree that everyone is not gifted to teach. Those who are gifted as teachers should definitely teach. However, I think those gifted teachers should also equip others to teach, because everyone who is in Christ can and should teach. I think there are several passages that point to this kind of teaching.


  12. 4-12-2012

    I am a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which does not allow women to ever have authority over a men. In other words, women are not allowed to do much of anything. Music ministry is the only area (besides teaching Sunday school or working in the kitchen)where women are allowed to showcase their talents. If a woman is not gifted musically, then it does not matter what other talents she has because she will never be allowed to use them. My PhD in the physical sciences, NASA fellowship and science outreach campaign in the Hispanic community are of no importance.

  13. 4-12-2012

    His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His value for each and every part of the bride, the house, the body is of great value, of deep significance, and for that matter essential.

    Therefore we each have gifts to give, and to receive from one another.

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    Paul of Tarsus

  14. 4-13-2012


    I am learning more and more that (in Scripture) teaching referred more to one-on-one, life-sharing experiences helping one another actively obey Jesus Christ. Today, however, “teaching” has changed to a platform-based presentation to a large group. Ask God to give you opportunities to help someone else follow Jesus, and then look for those opportunities and act on them. (Just my suggestion…)


    Yes. I love the way Paul opened his letter to the Romans. He said he was looking forward to sharing his gifts with them, and also to receiving from them. I love that attitude!


  15. 4-13-2012

    We are all asking each other what to do and how to do it. It is all done by the Holy Ghost that lives in you. If you will wake up each morning and give the reins to the Holy Ghost and take no though about the day coming and you will hear your instructions and thus through the Holy Ghost you will walk in love, not you but the grace of God that is upon you will. So in essence God is living God’s love through you and has poured on the power of his Love upon all around you. you do not even have to speak. You see we are to be at rest as God is at rest. Jesus is finished and resting at the right hand of God seated. It today is the Holy Ghosts job to speak of Jesus and what he has done so you can approach the throne of Grace in confidence with the Holy Ghost speaking for you and thus you learn and walk in rest Hebrews chapter 4:6 they did not enter because of unbelief. So do we see what is happening to us the believers, we are asking, but not in faith, faith is not please and hope it is past tense of thank you I am forgiven and thank you I do not know how Father you will work this out, but i am going to quit worrying as you said in Mattheew 5, actually asked will worry add a single moment to your life? Thank You that i am homeless, thank you that i have no job. Thank you thank you, thank you. I do not know how I will make it through this, oh wait a minute I will because God you are for me thus no one can be against me. it can only appear that way. So quit being like men and trust the living creator of all to sustain you and God will do just that, thank you for listening Howard

  16. 4-13-2012

    Alan Knox says:


    I am learning more and more that (in Scripture) teaching referred more to one-on-one, life-sharing experiences helping one another actively obey Jesus Christ. Today, however, “teaching” has changed to a platform-based presentation to a large group. Ask God to give you opportunities to help someone else follow Jesus, and then look for those opportunities and act on them. (Just my suggestion…)


    Go Holy Ghost go. Jim thanks for listeninng to the Holy Ghost, his word never comes back void howard

  17. 4-13-2012


    You seem like a cool guy. You seem to be really into the Holy Spirit. That’s cool. But, I’ve got to say, it is really hard to interact with a comment that doesn’t even form a coherent thought. Maybe you’re just a lot smarter than me, but, honestly, I have no, absolutely zero, idea what you are talking about.


  18. 4-13-2012


    Yes, all growth is from the Holy Spirit and all activity is through him. However, as the authors of Scripture continually exhort, he works through us and we must be willing to allow him to work. While Scripture does tell us to trust the Spirit and follow Him, they also give us extremely practical examples and they reminded their readers of the extremely practical examples that they lived before them. There is no contradiction between trusting the Spirit for growth and, at the same time, exhorting, encouraging, teaching, and helping one another grow at the same time.


  19. 4-13-2012

    As I have read all these post, causes me to think… Kevin, of your church that presents a house group each Sunday, I have this question, “Is it competitive to outdo another group?” Is it competition as to who has the more spiritual group? or who has the BEST group?

    I see how Teri, is truly in a relationship with God and totally dependent upon God to get her through. She may not be ready to speak in front of people, God is working in and through her in other areas… that she doesn’t need to be in the publics eye… she would be considered the least… (Of whom has God’s favor…)

    Our goal shouldn’t be, “leaders in the church” Christ is the Head, let Him lead, let His Spirit teach…We should serve one another, no one is above the other or less than.. I have attended a local church for 23 years… As I look back now, I see how, the goal is to be in the upper leadership group, to be RECOGNIZED for the gifts that I have, if I am super spiritual, can speak and present a good story or sing an anointed song, or prophesy or etc.., If I have those,then I fit in to the elite priveledged group and can go to lunch/dinner private shopping trips with the pastors, worship leaders and deacons.. I truly dislike this attitude… I was caught up in it, trying to “PERFORM” so that I could fit in… and the rejection I felt, when I didn’t get invited to go with the elite group… Christ leaves NO ONE OUT… He died for ALL of us the SAME…

    I woke up from a dream with these words coming out of my mind and mouth…..over 3 years ago….. “They have set themselves up as kings and queens over my people and I/GOD am taking my church back.”

  20. 4-13-2012

    All, I said was spoken in true sincerity..

  21. 4-13-2012


    The performance mentality is rampant among the church unfortunately. Service, on the other hand, is sorely lacking.


  22. 4-14-2012

    servants tend to serve, not setup organisations and structures to rule over people as best i can tell. Servants may use systems to achieve certain ends but the means must justify the end goal of service, whereas rulers and usurpers will use service in order to control and manipulate, generally with a belief that those below do not know whats best for them. Servants generally have no problem wit the end of an organisation or struture if its no longer in the best interests of the recipients, whereas ‘leaders’ tend to have their own interests from and center… status, influence, reach, power. One comes to learn as an equal, the other comes to teach as a superior. One points to Christ because as Kathy said servants probably aren’t putting a lot of energy into presenting a smooth and faultless persona or organisation. The other points to self and the system.
    If there are no cracks, the light can’t get through.