Biblical genealogies are fascinating. Reading them bores me to no end, but the concept has always captivated me. Why would someone care about the ancestral recounting of who begat whom? Besides those individuals related in some way to these lineages, why should anyone pay attention?
This “why” has become clear to me through the years. It’s all about legacy. These lists communicate to generations to come that life after life had an impact of consequence—even those lives with a smaller scope than others mattered a lot.
The life of a church leader, particularly a planter, revolves around the accomplishment of a God-breathed dream. This dream is to plant a church that delivers the gospel by engaging not only the five senses or even the soul, but one’s true being—his spirit—with the Spirit of God. Each day that this divine encounter takes place for someone, a planter’s heart and spirit are enlivened and fulfilled. However, there is a lure for everyone in ministry, and frankly, the same lure is there for the marketplace leader as well: mountaintops.
Mountaintops are beautiful. Mountaintops are majestic. Mountaintops are hard to get to and tough to stand on. Put simply, mountaintops represent the culmination of journeys, the manifestation of intense effort, and the fulfillment of a hard-fought battle. They are achievements, accolades, connections to important people, and broken barriers to growth. From far away the mountaintop seems impossible to summit, but we strive and work and sacrifice and climb. We are all hopeful to see the mountaintop, stand on it, and, of course, take a photo for Instagram. If we’re not careful, however, we’ll be deceived into believing that mountaintops are the point. We’ll think they are our legacy. But they aren’t.
Our legacy is what we occupy in the steps between the mountaintops. Legacy includes the lessons of sacrifice when there wasn’t enough in the first place. The grit needed to fight and to trust in God anyway—that’s a legacy life.
"Our legacy is what we occupy in the steps between the mountaintops.”
Legacy is the getting up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday to ensure people who are facing an eternity in hell have a chance to know the risen Christ and move from death to life. A legacy life is not about exchanging the daily experience for recognition, although recognition may come. It is exchanging each day for encounters that make others more generous, servant-hearted, spirit-aware, committed to the marginalized, and surrendered to the Spirit of God. Our legacy is the grandchildren who are raised to know Jesus because we helped save a marriage. It is the legislator who fights for biblical values because you prayed for him as an orphan or adopted child to overcome rejection and discover identity in Christ. Our legacies encompass the lives that we’ve helped move to their own mountaintops.
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” —Pericles
Legacy isn’t our bank accounts, our attendance counts, our follower counts, or our campus counts. It is the lives that are lived well after us and the eternities changed forever. Our legacy is experienced in the heavens by us and continued on earth after us.
1 John 2:17 (NCV) says, “The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever.”
May your name be written in others’ spiritual genealogy. That’s legacy.
David and Ginelle Payne are the lead pastors of Lifesong Church in Sutton, Massachusetts. They planted Lifesong Church in 2006 (ARC church plant number 32) and are passionate about the local church in New England and around the world. Lifesong has expanded to three campuses that help people grow closer to God, share God’s love through missions and outreach, and build leaders through discipleship and training. To learn more, visit lifesongonline.org.