We must seek to make Christ's name great in our world.
We must seek His fame over our own.
We must become a 330 Generation.
I'm urging the faith community that has been gracious enough to accept me to join me in discovering how to live a 330 lifestyle as a practical way to do life in these first years of the 21st century. What exactly is a 330 lifestyle? There's no better way to illustrate a 330 lifestyle than to turn to the Patron Saint of 330 living. Of course, I'm talking about John the Baptist. He had been given a considerable platform from which to do his life's work. We know a little about him. Luke tells us that in the time before Jesus' public ascent, the "crowds" were coming to him (Luke 3:7). Mark paints a larger picture: "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem" were going to hear and see him (Mark 1:5). John, who always adds nuance and color to the story, tells us that the cultural elite were attentive to John: "priests and Levites" were sent to him John 1:19). All of this adds up to one thing: John the Baptist had been given, and had built, an incredibly large platform. It's what he does with this platform, and how he leverages it, that turns heads and starts a Copernican shift. In John 3:30, John the Baptist says, "Christ must become greater; I must become less."
These eight words, in John 3:30, are at the heart of a 330 lifestyle.
One of the things that has gripped my attention about the 330 mindset of John the Baptist is its holy ambition. John the Baptist is declaring, with emphasis, his intent to increase Jesus' renown. Ambition isn't inherently evil. In fact, John Stott once said, "There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God." Another time he said, "How can we ever be content that God acquire just a little more honor in the world?" I think John the Baptist would have agreed with John Stott. In the first century, with his eyeballs fixed on Jesus, John the Baptist said, "I'm going to make it my life passion and my life work to increase his glory and to make him greater."
Another thing that has gripped my imagination is how rare this ambition this is. Let's be honest about the state of pastoral ministry and faith communities. In our time, unreconstructed ambition grips our souls and imaginations. We measure platform size: "The Fastest Growing Churches in America" and "The 25 Most Influential Preachers in America." But this unreconstructed ambition is not just about the celebration of platform size. Most churches are failing. Most preachers have little influence. No matter. Unreconstructed ambition still grips the soul, panic replaces peace, comparison sucks joy, competitiveness destroys unity.
The last thing that gripped my imagination is how healthy this ambition is. What John the Baptist is not saying is as important as what he does say. This is not self-deprecation. This is not devaluing self. This is not minimizing and underselling gifts and talents and opportunities. Truthfully, John had been given incredible opportunity. His voice and his influence reached far. He mattered. It's what he did with his considerable platform that is so healthy: he chose to place his focus on the renown of Jesus, not on himself. In the words of C. S. Lewis, this is a choice "not to think less of himself, but to think about himself less."
This ambition of John the Baptist--holy, rare and healthy--is Copernican in nature. Imagine a gathering where we think about the size of our platform less and the renown of Christ more. Imagine a gathering where every generation is riveted on one thing: increasing the fame of Jesus in our community and around the word. Imagine being part of a gathering where the passion for exalting the glory of Jesus is so white-hot that you'd have to be blind and deaf not to know that this gathering is about Jesus and the fame of Jesus.
My heart races with anticipation. I'm aware that I've just walked the first few feet, really, on a long, long trek towards a fully developed 330 lifestyle. But thanks to John the Baptist, we know the destination. I am sure I'll lose my way and start walking in the way of unreconstructed ambition. But thanks to John the Baptist, I now know of this higher, rarer, holier, and healthier ambition: to be about Jesus and the fame of Jesus.