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There’s a word many Christians are afraid of. It’s almost a bad word. If you have it, many people assume it means you’re self-serving. Power hungry. But most of all, arrogant.

I’m talking about ambition.

It’s almost like if you want to excel at something or do big things with your life or organization, then you must have a God-complex. An all too elevated sense of self-importance.

There’s no denying that that’s definitely true in the case of some people. But I also fear that our fear of ambition is severely limiting other people who have been called to do great things for God. Why should we put a cap on their potential because some people can’t put a cap on their pride?

I’ve seen too many pastors settle for reaching hundreds when God called them to reach thousands. I’ve seen too many talented businessmen stop short of the impact God had called them to make on their field. All because they feared being thought of as ambitious.

So let’s clear this up once and for all: nowhere in the Bible is ambition condemned. Selfish ambition is definitely warned against. But ambition for the sake of God’s glory is not only condoned—it’s commended. It’s a required asset for anyone wanting to rise above the mass of men and do something extraordinary.

Ambition led Noah to build the ark. David to expand the borders of Israel. Solomon to build the Temple. Nehemiah to rebuild the walls. Paul to spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

I wonder if people accused them of being arrogant? Maybe. But then again, if you’re never accused of being arrogant, it’s probably a sign that you’re not being ambitious enough. You’re dreaming too small. Your goals are too easily attainable.

Let me free you: it’s OK to want to be the best at what you do. It’s OK to want to achieve as much as you can with your life for the sake of the God who gave it to you. I sincerely doubt God is going to look at you at the end of your life and say, “You did too much for me.” But I do sincerely believe that God is going to look at many people and say, “You were too 'humble' for your own good and the good of countless people you could have impacted if you'd had a little more ambition.”

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that ambition is synonymous with arrogance. Godly ambition is what God uses to do incredible things in our world.

If that makes you look arrogant, don’t back down from what God has called you to do. Instead, mourn for the people who are living so far beneath their potential that anything greater must be arrogance.

Pastor Steven Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church. He and his wife, Holly, founded Elevation in 2006 with seven other families. The church has been listed by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing and largest churches in America. 

Pastor Steven holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the New York Times Best Selling author of Crash the ChatterboxGreater, and Sun Stand Still.

Pastor Steven and Holly live in the Charlotte area with their two sons, Elijah and Graham, and daughter, Abbey.

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Darren Dake

commented on May 15, 2012

I so very much agree with what you said in this article. I have seen so many people loose what God had intended because they were not willing to strive for that extra level because they were worried about what people might think. I have been guilty in the past of that myself. But I have found, that if through prayer, you feel that you are in the will of God, go for it. Rest assured He, not skeptics, will turn you if your out of His will.

Don Kirsch

commented on May 15, 2012

Rather than attempting to make companions of ambition and arrogance, let's follow the biblical model for making the clear distinction between them. We could start with the basic definition of arrogance as an attitude of superiority and ambition as a desire to achieve a stated goal. Then let's encourage ambition according to Col 3:23 and humility according to Mark 10:43-45.

Keith B

commented on May 15, 2012

Correction: God told Noah to build his ark. It wasn't because he was ambitious. Likewise, Solomon built the temple because God told him to. Paul preached the Gospel because God told him to. Ironically, David, when he was feeling proud of himself, took a census to satisfy his pride and Israel was judged for it. I'm sorry, Steven...I haven't seen any reason to say that you're not arrogant. When you stand on the stage and tell people they are selfish for wanting to be fed in church, you're wrong.

John Mitchell

commented on May 15, 2012

As I read this article there was a part of me that cringed a little. It's because in some ways you're right but as fleshly beings we tend to allow these words to have us act more according to the world in godly pursuits than righteously. Ambition causes most NOT to listen to wise counsel. What is done to achieve or feed that ambition gets dicey. AND is the goal or your ambition an aspect of a Godly vision or looking at Pastor so-n-so and saying I can do that too? Is our goal to make disciples of Jesus Christ? Are we taking the gospel to the highways and by-ways of the world? Are we building kingdom or empires? I agree that there are those who are called to minister to a few, a city, a nation, the world. Sometimes, peoples? motives are hard to discern so in the end Christ will judge our hearts and motives. To God Be the Glory!!!

Mark Opseth

commented on May 15, 2012

I prefer obedience over ambition. The examples cited in this article are examples of obedience, not ambition. Obedience is God-focused; ambition has a tendency to be me-focused (the Bible gives many warnings against selfish ambition). The one positive ambition that comes to mind is from 1 Thess 4:11, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life..." So, yes! Let us be obedient to do everything God is calling us to do!

Brad Brucker

commented on May 15, 2012

Steven, praise God that he has used you to reach many and you now have a church of 9000. Wow! I think I would agree with KB though, that Noah, Solomon and perhaps even Paul didn't do what they did because of ambition. After doing my internship at Willow Creek and then planting a church in Oregon in 1999 and going to church growth conferences and following all the Outreach Marketing protocols for reaching lost people and growing a church. After, doing Nelson Searcy church growth systems and being personally coached by Nelson to grow Woodhaven (our church) to around 400 on Sundays with two sites, I think I've been ambitious, but have not accomplished what my arrogance and pride hoped for. See, I've learned that much of what I've wanted was all about me and my ego. God spoke to me on a personal high mountain time of prayer and fasting. That's what Satan tried to do with Jesus when he was tempted in Luke 4. But Jesus would have none of it. Why? No ego to stroke! Over the years I've wondered why God, why? I've followed everything all the church growth guys told me to do. I've worked hard. I've prayed and fasted. Then the Word of the Lord came to me... "Brad, I told you to 'Go and make disciples.' I told you to 'Be my witness.' I told you, 'You plant and water, I'll cause the growth.' I've told you to be faithful no matter what, even when everyone turns and leaves." Steven, I couldn't help but wonder, why didn't Jesus have a mega church? He could have. He could have had a church of 20,000 at the feeding of the 5000. Was he not ambitious enough? For whatever reason and I think I know why, he chose for focus on making disciples of the 12, the 70. See, after doing my internship at Willow and I love Bill Hybels and I learned much there, but after seeing many mega churches, I now am not impressed with large numbers on Sunday morning. What impresses me is how many are serving? How many are SOAPing? How many are Tithing? These question help to see if Disciples are truly being made. Not what the count is on Sunday morning. God Bless you Steven. But be careful making statements like, "I?ve seen too many pastors settle for reaching hundreds when God called them to reach thousands." That's a bit arrogant. How do you really know what God's will is for them and all they've gone through? Just sayin!

Colin Bain

commented on May 15, 2012

We might not be called to be ambitious or arrogant, but we are called to humbly with God. Biblical humility is recognising and using strengths, careful with weaknesses, and as others have said, using this in obedience. I'm sure Noah knew and recognised his ability to build the ark and did so in obedience. If God had called him to build a glider (I know its an extreme example!) he might have questioned God a bit, like Moses. Of course, this comfortable relationship with God can also come across as arrogant!

Paul Reid

commented on May 15, 2012

God empowers us to serve Him and His purposes. To glorify God is not ambition it is gift governed by God. To glorify self is, pardon me, ambitious arrogance. Kirsch is right, Mark 10:42-45 followed by Col. 3:23 is a Kingdom benchmark of service.

Brad Brucker

commented on May 15, 2012

Steven, praise God that he has used you to reach many and you now have a church of 9000. Wow! I think I would agree with KB though, that Noah, Solomon and perhaps even Paul didn't do what they did because of ambition. After doing my internship at Willow Creek and then planting a church in Oregon in 1999 and going to church growth conferences and following all the Outreach Marketing protocols for reaching lost people and growing a church. After, doing Nelson Searcy church growth systems and being personally coached by Nelson to grow Woodhaven (our church) to around 400 on Sundays with two sites, I think I've been ambitious, but have not accomplished what my arrogance and pride hoped for. See, I've learned that much of what I've wanted was all about me and my ego. God spoke to me on a personal high mountain time of prayer and fasting. That's what Satan tried to do with Jesus when he was tempted in Luke 4. But Jesus would have none of it. Why? No ego to stroke! Over the years I've wondered why God, why? I've followed everything all the church growth guys told me to do. I've worked hard. I've prayed and fasted. Then the Word of the Lord came to me... "Brad, I told you to 'Go and make disciples.' I told you to 'Be my witness.' I told you, 'You plant and water, I'll cause the growth.' I've told you to be faithful no matter what, even when everyone turns and leaves." Steven, I couldn't help but wonder, why didn't Jesus have a mega church? He could have. He could have had a church of 20,000 at the feeding of the 5000. Was he not ambitious enough? For whatever reason and I think I know why, he chose for focus on making disciples of the 12, the 70. See, after doing my internship at Willow and I love Bill Hybels and I learned much there, but after seeing many mega churches, I now am not impressed with large numbers on Sunday morning. What impresses me is how many are serving? How many are SOAPing? How many are Tithing? These question help to see if Disciples are truly being made. Not what the count is on Sunday morning. God Bless you Steven. But be careful making statements like, "I?ve seen too many pastors settle for reaching hundreds when God called them to reach thousands." That's a bit arrogant. How do you really know what God's will is for them and all they've gone through? Just sayin!

Kurt Wesolowski

commented on May 15, 2012

I agree with you, KB and Mark. When I saw that paragraph, my first thought was to replace to word ambition at the beginning of the sentence with the word obedience. When you do that it seems much more accurate to the testimony of the Scriptures. It also makes me wonder about our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church, who faithfully serve and are obedient to the point of death in impossible situations, but have little numerically to show for it. If they were more ?ambitious? would they have seen more people come to Christ? They are obedient, and that is what God requires of us.

Zachary Bartels

commented on May 15, 2012

Another confused stinker from Furtick... If a huge number of people reprove you for arrogance and Scripture-twisting, it must mean you're doing something RIGHT. They're just "haters." <Sighhh..>

Brad Brucker

commented on May 15, 2012

Steven, praise God that he has used you to reach many and you now have a church of 9000. Wow! I think I would agree with KB though, that Noah, Solomon and perhaps even Paul didn't do what they did because of ambition. After doing my internship at Willow Creek and then planting a church in Oregon in 1999 and going to church growth conferences and following all the Outreach Marketing protocols for reaching lost people and growing a church. After, doing Nelson Searcy church growth systems and being personally coached by Nelson to grow Woodhaven (our church) to around 400 on Sundays with two sites, I think I've been ambitious, but have not accomplished what my arrogance and pride hoped for. See, I've learned that much of what I've wanted was all about me and my ego. God spoke to me on a personal high mountain time of prayer and fasting. That's what Satan tried to do with Jesus when he was tempted in Luke 4. But Jesus would have none of it. Why? No ego to stroke! Over the years I've wondered why God, why? I've followed everything all the church growth guys told me to do. I've worked hard. I've prayed and fasted. Then the Word of the Lord came to me... "Brad, I told you to 'Go and make disciples.' I told you to 'Be my witness.' I told you, 'You plant and water, I'll cause the growth.' I've told you to be faithful no matter what, even when everyone turns and leaves." Steven, I couldn't help but wonder, why didn't Jesus have a mega church? He could have. He could have had a church of 20,000 at the feeding of the 5000. Was he not ambitious enough? For whatever reason and I think I know why, he chose for focus on making disciples of the 12, the 70. See, after doing my internship at Willow and I love Bill Hybels and I learned much there, but after seeing many mega churches, I now am not impressed with large numbers on Sunday morning. What impresses me is how many are serving? How many are SOAPing? How many are Tithing? These question help to see if Disciples are truly being made. Not what the count is on Sunday morning. God Bless you Steven. But be careful making statements like, "I?ve seen too many pastors settle for reaching hundreds when God called them to reach thousands." That's a bit arrogant. How do you really know what God's will is for them and all they've gone through? Just sayin!

Brad Brucker

commented on May 15, 2012

Steven, praise God that he has used you to reach many and you now have a church of 9000. Wow! I think I would agree with KB though, that Noah, Solomon and perhaps even Paul didn't do what they did because of ambition. After doing my internship at Willow Creek and then planting a church in Oregon in 1999 and going to church growth conferences and following all the Outreach Marketing protocols for reaching lost people and growing a church. After, doing Nelson Searcy church growth systems and being personally coached by Nelson to grow Woodhaven (our church) to around 400 on Sundays with two sites, I think I've been ambitious, but have not accomplished what my arrogance and pride hoped for. See, I've learned that much of what I've wanted was all about me and my ego. God spoke to me on a personal high mountain time of prayer and fasting. That's what Satan tried to do with Jesus when he was tempted in Luke 4. But Jesus would have none of it. Why? No ego to stroke! Over the years I've wondered why God, why? I've followed everything all the church growth guys told me to do. I've worked hard. I've prayed and fasted. Then the Word of the Lord came to me... "Brad, I told you to 'Go and make disciples.' I told you to 'Be my witness.' I told you, 'You plant and water, I'll cause the growth.' I've told you to be faithful no matter what, even when everyone turns and leaves." Steven, I couldn't help but wonder, why didn't Jesus have a mega church? He could have. He could have had a church of 20,000 at the feeding of the 5000. Was he not ambitious enough? For whatever reason and I think I know why, he chose for focus on making disciples of the 12, the 70. See, after doing my internship at Willow and I love Bill Hybels and I learned much there, but after seeing many mega churches, I now am not impressed with large numbers on Sunday morning. What impresses me is how many are serving? How many are SOAPing? How many are Tithing? These question help to see if Disciples are truly being made. Not what the count is on Sunday morning. God Bless you Steven. But be careful making statements like, "I?ve seen too many pastors settle for reaching hundreds when God called them to reach thousands." That's a bit arrogant. How do you really know what God's will is for them and all they've gone through? Just sayin!

Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on May 15, 2012

I was somewhat taken back by the author's challenge to be so ambitious (for God, mind you), that he encourages us that it is acceptable to come across as arrogant, at least occasionally. From my perspective, as one who has taught in schools from MS through college, and pastored a number of churches, that is one of the things we do pretty well without being exhorted by a fellow pastor. I can tell you of far too many instances when our “arrogance” has turned unbelievers away from Christ and believers off to the reality of Christ. Christ calls us to not lead like the world’s leaders in their pride and ambition. I just read this Scripture a day or two ago: “Suppose someone has a servant who is plowing fields or watching sheep. Does he tell his servant when he comes from the field, ‘Have something to eat’? 8 No. Instead, he tells his servant, ‘Get dinner ready for me! After you serve me my dinner, you can eat yours.’ 9 He doesn’t thank the servant for following orders. 10 That’s the way it is with you. When you’ve done everything you’re ordered to do, say, ‘We’re worthless servants. We’ve only done our duty.’ ” (GW) Luke 17:7-10 Maybe we are way beyond that today, but I doubt it.

Christian Le

commented on May 15, 2012

At the end of the day, the Lord is calling us to obedience to his great commandment and commission. Go making disciples teaching people all things beloved Jesus Christ our Lord has taught us. We need God?s vision, passion, compassion for God and the lost people. We need to have God?s heart, his heartbeat to love people without Christ. We need tears and holy tears. Be faithful and prayerful to reach out and serving the lost. Do the things Christ has done. Doing the PhD. To preach the Gospel of the kingdom, heal the sick, and deliver people from the power of darkness. Fulfill our ministry as his servant and witness to the lost world. We need a godly attitude and humility and a reverent awe tofor his name to serve the Lord with fear and trembling until the end of our life. To God be the glory!

Guillermina Grandt

commented on May 16, 2012

I agree with you Dave Dake. God Bless you and never give up!!!

John E Miller

commented on May 24, 2012

This is all about Mr Stephen Furtick. He says, "Let me free you". What does the Scripture say? "If the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed". That includes being free of ambition. Where did ambition first manifest itself? Who dared to tempt the Son of God by offering Him all the kingdoms of this world if He would bow down and worship the tempter? Mr Stephen Furtick's gospel is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is a Gospel of down-stooping love, a Gospel of obedience to death, the death of the cross. The cross is the end of man's ambition.

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