by Dave Miller
the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something
the action of making or declaring something legally or officially acceptable
recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile
We are always looking for validation in most everything we do and from everyone to whom we relate.
Validation is a helpful motivating tool. As leaders we can greatly encourage an emerging leader with validation of their growth. We can support and revive a struggling brother through validating the value of the struggle for future growth. We can spur partners in the gospel on to greater work through validating his or her efforts.
On the other hand, validation can become one of our most hindering enemies. When validation becomes our focus, we are paralyzed or worse derailed from our role in the mission. Tim Keller wrote in Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World, “[Idolatry] means turning a good thing into an ultimate thing.” This shift usually begins in the heart by comparison of self to someone else’s work. You know it and I know it when we experience that split second of jealousy or self-pity. This moment indulged can spell disaster for your effectiveness in the kingdom.
Think of this scenario:
A couple experiences a season of fruitful ministry and finds themselves leaving the local work because of circumstances beyond their control. Arriving in a new location without title or organizational affiliation they struggle to find their place and purpose once again in the kingdom. The work of disciple making rarely factors into this season because the work was attached to the validation by relationships and organizational structure, both of which are gone. A few years go by and another organizational leadership position comes open. Once the new role is assumed, disciple making becomes the primary calling again and total focus of energy and work.
I ask a simple question, even though it smacks of a judgment. Is the work of disciple making attached to validation of men?
I have seen many times over a scenario like the one described above cripple fruitful labor. I have allowed this type of scenario cripple me. The locations are different. The people are different. The organizations are different. One thing remains the same. If there is not a person or organization who we see as authoritative to validate our work, the work becomes a hobby at best and at worst, stops completely.
The irony of the situation? Validation is completely normal and actually a kingdom principle. The issue? From whom do we seek our validation?
Validation is completely normal and actually a kingdom principle.
Jesus said all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him, therefore make disciples. That is validation! The King of all the earth, the ultimate authority has given you the task and identity of disciple maker. The Kingdom King has pronounced you valid to engage in the kingdom work!!!!!
When we replace the validation of the King with the validation of men, we step into idolatry replacing our Savior with a pathetically pseudo version. The pseudo-savior, whoever or whatever it may be will always fail us for one specific reason. In no way will it or they ever be able to keep the relational promise to be with us ALWAYS to the end of the age. Jesus is the only one who has ultimate authority and perfect relational capacity to never leave us or forsake us.
Jesus is the only one who has ultimate authority and perfect relational capacity to never leave us or forsake us.
If you want to know if your heart is struggling with validation in disciple making take a close look at when you thrive in disciple making and when you struggle to care. Partners in the gospel, Great Commission focused organizations, and our church can be incredibly important to spur us on to love and good deeds, as well they should. But what drives the disciple maker in the depths of his or her soul is the identity that Jesus, the ultimate King, has called me to make disciples and will ALWAYS be there to uplift, encourage, empower, and rejoice over our work.
As leaders be careful to use your influence or authority in the life of another disciple maker to push them to find their identity and purpose in Christ. The moment we use that same influence to manipulate or persuade another by withholding or giving validation for the purpose of our agenda we dance on the line of idolatry ourselves by placing ourselves in the position of authority instead of steward.
The answer to both is simple and requires a lifetime of intentional cultivation:
The Holy Spirit reminds me through the Word of God that Jesus loves me and called me, and I choose to believe it.
Until there’s #NoPlaceLeft…