How to be a Kingdom Seeker and Not An Empire Builder

“You compete at sea, and people can die.”

Those bold words came from the captain of a 110-plus-foot sailing ship a few years ago. The captain, his crew and their sister-ship crew had just completed a leadership challenge our Arrow team had created as part of some dryland team development. But they didn’t just complete the exercise, they shattered the all-time record.

Their secret…collaboration and cooperation.

SailingUnlike almost every other group we’ve worked with, these two ship crews didn’t start the exercise by competing with one another. Instead, they immediately began to work together to solve the leadership challenge. Their collaboration and cooperation were critical to their record-breaking success.

When our team asked them why they so quickly chose to work together, they were surprised by the question. For them, working together was intuitive and obvious. Working together wasn’t just their preference or simply their regular custom, it was the rule of the sea. As the captain shared, when you are hundreds of miles from land and facing powerful winds and unrelenting waves, you help one another. If you don’t, people can die.

The wisdom from this captain is simple but profound. When you consider his context, it makes total sense. And this same wisdom is also simple but profound for the Church and God’s work around the world. In our context, the Church is at sea. Powerful winds of change are blowing. Waves are pounding. The safe routes of the past are no longer passable or even recognizable.

So how do we Lead Different in this unique context at this special time in God’s story?

First, we need to recognize that even on the calmest day, God’s mission is way bigger than any one person, any one church or any one organization. No matter how big, smart, strategic, disciplined or well-resourced, no one can do what needs to be done on their own.

Second, God desires us to be Kingdom seekers not empire builders. Building our own name, seeking our own agenda and furthering our own purposes is about empire building. In stark contrast, Kingdom seeking is about seeking God’s heart and furthering His purposes for His glory.

To Lead Different, we need to be Kingdom seekers not empire builders. To Lead Different, we need to collaborate and cooperate as the body of Christ. To Lead Different, we need to seek God’s heart and serve together, furthering His purposes for His glory.

Here are two practical expressions of what Kingdom seeking can look like:

• Rather than start a new ministry, first look around for others doing similar work. Could you join them, learn from them, support them, collaborate with them, etc.?

• Gather senior leaders from similar ministries together to pray, share best practices, explore synergy and support one another. Department level staff could do the same.

To access further practical expressions, you can download our shareable tool: 10 Practical Expressions of Kingdom Seeking

What’s a next step for you in collaborating and cooperating as you seek His Kingdom?

Cheering you on to Lead Different,

Dr. Steve A. Brown


Great Mentoring for Real Life ChangeArrow is launching a NEW resource in June! Whether you are considering becoming a mentor for the first time or you are seeking to equip a team of mentors in your context, Great Mentoring for Real Life Change will give you the tools you need to do both.