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He Must Become Greater; I Must Become Less

As I left the worship services (we have two), several prominent members of the congregation made a beeline for me. I could tell they meant business. I had no idea what they wanted to share with me, but there were definitely some wrinkled brows that were quite visible. Yes – I was wondering. As a school principal, I take such visible messages in stride, hopeful that whatever the conversation entails, it can be one that provides resolution for them and for me. At times I am pleasantly surprised, and at other moments – not so much. Mostly, though, these are congenial conversations that are filled with immense joy! As a Concordia University President shared with me a few years back, “Life is messy.” He was right. We live in a sin-filled world, one where we need to kneel at the foot of the cross each day in repentance and rely on God’s grace to sustain us.

This same Sunday was the day our District Executive came to present our accreditation award. The faculty, staff, and congregational team had worked so hard to ensure everything prepared in the self-study was correct and that the team visit would be an effective one. We had done well with our score and our recommendations were doable and would allow us to be more effective and to add value to our school ministry. Everyone was excited to hear the presentation and to receive the certificate. Looking more closely at the meaning of the moment, one can read the boldly typed words, “In recognition of a quality program of Christian Education as evidenced by its thorough self-study and acknowledged by the visiting committee, this accreditation is hereby granted….” And in brightly colored script, the power of God’s Word frames the effort and accomplishment:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Col. 3:23

We all know how much work a principal put into the process of accreditation, right? Much of it is facilitation, but the role itself allows her to fully understand the vision, inner workings, strategies, faith foundation, distinctively Lutheran culture, the calling of teachers and hiring of support staff, and really – directing the ship towards end goals and outcomes, all in faithful service to the Lord. As summer progresses towards the national committee making its decision, plans for a new school year are put together. Before this year begins, each ministry is notified, and if accredited, the district education executive is often called upon to present this prestigious award to the congregation. This is exactly what happened. It was a momentous day! The assistant principal and the Board of Christian Education each received requests to receive the award. To give perspective, it is the most beautifully framed piece in our building. It should be. It is significant! It is an accomplishment!

            The first man who had the furrowed brow walked right up to me and exclaimed, “Why weren’t you up there with your colleague and with the board members?!” He seemed visibly shaken. I simply said, “Bradley, it is not about me. It is about our wonderful team and how God has so richly blessed us at Zion.” I went on to explain to him and to several others that it was my choice not to be in the limelight, but rather to give this honor to the team of people that so love our school. The verse in Scripture that so aptly explains my philosophy of leadership is…

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30 (NIV)

This truth should permeate all our lives, upholding our great God first and foremost and lifting up others before ourselves. It really does not make sense to the world, but it fits well in being a biblical value that will continually bless others. I am not sure that the men and women that confronted me (lovingly) that morning fully understood my stance, but I would not change it for anything. If we could create such a culture in our Lutheran ministries, one of deep humility, can one imagine how we would serve more effectively? This is just simple insight, but it can make a profound difference in the life of others as we serve in honoring God (He must become greater) and in giving Him all the glory (I must become less). May we continually glorify God with our words, actions, and in our relational lives. To Him be the glory!

Thomas Wrege is an educator and principal, with 36 years in Lutheran school leadership. He has a desire to further the kingdom of God by providing rich resources that engage others to further their mission of sharing Jesus Christ throughout the world. He loves to be innovative and to collaborate with others in ministry.

2 Comments

  1. Michael Uden on March 8, 2022 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful piece, Tom. I so respect and appreciate so servant leadership approach, patterned after our Savior Jesus. God’s continued blessings to you and your impactful ministry!

  2. Thomas Wrege on March 17, 2022 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Uden! You always encourage me. You know my goal in such pieces is always to serve…

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