“So, David, what do you want your legacy to be?”
“Em, I’m not expecting to have much of one. Not leaving any debt is be about as much as I can hope for.”
“No, I don’t mean a financial legacy, I mean a spiritual legacy. What spiritual legacy do you want to leave behind?”
“Oh…eh…um… you know, I’ve never given it a thought. Should I?” I spluttered.
Having now had a couple of days to think about this surprising question, I think I’ve got a slightly more coherent response.
Ministering for the moment
First, I’m not living to leave a legacy. If I start thinking about my future name and reputation, I can easily foresee that having a detrimental effect on present decisions. There are certain things I may do or not do, say or not say, write or not write because it might harm my potential of leaving a “legacy.”
It’s hard enough making the right decisions day-to-day without having also to weigh the impact 50 years down the road. Better just think about the today and leave all the tomorrows with the Lord. In fact we’re probably more likely to leave a legacy if we don’t live for one.
Second, I’m not that concerned if my name and ministry fades from view a few years after I die. That’s what happens to 99.9% of preachers, missionaries, writers, bloggers, etc. So why not me? I’m not exactly the next Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, C S Lewis, or Tim Challies
Obviously there are some men who will leave an obvious legacy, rare men whom the Lord has raised up to recover a lost truth or emphasis (e.g. R C Sproul’s popularization of Reformed Theology), or to take an especially courageous stand against sin and for holiness. However, most of us have ordinary ministries, and our ministries will die with us.
I don’t imagine either of my two books will still be in print when I die. Someone will come along and write a better introductory book on depression, and a better beginner’s book on preaching – I’m sure they have already! My films will look dated in ten years, never mind fifty. And my blog will disappear into the ether. That’s life; it’s not a disaster; and I’m not sad about it.
Third, spiritual legacies are extremely hard to measure. They’re not measured by books published, size of church, or conference invitations. Spiritual legacies are largely invisible and therefore immeasurable.
Obviously I hope that my sermons, books, blog posts, etc., are impacting people for good – that sinners are being converted and saints sanctified, equipped, and prepared for heaven. However, how am I ever to know? Most of it is invisible, inaudible, and undetectable.
One thing I believe that heaven will reveal is that the vast majority of completely unknown and faithful pastors are leaving a bigger spiritual legacy behind in the hearts and lives of their flock than many who are preaching, ministering, and writing to huge audiences.
What did he leave?
But if you really push me, yes, there’s one thing I do want to leave behind – and that’s four converted children. I’d rather my children know Christ than people know who David Murray is a hundred years from now