Is Your Altar as Big as Your Heart?

Leadership is broken because leaders are unbroken

Is Your Altar as Big as Your Heart?

When I was twelve years old I put my heart on God’s altar.  It happened on a Sunday morning when Mr. Stewart, the superintendent of the junior high Sunday school department in my church, exhorted us mightily to give our all to the Lord.  I don’t remember what he said, just that he spoke with intense passion about giving our all to Christ.  As I listened I remember distinctly thinking, “That’s what I thought it’s all about.  That’s what I did when I trusted Jesus as my Savior.”  I became a Christian in my kitchen with my mother when I was five years old, and it was the real thing.  My heart was on the altar for Christ and at twelve I made sure it would stay there.

But that was not the end of it.  It couldn’t be. After all I had no idea what it would take to be a man, let alone a husband or a pastor or a father or a leader or a professor or a grand-father or a mentor or to travel the world serving Christ or even where California was or why it was still light in California but dark in Philadelphia when I watched UCLA play football on Saturday afternoons.  And what does that have to do with anything?  Quite a bit since I did two internships in California, married a girl from California, started a church in California, and lived in California for thirteen years.  California became one of the most formative places of my life, and I didn’t even know where it was when I put my heart on God’s altar.  My point is this:  the event of putting my heart on God’s altar had to be followed by a process of growing my altar as my heart grew and as my life expanded, and that could only happen through brokenness.

This is why the altared heart is so critical to leaders and leadership and why we must understand that the altared heart is not a one-time event, but a many times process.  During my teen-age years I was an avid Christian doing all kinds of crazy things for Christ like carrying my Bible to school every day and speaking at street meetings in Philadelphia.  Wild stuff.  After a while across the years of my life I realized that I wasn’t as crazy as I used to be, not as radical as I once was. Some might call it maturity, but I realized that I was more concerned with success than with service or sacrifice.  That’s when I put it together:  my heart was growing as my life expanded, but my altar wasn’t, so much of my heart was off my altar, and my faith was not as fresh as it once had been.  The original commitment was still there as strong as ever, but parts of my heart had outgrown my altar, and that’s where my discontent and drivenness had taken root.  I understood that I needed to grow my altar to be as big as my heart.

So what about you?  Is your altar as big as your heart or has your heart outgrown your altar?  Is your faith fresh, your ambition holy, your drivenness a passion for God’s glory or a demand for your glory in the name of Jesus?  Remember, if you’re not broken, your leadership is.

And how do you grow your altar so it’s as big as your heart?  Let’s think about that.  (from "Is Your Altar as Big as Your Heart" on

Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.