During the early days of television, two shows dominated the airwaves. One was on Tuesday night and the other aired on Sunday evening. Initially the most popular of the two shows was The Texaco Star Theatre hosted by Milton Berle. Originally it was designed along the lines of the old-fashion vaudeville variety hour with a host highlighting half-a-dozen guests each week. However, little by little, Uncle Miltie became the star each week. As the format changed, the accent gradually focused increasingly on Berle himself. There were fewer guest acts, and Berle began to dominate each show. In just eight years, the steam ran out of Mr. Television. No one person is talented enough to carry any show, or any ministry, for more than a short time.
The other show, The Ed Sullivan Show, experienced a very different fate. If any show in the history of television could be called an institution, it would be The Ed Sullivan Show. Every Sunday night for more than two decades this show brought an incredible variety of entertainers into homes. Sullivan’s show continued as a major hit for fifteen years longer than Berle.
Unlike Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan never wavered from his original format. He was the host who called other people to center stage. Numerous performers made their television debut on his show: Walt Disney, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and hundreds more. Though Ed Sullivan died soon after the last run of his show, he will not soon be forgotten. His legacy outlives him.
Are You Like Milton Berle or Ed Sullivan?
God calls leaders in church and para-church groups to be like Ed Sullivan, not like Milton Berle. If we’re like Milton Berle, and the spotlight increasingly focuses on us and our individual ministry, then biblically we are missing God’s mark as equippers. If Christian leaders—lay or pastoral—fail to focus on equipping, then we selfishly treat God’s people like children who have never grown up spiritually.
God wants us to be like Ed Sullivan—a host who calls others to center stage by equipping them to fulfill their calling. If Christian leaders—lay or pastoral—focus on equipping, then we leave an other-centered legacy of loving leaders.
I’m convinced that you want to be an Ed Sullivan, not a Milton Berle. I know that you’re passionate about fulfilling your biblical calling to equip God’s people for every-member-ministry (2 Timothy 2:2).
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How will you be an Ed Sullivan equipper?