Before you read this article, we have been blessed as a church by many sharing their experiences, thoughts, poems, hymns and verses on the WhatsApp group which is a wonderful thing – that was the original intention for why I started the group. In no way do I want that to stop. But Christians should be aware of their own motives and desires for posting anything about their Christian service and gifts online. Self-glorifying also happens too often in a person where the conversation is always directed back to their own experiences and abilities. There is a fine line between sharing something for another’s encouragement and sharing something to receive praise. What I am about to say, ultimately, is down to the person’s conscience. Moreover, this article is not directed against any one person. It comes from noticing the tendencies of my own pride in others. It is an attempt to a prevent a culture of ‘look-at-me’ from growing within our church.
“You will never glory in God till first of all God has killed your glorying in yourself.” – Charles Spurgeon
My wife, Libby, recently posted the above quote of Spurgeon’s on our church WhatsApp group. I find it to be particularly suited for our current climate. She spent time thinking about it and having been convicted of her own pride, she thought it should be shared with her brothers and sisters in Christ that we may abandon our pride and exalt Christ. We are all guilty of glorifying in ourselves, but some of us are more public with it than others are.
I know people who serve the Lord in ways that no one knows about—they do so quietly, not wanting any praise, acknowledgement or appreciation. I’m aware of what they do because I am the Pastor – it’s necessary for me to know who’s doing what and what’s going on. But I also know people who serve the Lord loudly. They post pictures on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram of their ‘good works’, or they use tactics out of fake humility to invite others to look at their ‘service’ to the Lord. This needs to stop.
I know someone who will bake cakes for the elderly in her church and will post the pictures online asking whether anyone has any ideas of other things she could bake. Her tactic is to pretend that she’s concerned with new cake ideas, when actually, she is concerned with others knowing what she’s doing for the elderly. It’s what gives her value and a sense of worth. Why doesn’t she find her worth in Christ? Isn’t he enough?
I know another man who helps the homeless and posts pictures online exhibiting what he has done in the name of ‘raising awareness’. Helping the homeless is a vital work, but if the motive for doing so is to boast in your work, then who gets the glory? But I know of another man who helps the homeless, and he is not concerned at all with other people’s perception of him. His ministry is far more fruitful.
I once saw a man, the general secretary of a conference, stand up and thank everyone at the last service of the conference. He thanked all and especially the volunteers. In doing so, he made it very clear that he himself was unpaid. He said, “I would most of all like to thank the volunteers…” at which point he added, “I’m not including myself, obviously, I’ve hardly done anything…”. This was met with a chuckle from the audience as he proceeded to thank the volunteers. I was shocked! In front of a couple thousand people, he made known that he was a volunteer but tried to cover it with a fake humility (some fell for it) that he was not deserving of being thanked.
I know of others who compete with their serving efforts. As soon as a photo is posted by Person A, a photo is posted by Person B. When they speak with one another, it is admittedly quite comical. Person A tells Person B what they’ve done to serve, and Person A has to top it with their own experience. Both are intimidated by each other, and both are insecure of their identity in Christ.
Not only do Christians boast in their service, but they also boast in their gifts and talents, and glorify in them. They perform for others to see how ‘great’ they are. Brothers and sisters, we are not your spectators, spare us your cry for approval. Use your gifts in the context that the Lord has prepared for you.
It ROBS God of his glory. This is not serving him, it’s serving self. It’s inviting others to gaze at your Christian-service résumé – to see what a good Christian you are, how talented you are, how generous you are and how selfless you are. This is so opposed to the gospel! It’s Pharisaical! It has to stop. I see it far too often – even in our own church. It’s especially ripe during this season as we struggle with the issues surrounding COVID-19. There is a fine line between sharing ideas as to how we can serve the church and the community and wanting others to notice how we’re going to help during this time.
Obviously, some forms of serving the Lord are public (preaching, evangelism, leading a group/study, leading worship etc.). But even in these roles of serving, the goal is to point to Jesus and not to self. Some ministries are public, and others are behind the scenes. We should want as many people as possible to see public ministry, but the things done in the background are unseen for a reason. Every form of ministry should ultimately and eventually work together to bring people under the preaching and teaching of God’s word.
I know many pastors who post their blogs and sermons on their personal social media accounts. It used to make me feel very uncomfortable, but actually, that is the purpose of their ministry; to reach as many people with sound Bible teaching as possible. However, there can still be an element of ‘look at me’ involved. Pastors, if you post them, don’t just post the ones you’re happy with. Post them all.
Even in writing this article, I have to answer the question: Am I writing this because I want people to view me a certain way, or am I genuinely concerned about the sin of robbing God of his glory? Some might observe that what I’m about to say is fake humility: but I am so very guilty of robbing God of his glory myself. I am absolutely guilty of wanting others to thank me and notice what I do.
So, even as I sit here judging other people’s sin, I invite you to judge mine. If you know me, and at any time notice me seeking praise or recognition, please rebuke me gently out of love for my own good. I am fully aware that even as I write this, the person reading may well see a massive plank in my eye (Matt. 7:6) and wonder who I think I am to write an article like this.
This article will probably be received with mixed response. Some will ‘amen’ it, and others will stir in their anger that I should so judgmentally say such things. And still others will dwell on the person they know who behaves like this instead of noticing their own pride.
In all honesty, I love to be thanked, I love to be appreciated, I love to be praised, and in some circumstances, I love to be noticed. As a sinful preacher, I want others to notice me, but at the same time my prayer is that the listener would see past the preacher and notice Christ. There is an undeniable battle going on inside of me. My flesh desires the glory, but the Spirit of God who dwells in me is teaching me to give the glory to God (Gal. 5:17) which is actually infinitely more satisfying and rewarding.
I remember feeling a deep sense of calling to ministry as a nineteen-year-old and spending ages sitting and praying that God would use me for big things. I really wanted to do big things for God, and I still do. I wasn’t content with leading youth groups and preaching in small churches. I wanted to do bigger things. But by having this mindset, I was in real danger of falling into the trap of worshiping the method of service rather than the God whom I should serve. I began to wonder how much of my passion was a yearning for God, and how much of it was a desire to be a famous preacher. My focus turned to how big my ministry could potentially be rather than on how big the God I would minister for is.
I am noticing more and more that God will do whatever he wants with my public preaching and teaching. Be it big or small. What really matters is whether I know that God is aware of what I do for him quietly—that’s what brings me the most joy—the approval of my heavenly Father. I can’t imagine that Jesus had ever experienced greater joy on earth than when his Father declared from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
Let’s make every effort to abandon the worldly culture of ‘look-at-me-and-my-good-works’ mentality. Charity has been robbed by humanism for self-glory. Let’s serve our Lord not by shouting from the rooftops, but by plodding on quietly at the foundations. The Lord will build his church without our posting good works on social media. He will use us how we wills—big or small—and may our glory be Christ.
Written by: Pastor Gwydion