The challenge of John the Baptist
James Duff preached a challenging message last Sunday from John 1:19-34. John the Baptist – preparing the way for God to come. He knew who he was. He knew who he wasn’t. He played an extraordinary role – and yet…he could testify:
John 1:26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
In the context of this passage, I found Bob Hyatt’s article on Out of Ur, The Dangerous Pursuit of Pastoral Fame, pretty challenging. On the one hand, we are blessed that we live in a era where technology allows pastors to minister (whether through sermon downloads, blogs, books and so on) on a much broader scale than just to the local congregation. And yet, the flesh is weak and the dangers of self promotion and grandeur are real. Bob concludes the article with these words:
“Some signs you might be in danger:
You look at the speaker roster for a conference and think, Why did he/she get an invite and not me?
You feel jealous of others because of the size or scope of their ministry.
You begin to dream that somehow “hitting it big” (or even hitting it medium) will free you from ministry, or you begin to resent the small, mundane and unnoticed tasks of local church ministry.
You regularly Google yourself (please, no jokes in the comments.)
Your face appears on the front page of your church’s website.
You become a “friend collector” who racks up the Facebook/Twitter followers with the idea that someday, you’ll be able to leverage that when you write that book you’ve been talking about writing forever.
You find yourself thinking more and more about how you can get your name “out there.”
Please don’t think I’m condemning any pastor who has ever written a book or spoken at a conference. This is a very fuzzy area in which much grace needs to be extended. But if we never talk about the danger zone of self-promotion, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and those we are called to serve. If we don’t think hard, on a personal level, about our need to be known by people beyond those we are directly in relationship with and service to, we run the risk of becoming men and women who use the people God has given us to serve as a means to our own self-gratifying and glorifying ends.
More and more, I’m trying to lean hard into the credo of John the Baptist: He must increase, and I must decrease. Maybe others can manage the trick of doing this while simultaneously “building their brand.” If so, God bless them. I just know that I can’t. And I’m betting not many of us can.”