by Jamaal Williams
When I was an undergraduate in college, I remember standing next to an inspiring preacher one early afternoon in the lobby of a hotel where a significant collegiate conference was taking place. Suddenly a beautiful vehicle pulled up to the front door with a relatively well-known speaker in the back seat. At that moment the inspiring young preacher looked up at me and said something to this effect: “ One day, I’m going to pull up to a conference like him, and there are going to be droves of people waiting for me and wanting to meet me.” Shocked by his forthrightness, I remained silent and walked away.
Sadly, in today’s time the desire and temptation to be famous has infiltrated many seminary classrooms and pulpits across America. Admittedly, if not checked, this can live inside my own chest and flow through my own veins. I recognize that this desire must be immediately crucified or one’s ministry will be plastic instead of steel, self-aggrandizing rather than God-glorifying. Being a pastor has many temptations and pitfalls. Striving to be a famous pastor ensures that you will fall into one. Here are three reasons why we should strive to be faithful, not famous, pastors:
First, if we strive to be famous, we miss the heart of our call as pastors.
A pastor’s job is to preach, pray, and provide oversight for the body of Christ (Acts 6:4, 1Tim 3-4). When we idolize the amount of social media followers we have, or the look in people’s eye when we arrive at an engagement, our heart will simply lust and desire for more and more. This is the message of the book of Ecclesiastes; that the more we drink from the world’s fountain, the thirstier we are. It’s an empty attempt, like striving after the wind. Seeking satisfaction in anything other than Jesus brings more thirst and eventually terminal dehydration.
Second, if we strive to be famous, we set ourselves up to peddle God’s word.
In 1 Corinthians 1:16, the Apostle Paul writes: “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word.” Now, just like then, there are so many who peddle God’s word. If what drives us is the desire to be thought well of by others, then we set ourselves up for a troubled eternity. Jesus said, in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Like Demas (2 Tim 3:10), we can quickly find ourselves enthralled with the world because of the fear and love of the things of the world. Let us remember that Jesus was a great and famous preacher whose audience grew and shrunk based on his preaching calendar. If being famous comes at the expense of preaching truth, then we’ve sold out.
Third, if we strive to be famous, we won’t have the mind of Christ (Phillipians 2:5-11, Mark 10:35-45).
If we read our Bibles without being absolutely stunned and mesmerized with the incarnation of Jesus, and His humility and servitude, then our souls are in trouble. Jesus was and is the greatest Servant. It was Christ who forgave our sins and refused to interrupt God’s plan because of His own personal pain and the shame He would endure for us; He alone deserves glory. Let us give the praise that we may receive from others to Him, knowing that He alone is worthy of it.
We don’t have to wonder what Jesus drove to speaking engagements. The scriptures tell us that He didn’t have a problem riding on a mule. Although it was to shouts of “Hosanna,” He knew that those screams would soon be muted and replaced by demands for crucifixion. Jesus accepted both praise and denial with the same weight because His identity rested not in what lowly men thought, but in what His eternal Father had said about Him.
As pastors, our identity must be anchored in Christ, or the focus of our lives will become us and not the gospel. Being famous in God’s eyes looks different and is better than being famous in the eyes of men. Let’s treasure this truth and long to hear the Father say “good and faithful servant, (not famous servant) well done.”