Question: Self-promotion or Self-less Service?
I would like to hear what you think about this. What has been your experience?
I mentioned to you in a recent post that I am spending much time in 2 Corinthians right now. There is a fascinating section of this book that I have read a number of times. The text is 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4. Paul is being accused by some opponents of not being the “real deal.” He responds by defending his integrity and role as an apostle and as a Christian minister. He reminds these people of the Gospel and its implications for ministry.
These opponents were apparently taking advantage of this church by promoting themselves. Meanwhile, they took Paul’s refusal to do so as a weakness. “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you” (3:1)? Also, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:5).
I know many ministers. I have witnessed many, many examples of self-less service. Away from microphones and the Sunday morning spotlight, these people give to others in ways that no one ever sees. I am not impressed with their ministry because of their speaking ability or their public gifts. Rather, it is because they live as “… servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:5).
On the other hand, I have also seen subtle and not so subtle acts of self-promotion. I cringe when the message from the minister seems to be, “I am important.” (I am not referring to a person living out an important role in the life of a church. Rather, I am referring to a self-consciousness that manages to communicate to others, “I personally am important and need to be noticed.”)
Sometimes, this same spirit is seen in the way some congregations appear to jockey with one another for position in a certain community. It almost appears that they are in a race to the finish, competing with every other church in town. Yet, is Christian ministry really supposed to be about churches competing with one another?
I am thinking through some of these concerns as I read through 2 Corinthians again and again. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and observations. What does this look like where you live? What has been your experience?
What are some examples of ministers who serve in ways that reflect they are “… servants for Jesus’ sake”? How have these people impressed you?
What are some examples of subtle and not so subtle self-promotion today (not searching for names but examples of behaviors that you have seen)?
Why do some congregations seem to almost be in competition with others in their communities?