At a recent conference, two speakers caught my attention and caused me to examine my heart and ministry. The first was a well-known pastor. I'd never heard her speak before, so I was eager to hear what she had to say. My excitement faded quickly, though, when she started.
She was focused on putting on a performance rather than teaching well. She told a story about looking at the television as a young girl and saying to herself, “I want to be famous one day.” Today she is famous. She’s living the famous lifestyle as well with a huge home, a nice car, and expensive possessions. As she shared, I couldn’t help but wonder if her wish had come true at the expense of Jesus.
Then she started teaching things that weren’t biblical. She shared that she believed divorce was a blessing from God, and she told stories about how it was a gift in her life. I couldn’t believe my ears, yet the audience cheered. Her irresponsible teaching—and Bible reading—seemed to be excused because she was famous.
The final speaker at the conference, though, was very different. A small woman in her seventies made her way to the stage. With no website, and no Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram account, this woman was relatively unknown. And yet she preached the Word of God in a way I’d never heard before. She spoke with might and passion, yet she was incredibly humble. She even chose to sit out in the audience during the conference rather than in the seats reserved for speakers. The entire sanctuary was weeping and praising God by the end of her sermon.
Jesus said those who follow him follow the narrow road. The disciples were beaten, poisoned, tortured, and martyred for the gospel—nothing remotely close to the preachers today who walk the red carpet of flashing lights, mansions, magazine covers, reality shows, limos, and entourage. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, yet some preachers today preach from their head and not by the Spirit’s leading. The disciples grew God's kingdom, yet some preachers today are growing the size of their church buildings. Satan offered Jesus a crown without the cross, and it seems he’s done the same for many pastors today.
I rarely hear the stories of pastors who are on their knees in prayer. Rather, I hear the stories of pastors who feel called to start a mega-church, people who want to be famous Christian speakers, and Christian speakers looking for the VIP entrance to a church because they won’t enter the same door as everyone else. If a pastor's heart is to be famous first, then she will make it happen—with or without God.
But the great Christians of the past followed a different way. Think of Amanda Berry Smith, a former slave who was given amazing opportunities to travel the world and preach—but only because she depended on God for everything she had. Or think of Elisabeth Elliot, who led a whole people group to Christ—even after they killed her husband.
So many of us are looking for our platform, but do we love God enough to trust his plan for our ministries? Do we believe our calling could simply be to make disciples where we are, with the people God has placed around us? Do we trust that work is just as worthy as the work of the world-famous preacher?
It’s easy to fall into the temptation of fame, and Satan would like nothing more. But pastor or not, to follow Christ is to be a disciple, and discipleship requires that we are committed wholly to God and his ways. We can’t have one foot in the world and the other in God's kingdom.
We were made for so much more than man-made fame. We are meant to be consumed by God’s love, filled with the Spirit of power, and compelled to serve the least around us. God calls us to die to ourselves and live for him. And when God has our full attention, the possibilities are endless—the Bible is clear on that. Are you willing to give God your full attention?
Time for a Heart Check
Use the questions below to invite God to examine your heart:
- What are my true motivations for ministry?
- Do I spend more time seeking God or building my influence?
- Do I see some work as more worthy than other work? Why or why not?
- As a leader, do I expect to be treated differently than the people in my ministry?
- Do I hope (even secretly) to have a measure of fame someday?
- What actions in my life show a contradiction with God’s Word? How can I work on those areas?
- When does my focus on the future cause me to miss out on my present ministry?
Saleama A. Ruvalcaba is a wife and mother of five. She is a home educator and a Bible student soon graduating from Evangel University with a degree in Church Ministries.