We’re all familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Humans wanted to make a name for themselves so they got together and conspired to build a tower that reached to the skies. In essence, they wanted to be like God and worship themselves instead of the one, true God.
There is something about “making a name for ourselves” that tries to draw and steal away our hearts. What exactly is it? Maybe for some we want to make a name for ourselves because we’re afraid of getting left behind; maybe for some it is a desire to control and gain power; maybe for some it is a seeking after approval and acceptance; and then maybe for some it is a reaction to a fear of failure and rejection. Whatever it may be, the desire to make a name for ourselves influences what we do more than we think sometimes, even within the walls of the church and the hearts of her leaders.
Being involved in kidmin, and even from previous experiences as a youth pastor, I find it is very easy to fall into wanting your ministry to have a name for itself and it’s very easy to want to make a name for yourself as a leader. Wanting people to notice the good work you do and wanting to be known as a great, inspiring leader can easily become the motivations that drive what you do.
I’ve recently been reading off and on in a book called Shrink and I also just listened to a talk called “Be a Disciple-Maker (Not Just a Leader)” given by Brannon Marshall. Both of these resources have reminded and convicted me of the difference between trying to be a leader who makes a name for myself and trying to be someone who is faithful and seeks to make disciples and do ministry the way Jesus did. These sources have inspired the words I write in this post.
I believe that there is nothing wrong with trying to be a good leader; but if, while trying to be a good leader, a person succumbs to the temptations of wanting people to worship them instead of Jesus, that is when it becomes a huge problem of sin in their heart.
Paul was very clear in 1 Corinthians when he said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”¹ This is one of the main, if not the main, differences of being faithful in our ministry vs. trying to build something to make a name for ourselves. When we seek to be faithful, we will be more concerned with the people we are working with than how our ministry is perceived by others. We will be motivated by love instead of pressures and fears from our own insecurities or from those of others. Insecurities and pressures will certainly come, but shifting the focus from building a great program to being faithful to Jesus and our neighbors will help with those insecurities over time. Focusing on being faithful instead of building something means that we will seek the best interest of those we’re serving instead of seeking our own interests in the disguise of doing ministry. Being faithful means we will acknowledge God when making decisions about stewardship and use things according His will instead of using things for our own self-seeking, “name-building” will.
The tension will always be there. We live in a world that is constantly communicating a message that it is all about us – following our dreams and goals, finding our place in the world; in other words, making a name for ourselves.
If you’re a ministry leader or volunteer, let’s get into the habit of asking ourselves, “Am I being faithful to the Lord or am I trying to build something for myself?” Something that the author of Shrink (mentioned above) wrote was that we should ask ourselves “what does it look like to be faithful to Jesus in this moment?” I think if we constantly ask ourselves those questions, it will change the way we think about leading and serving in ministry.
¹ 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV.