We live in the age of personal branding and self-promotion… where people are serious about making a name for themselves. How, as Christian leaders, do we avoid the temptation of pride and selfish ambition that can so easily ensnare us?
The following extract is from the book ‘Being the Message’ where Andy Hawthorne (International CEO of The Message Trust) advocates that, in order to avoid the danger of being a people-pleaser, we need to take serving seriously and focus on following the example of Christ…
Jesus was the perfect role model of living for an ‘audience of One.’ Surely, as the person who spoke the whole earth into being, it would have been reasonable for him to expect a bit of service and respect when he became flesh and visited the planet he had made! But instead, he constantly took on the role of a servant, even washing his disciples’ smelly feet as an example that we should follow, and teaching that will be blessed if we can be similarly servant-hearted. I want to experience the kind of blessing that comes from having that favour of God on my life. I believe that comes as we take the gospel seriously – but not ourselves.
Michael Baughen is a former Bishop of Chester, and as such would have all kinds of people address him as ‘Lord Bishop’ and other fancy titles. He admitted that he also quite liked dressing up in the outrageous bishops’ robes (which to be fair, are about as far from the Carpenter of Nazareth’s garb as you could possibly get). So in order to keep himself grounded, he would always keep a small piece of towel in his pocket to remind him that he was here to serve and not be served, and that he, as the leader, needed to constantly work out what it looked like to wash other disciples’ feet.
I get the feeling that the reason that Jesus was able to say of John the Baptist that ‘among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater’ (Matthew 11:11), was because he didn’t believe his hype that he was the new Elijah or the prophet they had all been waiting for. John’s life and ministry were defined by his conviction that ‘He [Jesus] must become greater, I must become less’ (John 3:30). Indeed, when it was time to give away two of his own disciples to Jesus’ ministry, namely Simon and Andrew, he did so unhesitatingly…
The Message is home to some incredibly talented and creative mission teams who often perform in front of large numbers of screaming young people. Even though the object of these gigs is always to create a clear platform for the gospel, there will still be a number of these young people who love to tell our bands for hours after how awesome they are, whilst desperately seeking selfies and autographs. This little bit of fame can actually be very bad for the soul, and unless the guys and girls are really rooted in Jesus, they can start slipping down the slope of pride. We simply can’t afford for this to happen. The Bible repeatedly says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble – and I know for sure which one I want.
Andy Hawthorne, Being the Message (2017), p. 60-62. Available from https://shop.message.org.uk/product/being-the-message/ or see https://amazon.com/author/timtucker