The Prestige Challenge: The Danger of “Keeping Up with the Jones'” as a Preacher

 |  June 15, 2018

Prestige is defined as “reputation or influence arising from success, achievement, rank, or other favorable attributes.”[1]”Prestige” from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/prestige?s=t. Can the desire for prestige become a danger for the preacher who seeks to serve the Lord? What would be the draw toward prestige for men who are committed to being humble servants of the Lord?

For one moment, let’s move away from the idea of “prestige.” Let’s use a more acceptable term, if you will. Ambition is defined as “an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.”[2]”Ambition” from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ambition?s=t. Notice that prestige is something that may or may not be heaped upon you during the course of your ministry. History shows that from time to time, God uses men mightily for His glory. When this happened, both the church and the world take notice. There are hundreds of names that could be listed: Chrysostom, Augustine, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Lewis, and Bonhoeffer. These names are familiar for different reasons, but no one would argue that these individuals were not used by God and—in turn—had a certain amount of prestige.

Possessing prestige is passive while ambition is active. Should a preacher be ambitious? Notice, the above definition of ambition contains the phrase “the willingness to strive for its (recognition of achievement or distinction) attainment.” Ambition is the essence of “keeping up with the Joneses” in a ministerial sense. Perhaps it starts innocently enough. The preacher has a certain amount of natural gifting and wonders why he doesn’t have as big a church, platform, or influence as someone that he exceeds in natural ability.

Make no mistake: this is pride at work. That same old sin begins to creep up, and the preacher is on dangerous ground indeed. When we refer to scripture, we see that God uses different people in different ways and to different degrees. For every Moses, there is a Jeremiah. While Moses was used to usher in the greatest events in the corporate life of ancient Israel, Jeremiah preached his whole ministry to God’s people and they did not listen. Not only did they not listen, God told Jeremiah beforehand that they would not listen.

While we could add many different names to this discussion, let’s add only 12 more: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the Lesser, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas. Secretly, all preachers want to be used like Peter. They would be happy to be used like James, John, or even Andrew. They would love to write something noteworthy like Matthew. No one wants to doubt like Thomas (though we all do) and no one wants to fail like Judas (praise God if we don’t).

Here are the real questions. Would you be willing to serve in relative obscurity like Bartholomew, Philip, and Thaddeus? What about those other two guys—James the Lesser and Simon the Zealot—whose very identities are defined by the fact they aren’t the “James” and “Simon” that everyone actually knows? Would you be satisfied? Of these 12 names, we have 11 successes and 1 spectacular failure! The difference between success and failure—for the disciples and anyone else we see in scripture—is faithfulness.

We can be successful in God’s eyes—whether we have a Moses type ministry or a Jeremiah type ministry—if we are faithful to serve God where He has us. You may or may not receive any prestige related to your service to the Lord. You may be surrounded by preachers that have bigger platforms than you. You may wonder why God doesn’t use you as much or more than the next guy.

Always remember, God doesn’t measure success like the world measures success. He is looking for faithful men who will commit to preaching His word and are willing to leave the results up to Him. Don’t allow your ambition to derail a fruitful ministry of faithfulness! Lord, use us in any way You see fit to accomplish Your will for Your glory. If we receive any prestige, let us be humble enough to turn that recognition back in Your direction and praise You for Your faithfulness.

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