STOVALL: Who’s popularity is more important, ours or Christ’s?

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

Let’s understand this about the call to the pastorate, or any other form of ministry:

Though there are some among us who are popular, we must not make the mistake of considering their popularity to be God’s exclusive nod of approval. I’m afraid that many of us today go into ministry with the thought that “Once I am widely known, I will have achieved God’s purpose for my life.”

I’m just letting you know this may, or may not be so with some of us. For some of us, God’s calling is one of relative societal obscurity. For some of us, we will toil behind the scenes as intercessors, like Anna the prophetess in Luke 2:36-37. She spoke and prophesied of Jesus, but the Scriptures call her an “aged woman” who, after her husband died, never left the temple, but spent her life fasting and praying. We only know about her through these several verses of Scripture, and she is never mentioned again.

Some of us may have a ministry like Oswald Chambers. Many of us read his devotionals in book form or through a website devoted to his teachings. He’s even got a Twitter page dedicated to the things he wrote. Funny thing about it is while he lived to write and preach these things, during the time he lived, he was considered a marginal preacher at best, with a very small, unassuming congregation. Never popular. Never in high demand. Chambers’ writings weren’t discovered, nor did they become widely read until well after he had died.

Some of us may have a ministry like the prophet Jeremiah, whose greatness couldn’t be measured by how many people came to God after his messages, or how many places of worship invited him to preach. That’s because his ministry was such that it had people rolling their eyes as he approached, instead of rolling out the red carpet for his arrival.

This, because they called him what we would refer to today as a “doom and gloom” type of preacher. Instead of soothing the ears of a wicked world, saying that all was well and God was pleased, he challenged people to a deeper, less superficial brand of religion and relationship with God.

Because of this, he never received top billing on the revival circuit. He never packed out the auditoriums. In fact, people who heard his messages sometimes responded by trying to kill him. And the stress of it all made Jeremiah want to quit and leave his “pulpit” altogether.

If you go back in history, you’ll see that this is often true for many who are called into some sort of ministry, whether vocationally or voluntarily.

What troubles me today is this generation of Christians who seemingly think that the telltale sign of their success in making Christ’s name great is found in how great of a household name they have become. True enough, we should endeavor to take Christ, His Gospel and His love to as many people as we can. Surely, we should make platforms and take advantage of opportunities to share His glory.

But we must also understand those platforms and opportunities are not one size fits all. Every Christian with the gift of song will not cut a multi-million dollar record deal. Every minister with the profound gift to preach and teach scripture is not destined to pastor a megachurch or stand on the platforms with those who are considered to be great. Every writer will not write a New York Times best-seller.

And — hear me when I say this — that’s okay.

It should not be our chief aspiration, as a carrier of Christ, to see ourselves “blow up” or “get big,” unless our blowing up and getting big is a by-product of Christ’s name becoming bigger through our obedience with our gifts.

Too many times, however, I fear it is done for a more local cause — ourselves.

Let’s be clear, lest someone thinks I’m just “hating” on people who have been blessed with certain platforms and levels of notoriety and popularity. God does entrust people whom He has called to have a measure of fame, fortune and notoriety. And when He does it, He does so with the expectation that the person whom He entrusts can be trusted to handle their influence in the right way.

In a God-honoring way. Not in a self-promoting way.

So, by all means, let’s make our websites, write our books, preach our sermons and sing our songs. Record them, distribute them to all who will hear. But let’s endeavor to keep this description about our Savior in mind as we do.

“Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7, NKJV)

Jesus. Son of God. Made Himself of no reputation? If it’s good enough for Him, then it should be good enough for us.