When Your Ministry becomes Your Idol

When Your Ministry becomes Your Idol

 

It’s a rainy spring morning when a well-known women’s ministry publishes my heart-felt blog post. I’ve written for this site once in the past, and I know what this day will entail.  My own web site will receive more visits in one day than I normally receive in two weeks.  I’ll spend hours responding to the comments of other women at the bottom of my post, and it will all start to feel like this pursuit of writing might be making a difference.

This day will give me the kind of hope that comes when I start to believe that my words are being read by more than just my parents and my four closest friends. I’ll feel like maybe I’m reaching into the wide world and making a lasting impact on eternity.

Most of us have days like this at some point along the routine life of a rather ordinary calling. It happens when the local moms’ group asks you to speak about some aspect of parenting.  It happens when someone notices the work you do at your job and pats you on the back.  It happens when your boss tells you you’re doing a good job and gives you a bonus or your pastor calls and asks you to join the board of directors.

For just a moment, you feel noticed, and it feels better than you want you it to feel. It feels a little scary – like something inside you is awakened, and you fear you might crave more and more of this. You try to pretend you don’t care about any of the recognition, but inside, you’ve seldom felt more alive.

This particular spring morning with the rain and the blog post finds me in an unusual mental state. Throughout the past two weeks, I’ve struggled to type words on the laptop, and I’ve wondered if the well is running dry.  Writing hasn’t been coming easy, and I’ve kind of wanted to throw the towel in and take a break.

As I sit at the computer to promote the new blog post on social media, something surprising happens. I suddenly have an idea for a different blog post.  And then another.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the fresh inspiration I sought blows in, and I literally cannot type the words quickly enough to keep up with the thoughts as they pour into my mind. Instead of promoting today’s blog post on social media, I spend the first hour of my writing time composing new content.  It’s the first time in weeks that words have poured out of me with such ease.

An hour into the writing day, something happens in my heart. I realize I have not yet promoted my new post on social media, and some small voice inside nudges me to check online and see how this post on the popular site is doing – to look for comments and check the stats to see if it’s driving traffic to my own blog.

In an instant, I see my desire for what it actually is. I am a woman who is seeking the praises of people.  I swore I wouldn’t be one of those women.  I swore I’d never post a picture of my breakfast on Facebook or Tweet something about coffee.  I swore I’d never turn to the words offered by other people for a rush of dopamine to make myself feel better about my life.

Sadly, every time I allow the emotional high of people-pleasing to drive me, I miss the highest calling on my life.  My highest calling is to love God, and second to that is the call to make his love known to the world. 

All these things flash before my eyes on the day set apart to write words for the world, and in the quiet of the living room, I do the hard thing. I refuse to turn to social media or check the status of my most recent post.

Instead, I embrace this day in which the words are flowing again, and I write for an audience of One. I write five posts fluently and passionately, and it feels like truth might be pouring through me.  I resist the urge to check numbers or stats or respond to comments on what was already posted.  I stay in the quiet place and do the quiet work of creating.

It’s not easy to live for an audience of One. It’s not easy to do the quiet, humble, lowly things again and again when no one knows or even cares.  It’s not easy to change diapers for years on end.  It’s not easy to teach ungrateful students, care for disgruntled clients, or serve cantankerous patients for decades.

It’s not easy when your boss or your coach or your best friend doesn’t say thanks or even realize what you’re doing when no one is watching. It feels far better to post pictures of our very best days and pretend our lives are perfect. It feels far better to count the likes and the followers than to do the hard work of living out a calling in the dark.

In these moments of choosing whom we will serve, we ought to ask ourselves this simple question: Whose praise am I seeking?

The quiet whisper inside will lead us to the truth, and when we find we aren’t seeking the praise of the only One who matters, it’s time to reassess, settle deeply into the work, and begin again. It was never the praise of man that mattered.

 

About Stacey Pardoe

Stacey Pardoe is a wife, mother of two young children, writer, Bible teacher, and mentor. She is most passionate about walking closely with Christ and sharing his love with a broken world. Find out more about her at her website.

Comments

  1. You have written about this dilemma eloquently. Thank you.
    (And accept this praise by handing it over to your Father with a grateful smile!)

    • Thanks, Linda. It’s an ongoing struggle . . . By the grace of God, our Internet was just knocked out for two days! Isn’t it funny how sometimes the greatest inconveniences turn out to be real priority-checks! It was good for my soul to step back and see that life really does go on without instant access to the world! The kids and the paper Bible in my hand made for lovely mornings.

  2. I think I’m going to put a sticky note with the words “Whose praise am I seeking?” on my laptop… for those days when I am tempted to become abscessed with counting the likes. Thank you, Stacey.

  3. Laurie Driesen says:

    You hit on something very important Stacey! People struggle with this no matter what they do for a living. Because we are sinful human beings, we naturally want to be “god” of our own lives. It’s a choice to push ourselves down and let Jesus be Lord of our lives. Of course, after being a Christian for years, it becomes a little easier or more “normal” to let God be God. But don’t we all have that inward desire to be successful and well-liked? That urge grows so easily when there are few crumbs to feed it! Until we reach Heaven, we’ll have to consciously choose to keep the Lord first and make sure we aren’t indulging in self seeking pleasure. I love your question, “Whose praise am I seeking?”
    Thank you Stacey, for your humility and openness in addressing this topic!

    • Thanks for these words, Laurie. Part of me cringed when I hit the schedule button for this post, but I so deeply want to be sold out for Christ and to encourage others to seek him first. It’s so easy to seek the praise of others, especially when the experts are encouraging us to “build our platforms” for the glory of God. It’s a fine-line. Thanks for your encouragement and for understanding!

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