Human nature hungers for heroes. The discovery and promotion of special talent is multi-billion dollar business. The church too is tempted to follow people for similar reasons. We love those who evoke the verbs and adjectives of stardom: he’s dynamic, she’s great, he’s such fun, they’re hilarious, that worship band rocks, everyone’s following him these days, or, they’re so cool.
None of those qualities are bad; having fun is healthy, good music and charismatic people are, well, cool. Energetic extroverts have accomplished many things for the kingdom of God. But those crowd-pulling attributes accomplish little in themselves. There has to be more. Take the apostle Paul, who nurtured the first churches, he did not seem like a star.
For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present. . . .
We will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure. . .
But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor. 10:10-11, 13, 17-18)
Paul found security in the Lord; he knew that God commended him for accomplishing what He had given him to do in his sphere. There are three lessons for us:
- We must be careful to look beyond star qualities when we decide who to follow or promote. What matters is godly character and the gifting that accomplishes the Lord’s will. Does God use the person in His work whether or not he or she has a magnetic personality?
- Don’t dismiss people because they are unimpressive. Look beyond the outward appearance to discover how they express the life of the Lord. If you see good fruit, encourage it; where there are flaws, help that person grow in the Lord.
- Many of us allow what we think others think of us to limit us. Yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds, but we often do it. Paul found freedom from such pressure. Public opinion did not determine who he was; his identity and boast was “in the Lord.” As a result, God guided and anointed him. In another letter he wrote, “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”1 Unassuming Paul allowed the life of the risen Jesus to pulse through him; that made the difference.
Resurrection life is not a scarce commodity; it flows from an abundant spring. God loves to draw ordinary people from the shadows and transform them into world-changers. You and I can shine with the life of the Lord and be all that He made us to be. His life in us should be our identity.
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- 1 Thess. 1:5 [↩]
I think church leaders are often more focused on personality and charisma than on what a person has actually done for the Lord in non-professional or private ministry. If God calls a person to minister outside of his church home, it can be as if that ministry never happened. I’ve also seen ministers who seemed to have a spirit of envy and pettiness.
God will always find a way to raise up people who are truly called to ministry. They don’t need recognition or approval from others. They’ll continue to faithfully serve the Lord, and He will open doors.