Lately I have heard a lot of talk from some Christian leaders about how other Christian leaders are “self- promoters.” The best I can understand, their definition of self-promotion is anything in which the person in question writes, says, does, preaches, shares or advises in which he does not put the tag “to the glory of God” on. They cite examples of “self-promotion” as such things as blog posts in which the person signed his name instead of making it anonymous or any author whose book actually begins to sell or a newsletter that mentions numbers of any kind, or a conference in which person accused of “self-promotion” shares how God worked in their life or ministry to expand the kingdom.
I have mixed feelings about all this talk against “self-promotion.” I have definitely heard some speakers who seemed to cross the line into arrogance. It seemed like they felt they had ALL the answers and if the rest of us would just do it their way, everything would be right with the world. They sure seemed guilty of self-promotion to me. It was hard to see how God was glorified in those situations.
But I have also heard key Christian leaders share their passion for God. I am amazed at how God used that passion to change the world. Such leaders talk about how God used their brokenness and their mistakes and their faults to accomplish much good for the Kingdom. It sure did not seem like their motive was to promote themselves, or they would not have shared the negative aspects of their own struggles.
Sadly, the “pro-humility” crowd has a tendency to lump all Christian leaders who have achieved any level of “success” in the same group, and that group is not viewed very positively. There seems to be a lack of discernment between those who are actually self-promoters and those that have a kingdom focus that compels them to share what God has taught them with others.
What is the cause of this criticism of “successful” leaders? I want to be very careful not to cross the line into judgment, but in my experience, many (but definitely not all) of the critics seemed to be less effective in ministry than the leaders they were criticizing. I am not saying there were ineffective, just less effective. Most of the time I think this less effective situation is caused by a lack of experience or a lack of skill. Both of those issues are easily addressable over a period of time through learning, whether formal or informal, whether in a group or on one’s own. If such critics would invest as much time learning as they do complaining, they would become much more effective in ministry. Sadly, a small number of critics simply seem to be bitter, perhaps even jealous. Neither is becoming for a Christian leader. Since bitterness and jealousy tends to drive people away instead of gathering them in, a ministry marked by bitterness and jealousy will almost always be less effective than it could have been. People who are bitter or jealous find it easier to attack someone who they perceive as more “successful” than to examine their heart, training and talents. Self-examination is vital for healthy spirituality and healthy relationships. Though calling successful Christian leaders “self-promoters” may sound spiritual, rarely does the facade of false piety or false humility stand up to scrutiny.
No one is perfect. Successful leaders must battle pride on a daily basis so that they remain Kingdom promoters and not self-promoters. But less effective leaders must battle bitterness and jealousy with the same vigor. In the end, every leader should aim to bring glory to God by being conformed to the image of His Son. When that becomes our goal, then we will be “successful” in the eyes of God and avoid a bitter or jealous spirit, which is what matters most anyway.