This past week, I led a breakout session at the Speak Up Conference, titled “Self-Promotion: Greedy or Godly”. And what a perplexing, complicated topic it is–especially for bloggers, writers, and speakers. Even as I wrote the first sentence of this post, here are the thoughts that pin-balled around in my mind:

Are readers going to think I’m already self-promoting because I want them to know I spoke at a conference? Ewww… I don’t want to appear to be so blatantly self-serving. (Key word is appear.)

So wait. Am I selfishly trying to promote myself! If I’m worried more about appearances than about the condition of my heart… Oh no. I think I am slipping into self-promotion!

But hold up. My whole reason for opening my blog to write this post was to share some really helpful quotes on this topic. That’s not self-promoting! I wanted to provide easy links to great material, especially for the people who attended my workshop. Which is serving, right? Right. 

So what started as a desire to serve others quickly slipped into a desire to serve myself?

Yup. So why don’t I just delete this whole thing, along with the mention of the conference?

Because sometimes sharing my struggle is what others find most helpful, even if it’s *quite* uncomfortable to put my own sin on display. Ok, wait, that sounds like humility.

So I’m sharing this out of humility? Yes.

But there might be some selfishness mixed in? Yes.

How perplexing. YES!!

Two Difficulties

The deceptiveness of our own hearts (Jer. 17:9) makes the ministry of spreading truth  tricky. Just when we think we know our motives, they shift. There is a constant gravitational pull in our hearts toward selfishness. Kevin DeYoung says,

“Whatever humility I evidence, I bet half of it comes from not wanting to look proud.”

It’s so true!

The other difficulty, unique to our generation, is social media. Never before have we had so many ways to promote and share our ministry efforts. What often starts as a good desire–to give, share, and serve–morphs into a desire for  self-serving, receiving, and getting after we add the hashtags, social links, and bios.

The screen in front of our eyes offers concrete feedback, measured in clicks, shares, retweets, and likes. No wonder we’re tempted to self-promote when these measurements seem to indicate the influence we’re having.

Our Real Influence

But in reality, the influence of truth on a human heart cannot be measured. Can you assign an amount or worth to the experience of seeing one person’s heart open to God because of your ministry? Can you put a value on one pair of eyes coming to understand truth because of what you shared?

Fellow writers, speakers, and servants of the Lord, what Jesus wants for us is so much deeper and richer than selling books, gathering followers, or receiving invitations to speak. He want for us to influence other people with the hope of the Gospel! He wants us to reach out to hopeless, hurting, doubting, entangled, confused, discouraged people and with unshackling, life-enhancing truth!

So, if we promote our writing and speaking ministries, are we being greedy? Perhaps. Or our motives might be godly–if we are focused on getting the good news out.

Let’s flip it around and consider it the other way as well. If we refuse to share our writing or speaking ministry, are we being godly? Perhaps. Or our motives might be tainted with pride! (I warned you this was confusing.)

One thing is certain. We must be willing to check our hearts on a post-by-post, tweet-by-tweet, message-by-message basis. We must ask, “What is my motivation for doing this? Or what is my motivation for not doing this? Is my heart bent on serving others or serving myself?”

Selflessly sharing truth in today’s media-blitzed world will be a swim against the current for each of us. Pride will continually threaten to pull us downstream. But Jesus, who modeled the perfect life of selfless service, will be faithful to guide each step forward that we take.

Heb. 12: 1-2 (for ministry leaders):

Let us lay aside every weight of public opinion and the sin of selfishness which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us as individual writers and speakers, looking to Jesus–the author who wrote the “foreword” for each of us, and who perfects and edits every page of our ministries.

Quotes

Here are some helpful thoughts and links to articles that are helping me think through the issue of self-promotion:

Kevin DeYoung:

Being willing to ask hard questions is a must. Do I want money and recognition? Do I feel the need for validation? Do I like it when I look successful? Or do I want people to learn more about Christ and honor him with their lives? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I pray that my heart is mostly concerned with the last yes, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Trevin Wax:

I’m still conflicted about blogging about my book. Maybe that’s where I need to be. Maybe this is the Spirit’s method of rooting out sinful motivations and spurring me on to holiness.

 

Maybe God is saying, “I don’t ever want you to be totally comfortable with self-promotion, even if some promotion will result in more people buying a book that is beneficial to the church.” Maybe God wants me to remember that my motives are never completely pure, and even my best intentions are tainted with sin.

Also, Trevin’s helpful response here, to this quesion:

Is it possible to choose to not talk about one’s book in order to not appear self-promoting (a more subtle form of pride)? Is it an act of bad stewardship to not blog about one’s work, effectively walking off the platform the publisher expects you to utilize?

Dane Ortlund: 

What are we doing, brothers? I am asking myself no less than you.

What if we made up our minds to refuse to quietly electronically parade whatever accomplishments the Lord grants? What if we let the Lord decide who knows of us and what we’ve done? What if every post, tweet, and FB update was passed through the fine filter of Matthew 23:12?

Mark Sayers:

Be Patient with God. God will advance your ministry if he so desires in His good time. Just because we live in a time where it is easy to push our own carts does not mean that we need to. Both the bible and history is littered with the tragic tales of people whose influence exceeded their spiritual development.

 

 

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