In October of 1845, after 33 years away from the United States, Adoniram Judson, the first American missionary to Burma, returned to his homeland in Boston, MA, just days after his second wife died. Upon his arrival, he was greeted by the announcement of a public meeting two days later for the purpose of welcoming Judson home. At that occasion, Judson found himself the centerpiece of attention, something he did not wish for himself. That night, he did not sleep well. The book To the Golden Shore describes the situation, “The crowds and the excitement were cause enough (for his sleeplessness), but they were not all. There was rising in him a feeling of distaste for all this adulation and praise. He could not believe it wholly sincere. He knew himself too well to believe he deserved it. He could not preach or speak because of the condition of his throat. He could only allow himself to be looked at. With disgust, he felt he was becoming merely an exhibit – and he began to feel hostility for those who wanted to stare” (p448).
Judson’s disdain for the spotlight is something that modern ministers of the gospel would do well to learn from. We live in a day of “celebrity status,” where many are looking for their “15 minutes of fame” and preachers are hoping for more followers. The subtle deception of pride and egotism can easily creep in to our lives (yes, I include myself in this), leading us to dangerous lusts of notoriety, popularity, and even celebrity.
To be a celebrity, however, is not something which should be desired by any minister of the gospel of Christ. I understand that God may sometimes raise up a man into prominent leadership positions where he will be influential. But when we seek for that, when we view our ministerial success based on that, we have failed to be the faithful minister God desires us to be.
Our success is not determined by the number of attendants at our worship services. It is not determined by the number of followers on our twitter feeds, the number of “friends” on our facebook pages, or the number of followers of our blogs. It is not determined by how many books we can produce or sell. It is not determined by how many times our messages are listened to on sermonaudio.com. It is not determined by the number of invitations we receive to speak at conferences or churches. Our success as ministers of God is based on our faithful proclamation of the truth of God in the corner of the harvest field in which He has placed us.
Not everyone will like us; in fact, we should be concerned if everyone does like us. We are not here to produce followers of ourselves. Our task is to faithfully preach the Word, to magnify Christ, and to ultimately bring glory to our Creator God. May God grant His servants grace to avoid the pursuit of popularity, and to pursue faithfulness.