Question: Self-promotion or Self-less Service?


I would like to hear what you think about this. What has been your experience?

I mentioned to you in a recent post that I am spending much time in 2 Corinthians right now. There is a fascinating section of this book that I have read a number of times. The text is 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4. Paul is being accused by some opponents of not being the “real deal.” He responds by defending his integrity and role as an apostle and as a Christian minister. He reminds these people of the Gospel and its implications for ministry.

These opponents were apparently taking advantage of this church by promoting themselves. Meanwhile, they took Paul’s refusal to do so as a weakness. “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you” (3:1)? Also, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:5).

I know many ministers. I have witnessed many, many examples of self-less service. Away from microphones and the Sunday morning spotlight, these people give to others in ways that no one ever sees. I am not impressed with their ministry because of their speaking ability or their public gifts. Rather, it is because they live as “… servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:5).

On the other hand, I have also seen subtle and not so subtle acts of self-promotion. I cringe when the message from the minister seems to be, “I am important.” (I am not referring to a person living out an important role in the life of a church. Rather, I am referring to a self-consciousness that manages to communicate to others, “I personally am important and need to be noticed.”)

Sometimes, this same spirit is seen in the way some congregations appear to jockey with one another for position in a certain community. It almost appears that they are in a race to the finish, competing with every other church in town. Yet, is Christian ministry really supposed to be about churches competing with one another?

I am thinking through some of these concerns as I read through 2 Corinthians again and again. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and observations. What does this look like where you live? What has been your experience?



What are some examples of ministers who serve in ways that reflect they are “… servants for Jesus’ sake”? How have these people impressed you?

What are some examples of subtle and not so subtle self-promotion today (not searching for names but examples of behaviors that you have seen)?

Why do some congregations seem to almost be in competition with others in their communities?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Question: Self-promotion or Self-less Service?

  1. yes, I agree. It is called Christian narcisism and it is rampant in the u.s. church. Unfortuneatly the religious free market demands competition and self promotion in order to survive and support oneself financially in the church system. I hope someone can think of a better way …

  2. I was a pastor/church planter for 25 years and I can say that the church certainly attracts many narcissistic leaders. I was probably guilty of being narcissistic also. I've noticed that in the church you have all kinds of narcissistic leaders. You may have the scholar kind that prides himself he knows so much of scripture, original languages, and Christian classical authors and Church Fathers, etc. You may also have the Performer who presents himself as a SuperStar celebrity and no one can touch. You may have the PowerMan who gets his jollies from control. You may have the leader who is trying to get his Daddy and Mommy Love Tank filled from the congregation "adoring" them. You also have the Missionary-Poor-Me-I Suffer-More-than-you-because-I'm-better type of person who has taken a vow of poverty and sees himself as a victim, often begging for money in the name of Jesus. We could go on and on.

    After I left the game of that system I had to reinvent myself. No one wanted to hire a former pastor/church planter. I went into the secular field of professional psychology so I could help a wider variety of people. I find that I am reaching many more people (Christian and non-Christian), congregations, and pastors, etc.
    I can corroborate at how rampant narcissism is among church leadership.

    If any of you are interested in learning a little about some of the faces of narcissism go to:

  3. Churches that are trying to attract people as there number 1 priority often fall into the trap of competitiveness! When numbers are how you discern the health of your church the groundwork for competitiveness is laid, this is so dangerous! Competition when taken to it's extreme is murderous! The best possible outcome theoretically is the elimination of your rival (see Cain and Abel), so to be at even the beginning of this process is fundamentally unhealthy! Jesus said "without Me you can do nothing" and "In me you can do all things" I believe that the number 1 priority for every church is to cultivate an environment that is attractive to the manifest presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! ( Not people ) Those who are lost and seeking will find an environment like that irresistible! And when we make it all about Him HE will draw all men unto HIMSELF! Lets become less entertaining and more transforming, less personality driven and more Spirit led! I have a feeling that there will be no stressing about bills in a church like that!

  4. Jummbo7 – thank you for what you wrote. I'm part of a little Church that is trying to shed the whole "performance" & "numbers" game & just (as you so aptly put it) "make it all about Him [so] HE will draw all men unto HIMSELF"". we're still not sure what it looks or will look like – but it is exciting being part of it – at the moment I think it just looks like "letting go". Stopping all the performance/marketing/trying to do it all, & waiting to see what He will do. Scary – but wonderful! (& no, there's not much money going 'round, but we're not collapsing in a heap either… a good exercise in trust!)