They are all the rage these days–selfies. You wonder if they are a passing fad or a new, permanent addition to our lives since social media is here to stay. Perhaps they fall somewhere between harmless and a little vain. I don’t care personally for a solo selfie, but it is not really for a spiritual reason. I just don’t see myself as very photogenic. (I want my wife or kids in mine to bring in some level of pictorial quality!) If we realized how people see these selfies on our Facebook news feed and think things like “He is putting on a little weight”, or “She is looking older”, etc., we would probably just dispense with them. Still, in the big picture of life, it is not that big a deal either way. But may I share where selfies are repulsive to the core?
In the pulpit. There they are verbal selfies rather than visual, though the picture is quite vivid. They, too, have been coming at us well before social media came along. I realize these selfies can be found in pulpits all around Christianity, but my personal experience in the Independent Baptist world has allowed me to witness an excessive number of them. At times, it becomes vanity on steroids.
Have you seen one of these pulpit selfies? You know, where we hear endless stories about the preacher’s life? Not regular stories where the preacher just saw something in his day-to-day living that well illustrated a biblical point, but a story where he is the hero. Such stories grow the legend, expand the franchise, and multiply the groupies. Instead of drawing the listener to Christ and His Word, such selfies tend to create a false dichotomy. It creates two categories–the super-spiritual giants and the regular Christians– where the speaker is in the first category and you are in the second. Besides the inherent insult in it, these categories don’t actually even exist!
This is not to vilify every story a preacher might tell from his life. In truth, there are many stories that are neutral–the preacher just happened to be there, or perhaps, it was something funny his children said or did. Then the stories that he is more directly involved in, as life goes, are pretty much 50-50 on being the hero or the goat. Sometimes stories where we were more the goat put us with our listeners, where we should be, and the rawness really connects and teaches. The stories when the preacher made a good choice should be sparse at best. Why? We are not the hero, we are not the one who changes lives, our task is not mere inspiration. No, in actuality, it is the very antithesis of what preaching is.
Preaching is meant to proclaim Someone. His stories are heroic, His words true and life changing. The mantra of the earliest preachers was “we preach Christ crucified…”(1 Cor. 1:23). Forgive the prooftexting, but that was all that was known in the heady days of the early church (Acts 3:20, 5:42, 8:5, 8:12, 9:20, 10:36, 17:3, and 28:31). Could the ministry have ever been expressed better than in Philippians 2:16, “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain”?
Let’s look at those selfies a little more closely. Preacher, so you are the greatest soul winner we have ever known? Jesus saved them all! So you are the mightiest prayer warrior around, praying whole nights? Jesus prayed and fasted 40 days, later prayed till He sweat great drops of blood, and went from there to the cross! So you have suffered like no one else in the cause of Christ? Jesus suffered horrendously, even death, Hell, and the grave! So you have the best grasp of God’s Word? Jesus speaks and it is the Word of God! So you have had the most heroic and thrilling experiences? Jesus battled death and won, went into the grave and came back out on His Own, and that was after previously creating all that is! So you love me more than anyone loves me? Jesus loved me, pursued me, saved me, redeemed me, forgave me, rescued me, and keeps me day by day and forever! So I can count on you more than anyone else? Jesus promised to never leave or forsake me, even after you are dead and gone! Selfies in the pulpit? You have got to be kidding!
So when in the pulpit, just before you send out one of those irretrievable selfies, stop before you hit “post”. In preaching, keep selfies where they belong–inside yourself!
Find all articles in the series here.