Selfies (IBTR #36)



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.



13 thoughts on “Selfies (IBTR #36)

  1. I can’t help but chuckle. I find the expression of your insight and analogy both humorous and yet admonishing, because it can apply to us bloggers as well. Thank you!

  2. Though one of the greatest preachers by Christ’s own account, John the Baptist quickly declared “I am not the Christ…He must increase, but I must decrease.” How can we justify anything less than that kind of spirit?

  3. Always glad to read this blog and be able to say “phew, I’m not the only one who ever saw this …” Having heard a selfie-pastor for many years once upon a time, I was always kind of bothered that he set himself and his family up for the standard for the rest of us … If we had a situation in our lives, he’d too faced a similar one victoriously, of course. Parenting – do what he did (and it worked for 2 out of 3 of his children). Marriage – just look at him and his wife – so in love, always doing all those special things for each other. Wisdom – well, he always knew what to say at the right time, with that special zinger at the end of the scenario that either made us laugh, be in awe, or chuckle at his cleverness. Soul-winning, Bible-reading, praying – check, check, check.
    I think some people left that church because they couldn’t meet up to the standard of the pastor and his family … and the pastor’s Andy-Griffith methods weren’t always working for the average family in the pews. In the end, it may be why we left: we were there too long, worked too closely with the man, saw some discrepancies in the selfies, and decided we were going to follow Christ, not a man-made portrait.
    There is a quote from some preacher (I’m too lazy to look it up – maybe it was Spurgeon) about how a man went to a church and came out saying “What a great preacher/speaker/orator.” and later went to a different church and came out and said, “What a great God!!” While I appreciate, respect and love the men of God (and even their life experiences!), I would rather hear about what my great God is doing.

  4. anonymous Baptist church goer, I know the feeling. I am so thankful for men like Pastor Jimmy who are not afraid to point out the wrongs of the IFB. I long for more of those types of pastor’s in my area, but they are so hard to find. We have such a tendency to fall into pastor worship instead of Jesus worship.

  5. Bro. Reagan,

    After reading this article, all I could think of was, “All God’s people said, Amen!” In addition, Jeremy’s comment made me remember what should be the goal of every preacher.

    In John 1:35-37, John the Baptist is with two of his disciples, but when he saw Jesus, in verse 36 it is recorded that he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” John 1:37 states the following, “And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.”

    This is the goal of every preacher. The people should hear us speak, and they should follow Jesus.

  6. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

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