Before I turned 40…
I purposely turned down almost every speaking request I received.
I purposely didn’t publish a book.
I purposely didn’t have a blog or podcast.
I purposely never went on a radio or TV program.
I purposely never preached a sermon that later went online.
I did this for one very simple reason.
A Day That Changed My Ministry
On May 1, 1996, while on a personal retreat to a monastery, I spent the day meditating on the temptations Jesus faced in Luke 4:1-12.
That day I read about how Satan tried to get Jesus to throw himself off the top of the temple in Jerusalem, in front of throngs of Jewish worshippers, only to be scooped up by angels at the last second.
Jesus’ response to that temptation forever changed the tenor of my ministry.
Knowing that the only possible result of such a feat would be instant popularity, Jesus rebuked Satan and retreated quietly to live out his three years of public ministry in near anonymity.
Leveled by the gravity of what I was reading – who he was, what was at stake, and why he made the decision that he made – I fell to my knees and made a vow.
I took a vow of obscurity.
I promised God that for ten years, from May 1, 1996 until May 1, 2006, I would do everything within my power to cultivate a ministry of complete obscurity.
Not that I presumed I had ANYTHING worthwhile to be noted for. Not in the least. That wasn’t my motivation at all.
Lessons Out Of The Spotlight
I knew that I personally needed a solid decade of character building in obscurity to prepare my heart to become the kind of servant leader that God could truly use to expand HIS kingdom. I tell the Senior Pastors I coach that they could use the same.
That decade of obscurity taught me the difference between…
Self-promotion vs. promoting God’s message
Selfish ambition vs. pursuing God’s calling
Corporate manipulation vs. casting God’s vision
Building my own platform vs. allowing God to build a platform for me, if he so chose
However, the biggest lesson I learned was that Jesus will keep his promise:
Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
I believe that. I’ve experienced that.
No Little People, No Small Places
I don’t know what your ministry situation is right now (or lack of a ministry job), but I’d like to encourage you to be patient. If you fanatically pursue obscurity, humbling yourself and remaining faithful, God will, in his time, exalt you and use you for his purposes and his glory.
You will get noticed. Promotions will come. Opportunities will present themselves. They may not be what you expected, but they will come.
And when they do you’ll be ready.
In the meantime remember, as Francis Schaeffer said, there are “No little people. No small places.”
Have you struggled with self-promotion?