It happened when the designated youth minister reveled in the adulation of the youth.
Maybe he was strikingly handsome, or she could sing like an angel. When the congregation enlisted others to help, the leader didn’t want to share the spotlight — he or she began to find fault, asked that the helpers be dismissed and, if not, threatened to walk away. A vital ministry to youth who needed encouragement and biblical instruction degenerated to ego on parade.
It happened when the music leader enjoyed the adulation of the congregation. Of course few things can be as moving as beautiful music. Most of us in the churches have heard enough out-of-tune pianos to recognize and enjoy really good music! But it’s easy to let worship music degenerate from its intended purpose.
I had opportunity to interview a college choral director for a story about his ministry goals. For 30 minutes he talked about his voice, how unusual it was and how he got compliments all the time on its magnificence. His name wasn’t Sinatra, but he was obviously fixated on his singing and never talked about teaching others to sing. It was ego on parade.
It happened when the preacher found a groove and his words flowed like a river. Perhaps he demonstrated his breadth of knowledge with illustrations from various disciplines, or he struck the right emotional pitch with his exhortations and moved the audience.
Sometimes his superbly-tailored clothing and lacquered hair added to his pulpit presence. But with an attitude of “look at me,” he fell short of his mission. It was ego on parade.
Jesus told about proud men who gave, prayed and fasted in order to be seen by others and win their praise (Matthew 6). The summary word he used in all three cases actually means “paid in full.” They received the praise of others as full payment for their actions. Because they’d already been paid, they had no right to expect any further reward from God.
It’s true that 90 percent of the church’s work is done outside the spotlight where faithful people love and serve in obedience to Christ. But some of us labor in the spotlight; we find ourselves in front of others. Thus, one of the foundational questions we must ask ourselves is, “Why do you do what you do?”
New York Yankee legend Yogi Berra said, “On our teams, everyone’s ego took a backseat to the team ego. I still like that the Yankees still don’t put players’ names on their backs. The team’s identity is more important.”
Those of us in the spotlight have a responsibility to keep ego in check and to lead our team to honor the Lord.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.