Not Meant For Praise

I’ve been reading a book named Holy Fools by Mathew Woodley. Overall a pretty decent book. Today and tomorrow I’ll highlight the best learning points in the book for me.

Being a worship leader and involved in worship ministry has many, many difficult parts. But I would say that the hardest is dealing with constant praise…even harder than all the negative comments from week to week. Look at American “celebrities”, most of them have at some point melted under all the attention that comes with being given so much attention and praise. The human mind is not meant to be endlessly praised. So how does this apply to leading worship at church? I think I’ve been told, “great worship”, “good job today”, “your singing really touched me” and etc…thousands of times. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, just using it as an example. I have to constantly remind myself that my gifts and talents are not my own, otherwise what was meant as an offering for God becomes a self absorbed blessing for myself.

Matthew Woodley says regarding this:

“In Matthew 6 Jesus warned about the dangers of what we could label ‘theatrical righteousness.’ According to Jesus, there’s a name for people who perform good deeds ‘to be admired by others’-they’re hypocrites…Spirituality becomes the arena to garner the praise of others rather than the altar to offer ourselves to God.”

Later on in the chapter he says something that anyone in ministry can relate to.

“I recently listened to someone tell me, ‘No offense, Pastor, but your sermons are shallow and I’m not being fed.” Later that afternoon, an engaged couple left my office hugging me and declaring, ‘You are the greatest man and the greatest preacher we’ve ever met.’ Who am I? Am I a ineffective, pathetic excuse for a disciple of Jesus? Or am I a hero, possibly the next inductee to the Ministry Hall of Fame?”

Now certainly thanking your worship leader or pastor for a good job, or critiquing their work is not a bad thing. Both are needed I would say. But when church leaders become focused more on the response than simply glorifying God something is wrong. I think this C.S. Lewis quote is the first way to end this post:

“Pleasure in being praised is not pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says, ‘Well done,’ are pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please.”

How do you avoid becoming focused more on the praise from the receivers than the Giver of the gift?

  • ash

    i once heard andrew womack say that when someone compliments you, praises you, say “thank you” and move on. i think that’s the only way to not get caught up in it. womack said he always hated it when someone would compliment a singer or preacher and that person would immediately say something like “oh it wasn’t me, it was the lord.” seriously? god gave YOU gifts and talents and while you may thank HIM for them, don’t be afraid to let it bless others.

    i think the problem w/ celebrities is a bit different, they’re stalked, not just overly-praised. and most of them, esp if they’re not believers, don’t know how to handle their own insecurities, and even vie for the attn a little thinking that’s the answer to overcoming them.

    again, just say thanks, and move on….

  • Tyler

    Yeah I agree with you. I wasn’t trying to say that you should ignore praises just that they need to be kept in perspective. Good thoughts Ash.

  • brent(inWorship)

    This has always been tough for me. Most of the time when I get thank you’s it has more to do with the fact that I pleased someone. I struggle with that. I am not trying to please someone. I am trying to please Him. But it is easy to listen to those thoughts and lose my focus.

    Your right, our talents are not our own. we can choose who we glorify with them.

    “I think I’ve been told, “great worship”, “good job today”, “your singing really touched me” and etc…thousands of times. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, just using it as an example.”

    I’ve heard you, you can toot a bit 🙂

  • ash

    brent- ultimately when you please god, by using the talents and gifts he gave- you inherently please others and that is fine thing.

    it’s worrying about whether you pleased them or not- that becomes the problem. do what you’re meant to do with a heart that is god aware, people aware and self aware…aka humility and the results will fall where they may….

  • brent(inWorship)

    Agreed Ash, humility is paramount. Where I struggle with it is when people believe they have worshiped or thank me for the worship, because they were pleased. Them being pleased with me has nothing to do with their worship of God. But I do not have a lot of control over that. I only have control over my own reaction to their thanks.

  • Amy Elder

    I have found that being aware of the potential problem is the first step .. and then for me, God has usually taken care of it for me. He literally closed my mouth for a year due to TMJ … which made me so aware that it is His gift …and that none of the praise is for me … and then as a worship team member, as opposed to a leader … I’m left to wait to be asked to serve … and at times .. that requires that I remember whose gift it is truly … it is always humbling.

  • brent(inWorship)

    Yes! It is when we depend entirely on Him that our weaknesses are revealed. I hope He continues to send people my way so that my weaknesses can be tested.

  • Jill

    I think I just remember that as much as people love you they can just as quickly despise you. This from many years of church ministry. Cynical? perhaps but truth for certain.

  • Tyler

    I hear ya there, yes it might be cynical but in my experiences that is the truth sometimes.