As ministry leaders and Jesus-girls with big dreams, we often struggle with the balance between dreaming and scheming. How do we know when we are pursuing our dream in a way that honors God and His calling on our lives, vs. when we are scheming for self-promotion?
Especially if your blog is associated with a for-profit business, you may sometimes wonder worry that you’ve crossed the line into the ick-factor that turns people away instead of drawing them towards the message you so passionately want to share.
There is a lot of talk out in the Christian blogosphere about platforms and promotion and personal branding. What is considered good practice for some is called “justification” by others. The well-defined line we all are looking for does not exist.
So the only line we can measure ourselves against is the line God has drawn in Scripture. That line runs straight from His Word through our heart and our motives.
Paul wrote the first letter to the church at Thessalonica specifically to the leaders there. He starts off the letter like this:
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (NIV)
In commending these leaders. Paul gave us an outline for growing our ministry is a way that honors God and his calling on us.
Work Produced by Faith
Building something special takes a lot of work. But work in and of itself is not the goal. We all have experienced the kind of “work” that fills our to-do list with tasks. After checking all the things off the list, we wonder if we’ve really accomplished anything. Or if we’ve bent God’s calling on us to fit a marketable mold that is ready for the social media spotlight.
Work produced by faith means trusting God for the results, even when he calls us to go against the grain of popular wisdom. It means doing what is right and reasonable without getting consumed by numbers moving up and down or responding to even small bits of success with pride.
Labor Prompted by Love
What moves you to action? What drives you try new things in ministry? Labor prompted by love serves other people … meets the needs of the hurting, confused and broken. When our actions are prompted by love, our main concern is walking through a transformation with the people we serve.
When our actions are prompted by selfish desires, our main concern is how we will benefit. The results are inwardly focused instead of outwardly focused.
That doesn’t mean that we CAN’T benefit, because growing allows us to to serve more. When you are genuinely serving people, they are often happy to do something for you in return.
When your blog post is helpful, informative and meets a need, it’s not inherently sinful to ask for an email address in exchange for additional resources.
When you are giving away tons of value through your website and other resources, it’s ok to offer a product for sale.
When you are generously sharing content from other people, it’s okay to ask them to share yours.
Give. Give. Give. Ask. It all is based on your motives.
Give because you care. Ask with graciousness. That’s labor prompted by love.
Endurance Inspired by Hope
The work we are doing is hard. No question about that. There are no real “overnight sensations” … well … Chewbacca Mom might be the exception, but for most of us, it takes consistent faithfulness over a long period of time. It takes endurance.
Over the course of the long road of endurance, our dream may change shape. As God matures and grows us, the dream may mature and grow along with us. It may not look anything like where we started.
The dream is also shaped by the things that inspire us to keep going.
Endurance inspired by fear of failure results in refusal to trying new things.
Endurance inspired by a desperate need for self-worth results in a hollow ministry based on personality, not the Person of Jesus Christ.
Endurance inspired by pride in our own ability results in a stubborn resistance to seeking help and advice.
These are the things that turn your dream into a scheme.
Endurance inspired by hope in Jesus keeps us dependent on His constant direction, provision and peace.
He Has Chosen You
And so, we circle back around to the beginning.
Once we understand that God has chosen us (EACH of us …. not just a few), we have our own choices to make.
We choose our work by faith, not what we see in the circumstances.
We labor out of love for the people God brings into our circle of influence, not out of what they can do for us.
We endure with hope, knowing that God’s plan is sure and good.
God has chosen you. He gave you a passion to share your message out of love and a desire to serve. Embrace that calling and keep your eyes on the hope of Jesus Christ. Your dream …. my dream … will become the vehicle God uses to advance His kingdom, not a scheme to advance our own.