Self Promotion

By Pastor David L. Burns

What I am about to share will be a difficult and certainly a debatable subject matter. Many will agree with me, and many will disagree. I have been seeking the LORD about this subject for a few weeks. In fact, looking back over my own life, I can see where the LORD has led me to a great change of heart and mind and I want to share this with you for you to consider and pray about.

When I watch Christian TV, listen to Christian radio, read Christian publications and review Christian ministries on the Internet, there is something that concerns me. Certainly we all know that these ministries need and deserve financial support. That is not debatable, and it seems to me to be Biblical for ministries to ask for support. There are Biblical examples such as when Moses asked the people to give to build the tabernacle. The churches supported Paul, so that when he had support he would preach, but when he had no support he would build tents until the support arrived. So I want to clarify that I am NOT against ministries encouraging others to support their work.

However, what has began to concern me as of late is the self-promotion that is within the appeal for support. If someone stands up in the church where I pastor and says, “I want to thank God for how the LORD has used Victory Christian Center to encourage me in my faith”, then that is a genuine testimony. But, if I know someone has an appreciation for VCC and I purposely ask them to produce a recording or broadcast telling how great our church is and then tack on the end of their testimony about our need for support, isn’t that self-promoting? This is so common on Christian TV. At the end of so many broadcasts, people share how a tape series changed their life. Recently I heard of an info commercial selling praise and worship music and how some testimonies went something like this: “Our marriage was about to break up until we started listening to these worship CDs. These CDs have saved our marriage”. And, “This worship music has delivered me from my addiction”. Wow! Wait just a minute. Where is Jesus in all this?? Worship music cannot save a marriage. A CD cannot deliver us from addictions! Only Jesus can! And when He does, only Jesus deserves the glory! Can I get a witness? And when Jesus uses us as individuals or our church or Christian organization, should we really take advantage of that individual’s testimony in order to gain more financial support? I don’t know! Something doesn’t set will with me anymore about this type of self-promotion.

To use people to promote a church or Christian organization seems to direct the glory and success to a person or the organization rather than the LORD. This isn’t right! It is a business technique that works for the corporate world, such as what we observe with all of the exercise equipment on TV and diet programs. They show before and after photos and people give testimonies. Look, the only reason these people give testimonies is because advertisers know that to have people buy their product the must have testimonies from every day people of how the product has helped them get in shape! The end desire is to sell, thus receiving more money, right?

I don’t see this in the Bible! Jesus never coached those who He healed to give testimonies to promote His work. Neither did the Apostles. How would it appear to you, if on Sunday morning you visited the church where I preach, and before my sermon, I had met with and coached several people how to give a testimony about me…maybe a genuine testimony that they shared with me over lunch. Now, I have them come out, and stand in front of the church and say, “Pastor Burns has really blessed my life. He has helped me overcome sin and discouragement and I just want to praise God for pastor Burns”, and then a slide comes on the screen with my mailing address where you can send your support. Now that should not set well with anyone!! I have never done that and will never do that. But this is exactly what I see happening within Christianity on the media.

Why are these testimonies so frequent and why are they even part of the ministries’ advertisement? One reason…MONEY or as it is properly referred to, “support”. You might say, “No, it is only so that more people will realize it is a valuable ministry work in the Kingdom of God”. But something is wrong if people have to be convinced.

Reason with me. If God is who He says He is, and these ministries boast of how God has miraculously provided in the past, why are they “working the crowd”? If they weren’t concerned about more money coming in through more supporters, then is there really any need for self-promotion in this way? Absolutely not! Why do ministries need more supporters except for more money? Am I right?

Okay, maybe you are thinking that more supporters means more prayer support. That’s legitimate if we lived in a perfect world, but that is not the case. Name me one church or Christian organization that right now would ask their supporters to stop giving and do nothing but pray instead.

When I hear these self-promoting testimonies, I feel abused and taken advantage of because I know that, though the individual giving the testimony may have really been blessed by God through the church, TV or radio ministry or Christian organization, now they are being used as an advertising ploy to bring in more money.

In the Bible, the apostles went about the LORD’S work in humility, never boasting except in the LORD, never promoting themselves, but only Jesus.

“If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:3-4).

Despite what is taught in the Word, come on! Generous supporters are given special attention by so many churches and Christian organizations. It goes on all the time.

It is pounded into our minds, that we must promote ourselves. We must speak highly of our success so that others will see that we indeed are successful. This grows into a competitive spirit of pride, selfishness and self-ambition rather than humility and selflessness.

Here’s my point. Who’s providing? The LORD or the people? Some ministries have expanded and expended way beyond their means. Don’t you find it disturbing, that on the front side, the ministry will say they need to build a bigger building or expand so that they can reach more people? If this is true, then when they complete the expansion and incur more expenses, why do they now have less money to reach out? Now, more is going to keep the structure and expansion operational. Hello? We don’t operate our households this way, or at least we shouldn’t! Many do, I’m afraid.

Over the weekend I was told about a church that spends $25,000.00 per week in operational expenses. Maybe they have pinched every penny and are very frugal with how they manage the LORD’S provision. But, you and I both know that so many churches and Christian organizations are living beyond their means hoping to increase their means just to barely pay for their expansion.

My point centers upon what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3: 6-9, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.” God is the one who grows our churches and our ministry work. Not us and not our supporters. With God, you can accomplish His work without one single supporter!

Through self-promotion we stop depending upon the provision of God, and we convince ourselves that God is going to provide through the deep pockets of the next supporter we can win to our side if only we present our ministry work to them in a convincing way over a nice supper. The one who finds his own support, often finds his own way too.

What about simply trusting in Jesus to provide for what He has ordered? Now there’s a brand new thought!

After all if Jesus wants a rich supporter to send a contribution your way, couldn’t Jesus do that without your feeble efforts at self-promotion?

Just maybe, the more we lift up the name of Jesus, the more we would see Jesus draw people unto Himself! Maybe the more we decrease and the more we increase the name of the LORD, just maybe the more provision we would enjoy!

Why does it appear that though the LORD owns the cattle on a thousand hills, so many believe potential supporters own those cows?

Well, this week, keep your eye out and see if you don’t see and hear a lot of self-promotion going on!

Dear Heavenly Father, help each of us rely upon You to promote Your work that we do, because so often we can't promote You without first promoting ouselves. In Jesus' Mighty Name, Amen!