I’ve recently befriended a young man who is in the process of undergoing training for an elite military unit. I’m not only impressed by the challenges of the training but also by the young man’s quiet and humble spirit. He has followed his superiors’ instructions and does not divulge the unit for which he’s training. He is already embodying the ethos of the quiet professional that marks so many of our nation’s elite fighting forces. But there are cracks developing in the wall of the quiet professional ethos. Some of those who participated in classified military operations have written books and sold millions of copies but also have earned the scorn of their colleagues who still quietly serve in the shadows while they bask in the limelight. It’s one thing, I believe, to write a book recounting a daring raid decades after it’s happened, once it’s been declassified, and entirely another for one individual to rush the stage to take credit for something that was a team effort. In short, I think that the “me too” “look at me” generation’s spirit has made inroads into all corners of life—in places like the military where people were once committed to quiet humble service. The same, sadly, can be said of the church.
In this day and age where the use of social media is the norm and self-promotion is commonplace, pastors, I believe, have to be on guard more than ever against this prideful spirit raising its ugly head in their ministries. I see too many instances on social media, blog posts, YouTube, and pod casts where some almost seem desperate for people to know how profound they are. They are all too ready to point to their own work rather than point to the work of others. In one recent podcast I listened to someone tout their accomplishments but I noted that this person left out a number of failures.
Even though some within the military’s elite units are too eager to forsake the “quiet professional” mentality, I believe there is still great virtue in pursuing this path. Don’t be quick to talk about your accomplishments. Don’t think too much of yourself. In the words of Proverbs: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (27:2). Let others, strangers (not your wife or family) praise you. Rather than trying to draw attention to yourself, seek to pursue the goal of your very design: glorify God and begin to enjoy him forever now! Boast about our triune God and in so doing you will find great joy. You will find his joy far greater and longer lasting than the ever-fleeting mirage of self-aimed praise.