They say that one of the dangers of social media, is that you only see other people’s edited highlights: the perfect holiday sunset, the perfect romantic meal. And as a result we become dissatisfied and envious of other people’s perfect lives. We don’t see that out of sight of the perfect sunset was the half built hotel and the ugly crane, or that the perfect meal was to make up for extreme selfishness earlier in the day.
Preachers do the same to each other too. Follow a big name preacher and you’ll experience pulpit-envy, conference-envy, book-deal-envy. Follow your friends and you’ll experience guilt: I should be doing what Fred’s doing; Emma’s talk is so much better than mine.
You could just stop following them, which is one solution. Although, as so often with extreme solutions it doesn’t address the heart. The issue, the idol, is narcissism – where we want to be as perfect as others, and we keep gazing at ourselves to check that we are. It destroys our satisfaction in Christ, where our perfection is found in being in him.
So pastors, just remember that you’re not (insert name of your favourite preaching hero). You envy their gifts and opportunities, but remember that they are accountable for them too. You’re not. you’ve been placed where you are for a reason.
Remember you don’t have to hit it out the park every Sunday. The weight of our preaching responsibility is to be faithful; expand that, and it means we take God’s word and with the best of our skill, expose people’s lives to its life-changing truth. We don’t have to produce material that will publish well, or look good on the web. We don’t compete with professional presenters who spend weeks honing one presentation (I heard of one recently who wouldn’t give a talk until he’d rehearsed it over 100 times).
Remember that the impact of your sermon, and of the whole service, is not measured by the ‘wow’ factor. The church down the road may have better music, kids groups, tech, publicly, website, facilities, staff and any other bell or whistle: but those are at their best, icing on the cake. The cake itself is the same in any church on the planet.
Remember not to believe publicity – even your own. Words like ‘dynamic’ or ‘thriving’ are not only subjective, they are irrelevant. Irrelevant before the vast scale of the lostness around us, but also irrelevant before the vastness of the throne above us.
Remember that no-one expects you, or the church, to be perfect. We don’t Instagram our churches, making them look good by adding special filters – or we shouldn’t (although it’s tempting, isn’t it?). No, we see ourselves and each other by the bright light of the Lord Jesus: deeply flawed, but forgiven and filled with his Spirit.
Remember the Corinthians’ stupidity: When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise (2 Cor. 10:12)