For most of my life, my insecurities have caused me to care too much about what other people think of me.
When we first started our church, I decided we would not count how many people were in attendance each week. Didn’t want to focus on the wrong things, you know? Didn’t want to make church about the numbers. Wanted it to be about Jesus.
Actually I was just too insecure to deal with reality, but couldn’t admit it.
We had 18 people at church the Sunday (it was Saturday night technically, which is when our only service was at that time) after our church plant’s grand opening back in 2006. The church planting books tell you you will have around 150 your first week (we had 50, mostly friends from other church who came to show support), 80 the 2nd week, then plan to grow from there.
18 is not 80.
It took me a while to realize I was lying to my prayer team (a list of around 75 people committed to praying for me and my new church, many whom also funded my salary). I told them we had 90 people our first Sunday. It felt like 90. I wasn’t counting after all, so why not let it be 90? It’s no 200, but it felt respectable.
50 made me sound like a loser.
Like they had wasted their money on me.
Like I failed.
It’s hard to not count attendance when you are preaching to 18 people (in a sanctuary that seats 250). Like it’s hard to not count attendance when you and your spouse sit down to eat dinner together.
We ended up having around 25-30 people each Sunday on a consistent basis. I knew this because it was a handful more than our 18. Doing a little more math, I eventually realized there was no way we had 90 at our grand opening.
That was a humbling prayer letter to write. Repenting to my prayer team for inadvertently lying to them about our attendance.
Because I was afraid of what they’d think of me if I told them the truth.
The fear of what other people think of us is something that effects almost every aspect of our Christian walks:
Anger – Someone insults me. I will prove they are incorrect in what they say. Prove it to them, and all of those watching. I’m not weak. Prove it by shouting back, hitting back, getting revenge, getting angry. Because what they think of me matters so much. Like they are my Judge. I give them this authority, as if what they say about me means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Not stepping out and doing what God tells us to do – Plant the church. Write the book. Start the band. Write the blog. Begin a new career. Go into missions. Give away a large chunk of money. Downsize. We are afraid people will think we are arrogant. Or we are afraid people will think we are nuts. Or we are afraid people will tell us we will fail. We give them this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality. So we let hyper-critical and hyper-judgmental people dictate our actions, rather than letting God dictate our actions.
Lying – I get lied to often, because everyone is very concerned about what “The Pastor” thinks of them. I don’t want him to think less of me so I won’t tell him the truth. Or I will lie in my behavior. Acting one way around “The Pastor”, when that really isn’t who I am. As if “The Pastor” has ultimate authority, as if what he says about me means something in the eternal realm of reality.
And pastors lie too. They preach like they have it all together. Like they don’t struggle. Like they aren’t broken. Like they don’t sin. Because they are afraid people will think they are unspiritual. They are afraid they could get fired if they don’t hold up an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be a Christian. They’re afraid people will leave their church. We give our congregations this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Telling others about Jesus – I don’t want to look like a nerd. So I don’t tell my friends about Jesus. Because they might reject me. We give them this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Hesitation to personally accept Jesus – While I’m drawn to Jesus and like what he offers me, I can’t accept him and surrender to him because what will my friends think? What will my parents think? What will my girlfriend / boyfriend think? What will my teammates think? They will reject me. They won’t think I’m cool. We give them this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Inability to confront face to face – I can’t confront someone who has wronged me. I just stuff it and pretend like everything’s okay. Or I’ll do it via Facebook, or texting, or email. This way I don’t have to give them to chance to judge me. I don’t have to be a full human in front of them. I can just unfriend them. Block their emails. I don’t want to engage them as a human because I’m afraid of what they’ll say to me, what they’ll think of me, what they’ll do to me. We give them this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Inability to say “No” – We over-commit. Because if we say “No”, people will think we are mean, or unspiritual, or lazy. No matter that God tells us to rest, and also to realize we are limited, and that even Jesus didn’t help everyone. But we try anyway. We give others this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Church planters and missionaries are afraid to raise financial support – Because I will be rejected. And people might get the wrong idea. We give people this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Or…the other side of the coin…I NEED people to validate me! I need their praise! I want to be a rock star pastor. A rock star musician. A rock star author. A rock star person. I need people to think I’m important and valuable, because if they don’t…then I must not be important and valuable. We give people authority, as if what they say about me means something in the eternal realm of reality.
Lust and Affairs – She is a 10 out of 10. If I can get her to want me, or in my head I can fantasize about her wanting me, now I am also a 10 out of 10. She said so. Someone valuable has said I am valuable, so I must be. We give them this authority, as if what they say about us means something in the eternal realm of reality.
God gave me the solution to all of these things a few months ago. It is 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. The Apostle Paul, at times a rock star and at times a target for rock-throwing, lived both ends of the what-do-people-think-of-me spectrum. Verse 3 has been emblazoned on my heart: I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court…
Let that sink in.
And verses 4 and 5: It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
If people are your judge, do what they say.
If the Lord is your Judge, do what He says!
There is such freedom in getting a taste of this.
There are two court rooms, with two different judges. One of them has credentials, an elected position, and authority.
The other one found a Halloween costume.
Which one should you be more concerned with?
Why give authority to someone who has none in reality?
Why not listen to and be faithful to the only One with ultimate authority?
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