What are we doing, brothers? I am asking myself no less than you.James M. Hamilton responds:
What if we made up our minds to refuse to quietly electronically parade whatever accomplishments the Lord grants? What if we let the Lord decide who knows of us and what we've done? What if every post, tweet, and FB update was passed through the fine filter of Matthew 23:12?
What are we of? What's driving us? Is this how true faith acts, faith in a God who one day 'will disclose the purposes of the heart' (1 Cor. 4:5)?
Is it self-promoting to want to help people understand the Bible?Justin Taylor then highlighted a John Piper interview clip in which Piper outlines the balance between good and bad self-promotion.
Maybe. Could be. Before we can say one way or another, we need to know more about that desire, don’t we?
If the aim of helping people to understand the Bible is ultimately so that we can advance ourselves, self-promotion would seem to be an issue.
But what if, as far as we can tell, we’re operating on a genuine desire to serve others? Love for God manifesting itself in love for God’s word and God’s people, provoked by the challenges God’s people face.
If that’s what’s driving someone, would self-promotion still be a concern?
We cannot see each other's hearts. Many times, I think, we assume we know bad self-promotion when we see it. Isn't there a line between the pastor-author who references his book here and there and the pastor-author who re-tweets (apparently) every single mention of himself? Or perhaps in both cases the heart we ought to be looking at in the objection is our own. Why does it bug us so much? Is it because we worry about someone's pride? Or is it because of our own envy or resentment? There's a line there too, in which I ought to be more worked up about my own sin than yours.
Still, I think this is a danger zone. The Band of Bloggers events at the major gospel conferences the last few years have discussed this issue, typically within the framework of how to build a platform for the gospel and Jesus' fame, rather than a platform for our own. I shared at one of those events that I think it's important for pastors/bloggers/authors to have people very close to them who just aren't impressed by all that stuff in the least. Find people who will remind you regularly that you're not a big deal.
Last year Brandon Smith interviewed Trevin Wax, Steve McCoy, and me on the issue of Christians and Internet Presence, and asked us, "Is fame something that Christians should avoid or embrace?" At the risk of indulging in self-promotion, here is how I responded:
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m dodging the question, but I’m not sure “avoid” or “embrace” are the only two options for Christians. I think we should just be faithful to the callings, private and public, that God puts before us. In that sense, fame is neutral. There were men of God who were famous in the land in Bible times. Fame is not something to embrace, of course, as a self-exalting pursuit, but neither something we are morally bound to avoid. In some cases, I’d think avoidance of exposure or recognition can be a form of false humility, a type of self-centeredness all its own.I would also point back to some of Hamilton's questions, including the practical concerns publishers give authors in the expectation of their participation of marketing a book and the logical problem inherent in blogging against self-promotion. If drawing attention to oneself is always bad, we ought not ever do anything attention-getting in public, including posting thoughtful, theological, and excellent writing on the world wide web, as Dane Ortlund does.
I love my brothers, and I'm thankful for the self-reflection and sharpening that goes on in most corners of the evangelical social media world.