The Tension Between Making Jesus Famous and Being Appreciated

Tensions are not easy to deal with. Feeling the tension between two ideas is the same as being put between a rock and a hard place. We’ve all been there. I don’t think anyone is immune to being put in such a situation. It makes you wonder what you should do. Some tensions are easy in theory but much harder in practice. Other tensions, well, they just plain suck. There is no easy answer. Both sides are a difficult decision.

Occasionally, there is a tension I wrestle with. I won’t deny it. I’d be willing to bet that if you are in leadership in a church, you probably deal with it too. It’s the tension of making Jesus famous but being appreciated for doing it. You see, recently I took a day off (supposedly) from leading worship at my church and visited a pastor friend who has been my best friend in life and ministry for nearly twenty years. However, when I showed up, he hugged me and his first words were thank God, I don’t have to play guitar today. We have that kind of relationship. So I ended up playing guitar for his worship leader that morning.

After church, we sat around for about four hours talking about everything; church, theology, the band we used to play in, farm work, horses, family, work, life in general. The whole time we sat talking I never received one text, Facebook message, email, phone call or anything from anyone at my church saying they missed me. I know that my church appreciates what I do. I have relationships with enough of those I worship with to understand they appreciate what I do. But…

I do wrestle with this tension. When I ask myself why I do what I do in church leadership, it’s because I want to see Jesus made famous and I want to lead people to the knowledge of His greatness, not mine. I enjoy that too. I like seeing people being led to the cross and learning that Jesus is all we need. The pastor in me says, there is more in Jesus, taste and see that He is good. The tension is, people recognizing the love I have for leading them to that knowledge.

I think we all want to be acknowledged for the work we do. We use it as some kind of metric to determine if we’re being successful at what we do. You can’t measure spiritual growth per se. You can recognize it when it’s happening but measuring it is something else. We all want to measure how successful we are at reaching others, making an impact in other’s lives or leading others to new heights in their spiritual walk. This measurement is usually made in the comments section of life. People tell you how you’re making a difference and if they don’t tell you, you wonder if you are making a difference. We tend to believe that if we are not making a difference in the making-a-difference job field then maybe we should stop trying.

On the other hand, maybe I am being successful because as John said, “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30). Maybe, they are recognizing Jesus more and me less and I should be ok with that.


It’s a slippery slope. It’s silly, I know.

But I’m human and my flesh screams acknowledgment. My spirit screams Jesus. My life screams tension!!!!

I don’t write this to receive pity. God forbid. I write this because maybe I’m the only one (without doing a Google search) that deals with this and wants to publicly acknowledge it. It happens. I believe all Christians deal with this tension. We want to be appreciated. We also want Jesus to be appreciated. So our flesh battles against our spirit. Who should be appreciated more? Of course the answer is Jesus.

I also don’t write this to give some brilliant answer of how to overcome it. I’m not that Christian. It’s simply a tension I deal with. I pray through it. I ask God to help me give Him the glory even when I wonder if I’m doing any good. I don’t think there is a way to overcome this tension. Even the bible mentions that our flesh wars against our spirits and will until the Day.

So here we are. Maybe you and definitely I. Dealing with a tension to be appreciated in the flesh and lead folks to appreciate Jesus in the spirit. How do you handle this tension?


About Kevin Riner
child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged

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