[Today I’m very pleased to be hosting a guest post by Nate Morgan Locke, presenter of the excellent Soul.]
“He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30). That’s a verse any gifted preacher should have firmly in his mind as he speaks. If John the Baptist, “the greatest of all those born of woman”, said it, how can anyone else be in the business of self-promotion?
“He must become greater; I must become less” is John’s best man speech. Eight simple words to explain the relationship between himself and the bridegroom. He is not interested in embarrassing the groom. He does not wish to tell humiliating stories. He is not trying to hog the limelight. He simply wants to celebrate his friend and commend him to his bride.
However, many preachers find themselves caught in a love triangle.
They have been sent by Jesus to woo the church on his behalf: to describe his character, to attest to his steadfast love, to witness to his acts of compassion. Yet the preacher finds himself wooing the church for himself. He falls for her charms: the way she laughs at his jokes, the way she looks into his eyes, the way she makes him feel clever and valued. So the preacher increases the number of jokes he tells, spends more time talking about himself than the groom, and insinuates his name into every account of Jesus’ greatness.
He tells himself that this is part of the plan, that his personality and charm actually draw people to Christ rather than himself, that he has been gifted in this way for this very purpose – and that an increase in his own popularity is merely a happy side-effect. Must he really become less for Jesus to become greater?
The devil is unlikely to have the preacher speak blatant falsehood about Jesus. That would be too obvious for many in the congregation. But he may convince the preacher that the best way to prepare the bride for her groom is to steal her first for himself.