I’m a pastor. I know the trade secrets.
I hope none of the brethren get upset by my letting the rest of the world in on our little quirks here.
When we want the audience to know of our (ahem) advanced degrees and superior education, we tell stories. They sound a lot like this…
…When I was working on my doctor’s degree—I mean the first one, not the second one—I was having a hard time with my dissertation… (When the truth is, he got that degree from a mail-order institution for reading three books and writing two short papers.)
–The other day I met a man at the grocery store. He said to me, “Aren’t you DOCTOR Rogers?” I said, “Yes, I am.” And he said, “Well, Doctor Rogers…. (and the story goes on from there. Throughout the story, that fellow calls him Doctor no fewer than a dozen times. This is to alert the audience to the way he wishes to be addressed.)
When we want the audience to know what celebrated circles we run in, we drop names into the sermons…
–“As I was saying to Billy Graham recently, ‘I hate name-droppers, don’t you?’”
–“The last time I attended the presidential prayer breakfast in Washington, this time I was seated beside a lowly congressman. A far cry from the time they seated me beside the Secretary of State. Anyway, he said to me…”
–“I was so surprised. At the governor’s reception, when our mayor was introducing me to the senator, the senator said, ‘I know the pastor. I watch him on television all the time.’”
When we want the audience to know of our successes, we give our testimony, which begins humbly. That way, our bragging sneaks up on you and is not so obvious to most people…
–“I started that church in a storefront with three people, plus my wife and children. Some weeks, there was not enough money to pay the light bill. And once some people got mad at me and left, leaving us with half the congregation and all the bills. But I’m here to say God really blessed. He blessed us so much that within five years, we were running over 500 in attendance. The denomination gave us an award as the fastest growing church in the state, and invited me to speak at the annual meeting. My picture was on the cover of the state paper. God is good.” (This humble testimony sounds a lot like bragging. It sounds that way because it is.)
–“That was one of the most heart-breaking times in my life. But the Lord is faithful. He laid it on my heart to write that down, and a publisher contacted me, asking for permission to publish it. To date, that book has sold many thousands of copies. The publisher says it’s the best book he’s ever sold.”
–“Someone stopped me on the street and said, ‘Didn’t you used to pastor Shiloh Number Three over at the crossroads?’ I admitted that, yes, I’d done that some years ago. ‘Well, where are you now?’ he asked. And I had the privilege of telling him I’m at the biggest church in Shenandoah County, that we run 28 buses bringing people to our services, and our budget last year was $358,000. He was amazed.”
–The publisher wanted me to write a little bio about myself for the book. Now, that’s hard to do, to brag on yourself. I had no trouble bragging on my church, to say that we have the largest church in this part of the state and led the state in baptisms the last three years in a row, but to say something about myself was hard.” You just did, friend.
That’s how it’s done. In fact, it’s even possible to brag on yourself in a prayer. The Lord told us how it’s done in Luke chapter 18…
“A Pharisee stood (in the temple) and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I’m not like other people—swindlers, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week, I pay tithes of all that I get.”
That’s how it’s done. But we don’t recommend it.
What if we quit bragging on ourselves and hanging our fragile egos on the line for all the world to see? What if we did our job and said to ourselves, “I am only an unworthy servant; I’m just doing my job,” and left it at that (Luke 17:7-10).
What if we bragged on Jesus?
This article originally appeared here.