Christianity And The Quest For Popularity.
Let me begin with my experience at a Marriage ceremony where a man of God was introduced as Apostle, Prophet, and the Agbodidi 1 of so and so land. The so-called Apostle and Prophet is a very young man maybe in His late 30s.
Let us examine some of these questions:
1. Can a Christian be popular?
2. Is it okay for a Christian to desire popularity?
3. Who should be popular, me or Christ?
4. What are the dangers of pursuing popularity?
Beloved, we are living in a time when there are no remarkable differences between a so-called believer and an unbeliever. They now even read citations for ministers. This is pathetic. Christ is now a visitor in His church. I listened to the citation of a man of God and I was hoping that he would renounce it and give the glory back to God when he got to the pulpit, but he also started eulogizing the host pastor. This is the operation today and heaven is weeping.
Can we look at how the patriarchs avoided the pitfall of popularity? Popularity may become a pitfall when not properly handled.
Can a Christian be popular?
A Christian can be popular (known by men) but only God makes him popular (heaven approved) as he abides under God. He does not seek popularity but only seeks to abide in Christ, and as long as he abides, it is Christ that is glorified. We see this in the lives of Joshua, Peter and Paul.
Joshua 3: 7 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. God is the one that lifts his men. No minister or believer in Christ should seek or crave it. God does the magnification. Joshua never desired popularity. God had to encourage Joshua before he could accept to lead the people of Israel.
Acts 3: 11-13 Peter became popular here after healing the lame man but he quickly returned all the glory to God.
Acts 14: 8-16 is another good example. Even without your request, people can sometimes heap praises on you, but you must do well to immediately shift attention and praise back to God. Barnabas and Paul became popular to the extent they called them gods- Jupiter and Mercury respectively, but look at the response of Paul– “We are men of like passion like you”. Do we hear that today? Rather we hear- “It’s my anointing and sacrifice”.
From all these examples above, we see they didn’t crave it, is only God that shined on them and they understood that the doer was God. So we are not popular in the context of the world. ONLY THAT THE FATHER SHINES ON US.
Being popular is unavoidable especially when we set out on the right path. Christ used various vessels during His ministry. There were times he used a ship or rode on an ass. So as people either sat to listen to Christ on the boat or hailed him while riding the ass, the vessels were noticed. But the vessels were not the focus of attention but Christ. This means God can magnify or make popular His chosen for the specific reason of drawing the people to Himself. There are some other examples from the scriptures: Daniel in the land of Babylon was popular; David, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha etc. Likewise in our contemporary days, we have some set of wonderful Christians who were popular, such as Tozer, Ravenhill, Hagin, Graham etc. However, their popularity was not for their selves neither was it by their projection or striving. It was a result of their standing for God. Therefore, a Christian can be popular, and he must not be seen that he elevates himself higher than the Maker who made him or intentionally sharing in the glory meant for the Lord. It’s not wrong to be popular but the position of the heart matters. Look at the response of David when God made him great. 1 Chronicles 17:18,19 What more can David say to You for thus honoring Your servant? For You know Your servant. O Lord, for Your servant’s sake and in accord with Your own heart, You have wrought all this greatness, to make known all these great things.
Paul also said in 2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the Excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Is it okay for a Christian to go after popularity?
It is possible that as humans, we may sometimes desire to be known or popular, however, in our quest for popularity, if Christ will not be the first to be known, I don’t think that kind of popularity will be right for us to long after.
When a child of God is abiding in Christ and sets his eyes on Christ he doesn’t know if he is popular or not. The desire for popularity comes when you begin to look at men behind you than the approval of God before you. Looking at this critically and with the witness of the Spirit, a child of God should not even have the word popularity in his agenda but rather ABIDING. To a child of God, Abiding is staying with Christ, Popularity is staying with men.
Once the devil sees a desire to be popular in a Christian, he will use that as a bait to draw such away James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
When men say you are becoming popular, let them know the language of the kingdom is “abiding”. You can be popular and never abide. Look at the example of Eli in I Sam 15:30 Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me forever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. You can also abide in God and never be popular. Luke 2:25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. I can equivocally say this man was more spiritual than all the Pharisees but he was not popular in the land at that time neither was he a leader or teacher in the synagogue.
It is the quest for popularity that has driven many far from where they started with God. John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. This should be our desire. If this comes with men knowing us, fine, if it comes with us being in obscurity, good. Not every child of God will be known. But every child of God must “abide”. Abiding is the language of the kingdom. The main goal for Christians is to put Jesus as the centre of their focus or better still let Jesus be the gospel they preach in connection with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8. That’s why Jesus asked his disciples to tarry until the Holy Spirit comes upon them because the Holy Spirit is the announcer of men. Doing things for popularity will never last. It was Jesus that the apostles preached and thousands were added to the church. It’s pathetic that nowadays, popular jesters are even used to usher men of God to the altar for ministration. The body of Christ must go back to the church’s firm and true foundation- Jesus Christ.
Let us now consider the pitfalls/dangers of seeking to be popular.
Not everyone is called to public or pulpit ministry. But most times, it will be difficult for a foundational Apostle or minister not to be popular. If at all he is not widely accepted, he will be known within his circle. Founders of ministries and movements will be known due to the influence they wield among the people. It is wise to always direct men to Christ so that He will be their delight, focus and hope. The way you manage popularity defines you, the way the people around you manage you emanates from what you have taught them. In today’s churches, the greatest sermon most of our Apostles teaches is ‘honour’. They teach it with all zeal and that has turned all our young people to honour seekers and honour givers. We teach honour to men in the body of Christ than honour to Christ today. We are bound to go into idolatry and take the place of God and above all, we sow a seed that cannot be easily removed from generations to come. You see a 26yrs old being called a mama, a papa, no brother this or sister that anymore. You hear things like, “Who are you to challenge a man of God?” The pattern in the kingdom is that the greatest of all should be the servant of all: that is, he is willing to surrender everything he has for the expansion of God’s kingdom through evangelization, the edification of believers, Discipleship, and Christlikeness.
The quest for popularity has also pushed some genuinely called ministers into acquiring power from the devil. We see pitfalls everywhere. Many are forced to make alignment with certain ministers so that they can have a platform to preach and become popular. Imagine a minister whose sermon is comfortable with everyone, he preaches diplomatic sermons to maintain his platform of popularity. As seen from the example of King Saul, he placed the honour of men above repentance and became a hardened sinner.
I have also seen some so-called prophets who feel they must say something even when it’s not God saying it just to maintain their “prophetic status”. Every 1st of January is a field day for prophets to give declarations and predictions for the New Year. But all these end up being just a figment of their imagination and not the mind of God. John 8:50 And I seek not mine own glory. Am not saying God cannot speak to some people but you cannot force God to speak on January 1. Sometimes men just say things to maintain popularity. CHRIST has set the pattern. We are to seek His glory looking unto him. Honestly, this is a wake-up call for us. Let’s even stop looking at others and focus on ourselves. We must rise as new breeds and say Lord “None of me and all of you.”
Let us consider the following:
- Sometimes we want everyone to know we are the ones financing the church project right?
- Sometimes you want people to know that you gave that brother money to start a business and so must be loyal to you right?
- Sometimes we want people to know that we are the Director in our workplace and that honour should also be ascribed to us in the Church right?
- Sometimes we are endowed with gifts and we make men know that the sacrifice we paid yielded that and not Christ.
Lord check our hearts!
I have discovered that the quest for popularity is the work of the flesh and if the flesh is not dealt with, there can be a problem. 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. If you do not seek for any of these three, you can never seek for popularity, men would know you but you would desire to abide in Christ. Look at our church services, when last did we have a Bible Study on the works of the flesh? What you don’t rebuke among your congregation, expect to see it in them. The flesh wants to be known Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Brethren, what can we do to change this Error?
I think this issue especially among sincere believers is that of spiritual growth. Many are aware that they are still babes spiritually and are ready to learn and grow. But sometimes, they may be made a leader or promoted into leadership without due development. This may cause more harm to the person and even others if not careful. While many others may be hypocrites whose slogan is “Do as I say and not as I do”. They do it to please themselves and seek the praise of men. There are renowned men of God who have grown to know that some things they held dear were not true. Sincere ones will change and tell others, but some may not. Spiritual growth sheds off many of these excesses, especially when there is an accompanying grace sought after from God’s Holy throne.
1 Peter 3:18 KJV But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Brethren, What can we do to change this Error, what part can we play as individuals?
- Anywhere we are, let men see the quest for Christ in us and for Christ to be seen.
- Don’t join the popular view, let Christ be your model.
- In your local Church, Sunday School is where you are to SPEAK against it
- Don’t allow it to become a doctrine anywhere you are.
- Pray for those that have been entrapped for Christ to reveal himself to them.
Some sincere believers need to grow in knowledge. Some are products of wrong teachings. I was almost trapped in this “popularity” teaching by a close friend some time ago, but I just discovered that I didn’t have peace. And that’s the reason we must help others. You can invite your friends to forums like this to see the scripture themselves. I agree many don’t know they are on the wrong path. A young believer who was mentored by someone who lives in this error will follow suit. Many are following their denomination thinking they are pleasing God. It’s bad that so many follow their Church Heads and copy their lifestyles.
Another issue we need to correct is that whatever the leaders do is correct, so why do you have the Bible then? Daddy said, papa said, G.O. said, Bishop said, but what is God Himself saying? What has God said? We must rise and show the light through our lifestyle, actions, and reactions towards the bane of popularity as Christians.
In times of great manifestation of the Spirit, many men of God fall into many of these traps (and may eventually perish on that hill). Look at this example from the scriptures in Matthew 17:4. The disciples even suggested to Jesus that they should raise an altar at the Mount of Transfiguration for Jesus and the prophets who appeared to minister to Jesus. Imagine that effrontery. They thought they were doing the right thing, but that would have been a great snare. It’s easy to think we are right especially when men magnify “being in the Spirit” above what the Scriptures teach. The safest path I’ve found (with no side effects) is just to FOCUS on Christ and Him alone. We can never go wrong on that glorious path.