Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Impressing the Crowd vs. Influencing the Crowd

I stop and think about the word "impress" and all that it implies. I can't help but think about my life and how it's been lived trying to impress everyone.

As a child I tried to impress my parents. I sought the "good job" from them, especially my father, and I didn't just hope for it but I did anything to get it; from being stupid to excelling at grades in school. I remember so much of my childhood being unhappy because I didn't feel that I was impressing my parents enough.

I tried to impress my teachers. I remember taking computer science in high school, learning the programming language of Pascal, and getting so far ahead of the class that the teacher began to teach the rest of the class based on projects I was goofing off with. One of those project was actually designing a program that would manage and calculate grades for my English teacher, to impress her because I was doing horrible in her class.

I tried to impress my friends. I remember literally practicing soccer for hours every day, even if I was only juggling by myself, just so I could show off in front of my friends and on the field. I remember doing a lot of things I'm ashamed of and doing it less from peer pressure to be cool or to fit in, but most often to impress everyone. Most of my life choices were based on what would impress my friends the most.

What an empty life I led. I could never satisfy the world enough.

And then I came to know Christ. . .yet the desire to impress remained. It comes to me, like fire to dry straw.

I had been a believer for only a few months when some leaders from Campus Crusade for Christ asked me to play drums for the worship team. I said yes. Why? To impress the crowd. Later when I became a leader in Crusade I still remember choices I made because I was trying to impress that cute girl who was also on leadership, or to just impress the other leaders.

I've now been a youth pastor for over 3 years and I've been a believer for 9 years this November and I still have this feeling that ignites within me to impress others around me. I find myself trying to impress those I teach, impress the congregation that hears me speak, impress that same congregation by leading them is worship, etc. It's a thorn in my side, that feeling that if they're not impressed then I'm not accepted.

The desire to impress others is such a dangerous one. The desire to impress others leaves you at the whims of man, when our life should be give to the desires of God. Our desire should not be to impress but rather to influence. How easy it is for us in the ministry to be caught into this devilish snare! How many churches place so much weight on hiring a pastor based on if they can give a good sermon, when giving a sermon is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to running a church. They want someone who "looks good" and can impress the visitors. Oh, how many times I've been told I should pastor a church all based on the message I gave that Sunday morning (I appreciate the compliments but leading a church is yet to be in God's timing for me and unless I'm supernaturally given some knowledge and gifts I don't currently possess then it's not happening anytime soon).

I just want to pause for a moment and praise God for opening my eyes and showing me my sinfulness, desiring the affections of man and their applause through impressing them. And I thank God that He's given me vision, passion, and strategy to transition from impressing those around me to influencing them. May I never give the crowd what their ears itch to hear, but rather teach through word and deed only Christ, His love, His commands, His sacrifice.

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