Thanks... I think?

This is not going to be a well-planned entry by any stretch. This topic literally came to me this morning a matter of hours ago, and having had very little time to think about it, I don’t have many of the important details sorted out. But, I’m just going to throw what I have out there and hope I might stir up some controversy… :)

I realize it sounds cliché to say this to a certain extent, but I’m not the kind of person to lie about my shortcomings. So when I say that I don’t like accepting praise for things that I firmly believe I would not have been able to do without God’s grace, I mean every word of it.

I’ll use my involvement in the worship ministry as an example. This is a little-known fact in the church community, but a LOT of us musicians (not all, but a lot) honestly don’t like being told what an awesome job we did after a service. Being that each and every one of us is a flawed human being, it’s always a struggle for us to remember that we’re playing our instruments to and for God alone. But being told that we did such a great job in a song, although the compliment is no doubt heart-felt, is somewhat counterproductive. It takes something we brought to God as a prayer and offering, and turns it into something to puff up our own egos. It’s pretty tough to not let those kinds of things go to your head sometimes.

Through that lens, it’s equally frustrating to never hear the same people who would compliment a worship musician for a job well-done offer a single piece of gratitude to those who ran sound, set up the stage, served communion, prayed for people during the service, or even set up the coffee and snacks before the whole night went down. Not a one of us who serves God through volunteering in a ministry wants human praise for what we do, and I’m willing to bet that it would be pretty awkward if someone came up to a greeter and said, “Wow, you did an excellent job shaking people’s hands tonight!”

Now, I don’t mean to pick on anyone. Like I said, I realize that the compliments given are coming from a place of good intentions, but I wanted to expose the issue for all of us to think about a little bit. There are a million and a half questions to ask about this kind of thing, so I’m not even going to try to do justice to them. Instead, I’d much rather see some kind of discussion if people would be so bold as to post! ;)

When you’re complimenting someone, are you thinking about why you’re really doing it? Are you doing it because you appreciate what they brought to the ministry as a whole, or are you doing it to get on their good side? Are you offering the same praise to other people who work just as hard for the ministry, or are you swayed by a bias?

When you’re on the other end, receiving a compliment, where does it end up in your heart? Does it make you feel, “Oh, wow, finally SOMEONE appreciates me!” or, is it more rightly something like, “Well, God really deserves the gratitude, not me.”? Is your satisfaction in your servitude contingent upon human praise, or are you fully serving God with what you do?

As I said, I sure don’t have all the answers. Though, I’ll suggest that if you’re out to offer praise to someone, it’d be best to thank God for that person’s heart as well. And if you’re frequently receiving compliments for your servitude in the church, well then, thanks are also due to God for your gifts and abilities that have allowed you to serve in such a way.

2 Comments:

  1. JC Denton said...
    I'll be bold enough to respond to you Luke, if nobody else will. This is a somewhat bold post, therefore i approve of it. I think this goes back to the baby boomers being in their 30's. Back then, the church was sometimes seen as a sort of mediocre and 'thrown together' type of thing. In that era, they started treating the church like a business, or a professional presentation. And that was a GOOD thing to them. They were saying "look, this church thing, we are going to give it the higher level of attention that we give to the other important things in our lives, such as our work and professionalism, because it's just as important to us as those things are". Quite a positive statement. However in my generation, that same exact structure and mentality now carries with it a ... wildly different connotation. I think perhaps what you are speaking of here, is just a remnant of that time. A time when people looked at the church as a business. And in such an environment, it's very acceptable to compliment and show respect to the ones seen as the 'leaders' or those 'out in front'. I mean, if you went into a Quizno's or a HyVee and found somebody mopping the floor and said "we really appreciate what you do here" they would no doubt be very shocked and uncomfortable, because that's just 'wierd' to do that in a business, know what i mean? Maybe it's not volitional on the part of these complimenters you speak of, but just a social undercurrent that we've all picked up without knowing it. I am not speaking about what to do about it, for i have no answer for that. I'm just trying to throw out an idea as to why this is the way it is. Who's to say really...
    Anonymous said...
    I would simply say "thanks", make sure I deflect any perceived praise onto myself to Him above, and allow God to look into the motives of their compliment.

    If someone thanks you for helping usher them to the throne of God, that is a good thing. It should encourage you to continue to use your talents for His glory. I would say look for the good in people first and more often than not you will find it.

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