The word legacy gets thrown around a lot these days. We’re very concerned with leaving our mark on history. Even in ministry we want to make sure that we will be remembered for what we’ve done for the kingdom.
Our digital world means that we can quantify our social impact by literally counting our friends, those who like us, and the reach of our writing through tweets and blogs. I fear that we have become obsessed with making a greater name for ourselves. We think that because we CAN be known by everyone, we SHOULD be known by everyone.
Do a thought experiment for me: how many youth ministry people can you name? Is it 20, 30, 50, 100? According to an informal twitter poll, the estimates are between 30,000 and 40,000. So out of that many you can only name 50. Now, how many youth pastors from the ’90’s can you name? I can name like 10. The further back you go, the less we remember. Out of every century there are only a handful of Christian leaders’ who’s names will live beyond their lifetimes.
The point is this. Unless you are one of the few people who truly change the direction of the church, your name is heading for anonymity. A few generations after you are gone you’ll be most likely forgotten. This is your legacy. Far from being depressing news, this should free you!
The history of the Church is populated with names of people you’ve never heard of. They were faithful men and women who worked to advance the kingdom and pass off the faith to the next generation. Hebrews 11 describes them like this…
35 they were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38 NLT, emphasis mine)
Even John, the voice in the desert, proclaimed. “He must increase. I must decrease.” (John3:30).
Without these brothers and sisters, the church would not exist. The church exists precisely because generally these people cared more about promoting the name of Jesus than their own name.
I’m aware of the irony that I’m promoting this post on a blog. This is not a rant against anyone with a blog, twitter account or podcast. It’s not a shot at those who do have social media clout. If anything, it’s a lament that I have spent too much of my time worrying if anyone will remember me as a great youth pastor. That’s time that I could have spent serving and loving others in the name of Jesus without expecting anything in return.
Trying to make a name for yourself is a losing proposition. You’ll end up hating others or hating yourself. Your students won’t get the best of you and your family won’t either because you’ll be too busy building your brand.
If you struggle with this like I do, here are some questions to ask yourself when you share, post, tweet, and write:
- Will I be disappointed if I don’t get credit/praise for this?
- Am I trying to catch the eye of someone of influence?
- Is there a number of responses that I’m looking for to feel validated?
- Is this more about promoting me than blessing others?
Join the rest of Christendom and dare to be anonymous. We must decrease and HE must increase.
Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Kevin loves to connect with and empower youth workers. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick