Time Wasters – Part Six

Time Wasters – Part Six

Self-Promotion

by Leslie Ludy | September 1, 2011

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

– Philippians 2:3 NIV

When I was about twelve or thirteen, I decided I wanted to be a famous Christian singer. I think it was attending an Amy Grant concert that first planted the idea in my mind - a beautiful young woman on stage, decked out in a dazzling outfit, belting out catchy tunes in front of thousands of adoring fans under a canopy of stunning lights and smoke. Who wouldn’t want that kind of attention and applause? I’d been singing, performing, and writing music since the age of six. People were always telling me I had real musical talent and that I was a natural performer. The applause, the excitement, and the adrenaline of being on stage in front of a crowd was something I’d grown to love.

Society constantly inundated me with mantras such as, “Go for your dreams!” and “Do what makes you happy!” Well, this was my dream. Singing and performing made me happy. And I knew that if I worked hard enough, I could achieve my goal of using my gift to get the recognition and exciting lifestyle of a Christian musician – all under the banner of “using my musical talent for the glory of God.” After all, that’s what the famous Christian singers did. They “ooo-ed” and “aah-ed” the crowd with their amazing abilities, basked in the cheers and adoration, and then made sure to throw in the statement, “All the glory goes to God!” There were a lot of goodies that came from being in “music ministry:” applause, fame, fans, and of course, money. And at the same time, everyone was impressed with how great a Christian witness you were. Not a bad arrangement, if you asked me.

So, I told my parents what I wanted to do with my life. I was careful not to emphasize my desire for applause, money, and fame, and I merely told them I wanted to be a Christian singer/songwriter when I grew up. Naturally, they wanted to help me reach my goal. They signed me up for voice lessons, took me to countless musical auditions and songwriting competitions, encouraged me to participate in every church or school play that came along, and even hired a producer to help me write and record my own music. Along the way, all of the music industry experts we met offered us plenty of tips on how I could “make it in the music biz” or get discovered by a talent scout from Nashville.

“You need to go get a professional photo shoot done,” one music producer told me. “Get some 8x10 glossies printed, and give them out everywhere you go to help build your image.”

So, I went to a modeling agency, got my make-up and hair done by a professional, and had my 8x10 glossies made.

“You definitely need to record a professional demo album,” another producer told me. “Put your best songs on it, and then give it to anyone you meet who’s connected with the music industry. You never know when a record company might hear it and want to sign you to a contract.”

As a result, my parents forked over thousands of dollars to a producer who helped me record my first demo album.

“You’ve got to write up an impressive bio,” I was told. “Write down all the competitions you’ve won, the awards you’ve received, the musicals you’ve starred in. Make it sound larger than life.”

I labored for hours to concoct a bio that would make people say, “Wow, that girl’s got some serious talent. Look at all she’s already done, and she’s so young!”

The more I connected with the Christian music industry, the more I kept hearing the message, “Promote yourself, promote yourself, promote yourself.” On numerous occasions, I was encouraged to walk up to a perfect stranger and hand him my demo album along with an 8x10 glossy photo of myself. If I hesitated, I would immediately be lectured and corrected. “Leslie, in the music business, if you snooze, you lose! You can’t wait around for people to notice that you’ve got a gift. You’ve got to get in their face and let them know who you are. Make sure they don’t forget you. Shameless self-promotion is the only way you will ever get a record deal!” (No, I am honestly not exaggerating – these are the exact words I heard, time and time again, from Christian music professionals.)

At fourteen, I attended a huge national conference for aspiring Christian musicians. Thousands of people from all over the country came to learn how to “make it big” in the music industry. I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one trying to promote myself and my music talent. Every person I met was talking about how they had met a record producer who showed a lot of interest in their demo album or how they won the songwriting competition so that gave them a lot of great exposure, or how they had met Michael W. Smith personally, so that gave them a great foot in the door. It seemed to be an entire subculture built upon self-marketing. No one really ever talked about the fact that this “promote yourself” mantra wasn’t exactly a Scriptural idea. Sure, we called ourselves Christians and we wanted to honor God with our music skills. Self-promotion was just a necessary step to gaining the platform we needed. How else would we ever get famous enough to wow the crowds with our talents and then “give all the glory to God?”

It wasn’t until God radically got a hold of my life at the age of sixteen that I began to awaken to His heart on the matter. When I made the decision to completely and fully surrender my life to Jesus Christ, He began to shine His searchlight upon my music dreams. I suddenly realized how foolish I’d been; how self-focused this entire pursuit was. It hadn’t really been about His glory - it had been about my own ambitions and desire to be seen, appreciated, and recognized.

I repented of my sin. I laid my music dreams down at His feet. From that day on, I knew that I would never touch music again unless the Spirit of God compelled me, and it truly brought glory to Him instead of me. No more demo albums. No more songwriting competitions. No more hob-knobbing with music professionals. I saw so clearly what a waste of time and energy it had all been.

I was not called to be a “Christian” musician. I was called to be a Christian. And the Christian life is not about self-promotion; it’s about self-denial.

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You don’t have to been an aspiring musician to fall into the trap of self-promotion. Whether it’s the pursuit of a guy, the pursuit of popularity, the pursuit of a career, or the pursuit of a ministry platform, young women are constantly pressured to make sure they are seen, noticed, and appreciated.

When am I finally going to meet Prince Charming? How am I ever going to find him? Should I try a little harder to get a guy’s attention - maybe create a really nice profile of myself for an online dating service? Or spice up my Facebook page with a few more photos of ME? After all, I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t want to wait forever!

Or, I know God has called me to start a ministry. I better get out there and let people know about it! I should start a blog, get some big-name endorsements for the book I’m writing, see if I can get myself invited to speak at a big conference, get on the radio, and go hob-knob with all the big names in the Christian world. How else am I ever going to get a chance to share the message God has put on my heart?

Modern Christianity only caters to these mentalities. Well-meaning books, counselors, and advice columns offer us the same simple solution to any dilemma we might be facing:

Want to find your future husband? Promote yourself! Put together a really impressive Facebook page (include a few pictures of yourself in a swimsuit for good measure), join an online dating service, socialize at singles’ groups, and make sure that all the men out there know you exist!

Want to get elevated in your job? Promote yourself! Make sure the boss sees all the great things you are doing for the company. Subtly drop hints about your uniqueness and value. Don’t waste your time with the little obscure jobs that no one else will see. Make sure other people notice all your amazing skills. Make a name for yourself so that you don’t get overlooked!

Feel called to start a ministry? Promote yourself! Get an agent, come up with a catchy name for your message, and find your unique “niche” in the Christian world. Get yourself out there. Look for the big opportunities and put yourself in front of people over and over again, until you finally gain the recognition and credibility you deserve!

And underneath it all is the resounding message, “Go for your dreams!” “Do what makes you happy!” and “If you live to your glory, you’ll bring God glory!”

Today’s young women waste countless hours, days, weeks, months, and even years self-promoting. Making sure we are seen. Ensuring we don’t get overlooked. Putting ourselves in front of others so they’ll notice all that we have. We even try to spiritualize it, thinking that if we promote ourselves, we’ll become more influential for God’s kingdom, or we’ll finally find our future husbands and fulfill our call to be married. There are plenty of Christian books and messages out there that tell us as much.

But what does God say?

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24 NIV).

“...everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11 NIV).

“...whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44 KJV).

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

In God’s kingdom, recognition and honor are not sought for and strived after, but given by God alone. And they come not to those who have exalted themselves, but only to those who have taken take the lowest place, just as He did. Only those who have been faithful in the small things are invited to be faithful in bigger things. He does not call us to be noticed and applauded by the world. He calls us to decrease, more and more, that He might increase within us. (See John 3:30.)

This doesn’t mean that having your own blog, website, or Facebook page is wrong in itself; but it is vital that these platforms are merely tools to point others toward Christ, and not ourselves. For more practical tips in this area, see Time Waster #1.

Ian Thomas wrote,

The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you – your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything – then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.

Amy Carmichael said, “He that is down need fear no fall. He that is down cannot get between God and His glory. And we knew then that there was nothing He could not do through us if only we were nothing.”

I challenge you today to allow God’s searchlight to shine within your soul. Here are some questions to prayerfully consider:

Have I been self-promoting in any area of my life?

Do I feel that I must fight to be noticed, seen, and appreciated?

Am I willing to take the lowest place and serve unnoticed behind the scenes, or do I feel the need to be recognized?

Am I trying to be seen by the opposite sex and using self- promotion to get attention from guys?

Do I trust God to write my love story, my life story, and my ministry story without human promotion, striving, and manipulation?

If God convicts you of self-promotion, ask Him for the grace to turn and walk the opposite direction. Instead of wasting time building up your own image and reputation, begin investing yourself in the unlovely people, the undesirable tasks, and the unglamorous roles. Begin living for His smile alone, rather than the approval of others. Soon you truly will be living a life that brings glory to His name – even if no one ever knows yours.*

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