The Smallness of Doing Big Things for God

This is a common theme I’ve heard in Evangelicalism- do big things for God. Typically what it translates into doing something that will impact people on a large scale, which naturally leads to a focus on notoriety about accomplishments. And this is something I’ve become increasingly aware of and disturbed by. We applaud those are in the limelight because of some grand accomplishment and marvel at their success.

An underlying problem that I think fuels this mentality is that contemporary Evangelicalism has capitulated to the American dream success culture. Mega-churches, grand accomplishments, celebrity pastors with book deals and media attention serve as the gauge of how success is measured. We are attracted to this type of success because maybe it shows how much we’re winning at doing Christianity.

So what does this do to average Joe Christian who will never see this type of notoriety? You know, the person who just goes about living their life and serving God the best way they can? Would it not create an impression that he or she is not doing big things for God, that they are not doing enough? I bet it would. It minimizes their contributions to the body of Christ.

Paul addresses this applause of “bigness” in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 because apparently the Corinthian church had the same problem of applauding the bigger more visible parts of the body. So Paul had to chastise them for dishonoring the those that didn’t necessary seem to be doing big things for God.  Specifically in vv 22-24, listen to his exhortation

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our special parts need no special treatment.

Um, did you catch that? The ones doing the big and great things should actually not be applauded. Ouch! How does that fit in with the praise that bigness and celebrity receive today?

Carl Trueman has this to say about our emphasis on celebrity and bigness

As soon as your group, whether it be a conference or a coalition or a college, starts to be influenced in its choice of ‘leader’ or keynote speaker by the chosen one’s ability to command serious media attention or simply fill that stadium, you have Corinthian Christianity and you are heading for disaster.

It’s disaster because it’s focused on the wrong thing and that disaster is reduced to smallness. Not only that, when we measure success based on bigness, what does that mean for that rural pastor, small congregation or those content to serve God in small ways while just doing everyday life? Some congregations will never get past a certain number and many members will never achieve what we deem success. But maybe its because we need to think differently about success, which in Christianity’s paradigm is a loving the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and loving neighbors as ourselves. It is serving and giving rather than receiving praise or celebrity status.

Yes, service. This concept seems to get drowned out in the loudness of leadership and doing big things. But Christ himself demonstrated that bigness is actually laying our life down for the sake of others even in the smallest of ways. This may not earn the praise lavished on celebrity accomplishments but its pretty big in the eyes of God.


8 thoughts on “The Smallness of Doing Big Things for God

  1. John Child October 20, 2012 / 6:00 pm

    Thanks, Lisa. A good piece & timely. And you’re right Paul does speak about this in 1 Corinthians. We do need to do small things for God; these add up. Nearly all of us will never do a big thing for God; but some will. And pastors & lecturers like myself need to encourage the ordinary folk & average pastors to do just that.
    Carl Trueman though almost implies if one does big things or is a big speaker then somehow you’re suspect or off the rails. Of course, that’s nonsense. But that then is Carl’s style. And his an astute writer & church historian.
    BTW I came via Laurie’s post & am a Facebook friend of hers (never met) & have seen you comment from time to time. I hope your MTh goes really well. I presume you’re doing a thesis or mini-dissertation at some stage or are nearly finished. Hope it goes really well. I’m in the throes of marking 4 plus many undergrad assignments.
    Never been to Dallas or Texas.
    John Child
    Cape Town

  2. ljrobinson October 20, 2012 / 6:20 pm

    John, thanks for the comment. I agree with you about the Trueman’s piece but thought he was on-point in the paragraph from which that quote was taken. I actually didn’t care for him at first but the more read his stuff, the more I’ve come to appreciate how he processes information and arrives at his conclusions. But I don’t always agree with him.

    Yes, I’m about to embark on my thesis for my ThM degree. I should finish both the thesis and the degree next fall. It’s been a long haul. I started the program in 2008. What do you teach? I do some grading for one of my profs. I actually enjoy it.

    • johngchild October 21, 2012 / 7:52 am

      Thanks, Lisa. Trueman is spot on in your quote. I like his writings; he’s sharp. I met him at Westminster. My problem is that the conservative Reformed & evangelicals – & I’m one! – so often go beyond that & are suspicious of any mega-church preacher because he has a mega-church, without seeing if there is reason to be suspicious. (Happens where I am.) One doesn’t have to be off the rails if one has the gifts & leadership to build a large church. Not every mega-church pastor seeks publicity or panders to the crowd or ungodly & unbiblical methods to build the congregation.

      I like marking (grading – we don’t call it that though it is that) but tend to put it off till other tasks are done. I’m a slow marker as I mark carefully & show my students how they can improve. Lots need help in writing. Most appreciate it.

      I teach theology, all the ethics (a semester each for first, second & third years), second year preaching the epistles (mainly practical; each student preaches twice & is critiqued & graded by his/her peers – works really well). Also taught Psalms & Ephesians (subject dropped) till recently. I’ve taught a number of other subjects but curriculum change & every now & then I’ve got to hand subject over to a new member of Faculty!

      Whereabouts in New England did you live? I found NE incredibly beautiful & most interesting historically. We don’t have the enormous rivers & forests NE has. SA is largely a dry country. Our climate round Cape Town, the Western Cape, is a Mediterranean climate like California but with its own unique flora, the Cape Floral Kingdom (over 8 000 species), which we call fynbos [literally fine bush], one of the 6 floral kingdoms in the world & by far the smallest (0,04% of the land surface of the world). Here in the Cape Peninsula (a narrow mountainous strip from the city of CT to Cape Point – see map) we have more plant species than the whole of the UK.

      Have you chosen a topic for your thesis? If so, what is it on?

      Just had two days at the Global Leadership Summit. Original conf at Willow Creek, South Barrington, north of Chicago, & then on video all round the world. Second day was outstanding & inspiring. Condleeza Rice (brilliant), William Ury from Harvard on conflict negotiation (top notch & helpful – I took my youngest daughter with as she’s thinking of a Masters in area of conflict negotiation), a business guru on organization health, a testimony of an Indian lady rescuing sex work slaves & finishing with Bill Hybels passionately speaking of the the local church as the hope of the world. Going to play Hybels’ message during last period of my doctrine of the church course as they then right exams & most go into fulltime ministry in the new year.

      Sunday dinner (lunch) nears. Must go & then prepare for 3 lectures tomorrow, Christology & Ecclesiology.


      • johngchild October 21, 2012 / 7:56 am

        Sorry, typo: Condoleezza.

  3. Paulraj Familybook October 20, 2012 / 10:11 pm

    “Little drops of water ,
    Little grains of sand ,
    Make the mighty ocean ,
    And the pleasant land “

    Great post Lisa.

  4. ljrobinson October 22, 2012 / 12:01 am

    John, my thesis topic was just approved although I had been thinking about it and interacting with my profs about the topic for some time. For now the title is God Already Told Us: A Response to Direct Speech Today in Defense of the Sufficiency of Scripture. I’ll be interacting with popular
    work that promotes direct divine speech and critiquing it with the biblical model of revelation and authority of scripture.

    I moved to Dallas in 2008 from Rhode Island where I had lived for 7 years. Prior to that I lived in and around Boston for 7 years. But I’m originally a California girl. You’re right NE is beautiful, especially in the fall. I do miss it.

    Your classes sound fascinating. I’m in the systematic theology track and relish my theology classes, although I’m pretty much all done with them. The classes that I’ve graded for are the Intro to Theology and also Eschatology. But my preference is the intro class. But at DTS bible classes fall under the Bible Exposition, Old Testament or New Testament departments. Old and New pretty much deal with the languages. So for ThM students, we get Philippians, Ephesians and Romans in New Testament and Jonah, Ruth and Psalms in Old Testament. All other books are covered under Bible Exposition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s