You Are Essential

Philippians 2:1-4

So then, if Jesus encourages you, if love comforts you, if you would share a greater purpose, if you yearn for community, then I’d rejoice to see you work through your differences, love one another, stick together, and find points of agreement. Don’t do things just to promote yourself; try to give someone else a lift. And, among you, it’s not “every man for himself,” rather seek the common good.

Two thoughts.

First, a movement isn’t about getting people to march in lock-step, or to encourage group-think, as translations of these verses often imply. Rather it’s about a community that commits to care about each other, and then pull in the same direction. And the basis for this kind of commitment and effort is never found in coercion, guilt, fear, or some robotic sense of duty. It comes from the positive primal human needs for affirmation, love, purpose, and connection.

Second, self-promotion never works for long. People will see through those motives, even as they go along with you for a while. Loyalty never comes from giving people a good deal; a good deal is the minimum expectation. Loyalty is earned by giving people gifts with no strings attached. But as soon as you give with the intention of earning their loyalty, that’s a huge string. The only way through the paradox is simply to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t give yourself to the world, the world will miss you.

2 thoughts on “You Are Essential”

  1. Self-promotion does work in the life of the church though. I’m thinking of someone, I’ll call him “Reg” who makes folks at church believe he is indispensable because he always takes the lead role in cooking the chicken, or putting up the Christmas lights, or driving the parade float, or whatever makes for a good photo op. He does this to meet his own sad ego needs, clearly, but also so that when he is displeased with the Pastor, he can leverage his perceived indispensability by threatening to quit church. Even the few people who see through him prefer to allow him to occupy the spotlight and be their “leader” because it’s just plain easier than trying to convince folks the sky is not falling every time Reg is unhappy.

    1. Good observation. In my experience, the cases where self-promotion “works” tend to occur where the church is more broadly unhealthy, and particularly where a church-wide attitude of self-promotion has caught on. When, as you say, even the few people who do see through it fail to muster the nerve to address it, there is more than one dysfunctional person involved. And, while self-promotion may seem to be “working” on the surface, it’s not getting the community any closer to the experience Paul has in mind. Would you agree that it compromises the congregation’s capacity for real witness and mission?

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