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Popularity or Purpose? A Personal Story

August 1, 2016 • Life for Leaders

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Mark 1:38

 

Writing a blog post.As you know if you’ve been receiving Life for Leaders for a while, most of the time I focus on a passage of Scripture and its implications for our lives, especially our work and leadership. But, every now and then I pause to offer a personal story informed by the text. Last Thursday, my devotion was called, “Popularity or Purpose? What Will You Seek?” I noted how Jesus did not let popularity draw him away from his core purpose. Today, I thought I’d share an example of how I have wrestled with a similar tension.

The example of Jesus can speak to our lives today, to the things we all face, whether in the workplace, in our communities, or in our churches. We need God’s grace to be committed most of all to our purpose, and not to be distracted by our desire for popularity.

 

In 2003 I began blogging at markdroberts.com. My website still exists, but my blogging moved first to Beliefnet and then to Patheos (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/). At first I had very few visitors. But, in time, my audience grew. Eventually, I had over a million unique visitors a year. I felt encouraged by this and pleased. My blog was becoming more and more popular every year.

But then, in 2008, I started writing daily devotions as part of my work at the H.E. Butt Family Foundation. The time and energy I had once invested in blog writing went into the so-called Daily Reflections. I began to blog less and less.

I had mixed feelings about what was happening. I knew I was supposed to write the devotions. But I missed blogging. And, frankly, I missed the feeling of being popular and influential. When the number of readers to my daily blog started going down, I felt torn. I had to choose at that time between popularity or purpose. By God’s grace, I chose purpose. And I’m still making that choice today. If you check my blog, you’ll see that the last entry was posted on March 2, 2016.

I almost didn’t tell this story because I run the risk of boasting: “Oh, see how much I’m like Jesus!” My point, however, isn’t how wonderful I am. The truth is that I still struggle with a desire to be liked, something that can draw me away from my chief calling in life. But my main point is that the example of Jesus can speak to our lives today, to the things we all face, whether in the workplace, in our communities, or in our churches. We need God’s grace to be committed most of all to our purpose, and not to be distracted by our desire for popularity.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Have you ever been tempted by popularity to wander away from your purpose? If so, what happened?

What helps you say “No” to the unwise desire for popularity?

How do you think God can help you to be devoted most of all to your life’s purpose?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for the example of Jesus, who shows us that sometimes we need to turn from popularity in order to pursue our purpose. You know this is not easy for us, Lord. So help us, we pray, to choose the right course when it is not the popular one. Help us to risk being unpopular or unliked for the sake of following your call. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: The needs of the world

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