I’m beginning to accept the fact that I cannot open any electronic device without being flooded by opportunities… to increase my followers, to develop my personal brand, and even to generate authenticity in my virtual presence. All of a sudden my days are measured not in simple things like coffee spoons, but instead by posts hustling me to boost my personal brand in 10 steps or less. Though these opportunities aren’t new, I seem to have developed a newfound interest in them.
I’m interested because today we are told that numbers matter, specifically our numbers. They say something about us—they’re a sort of instant credibility, predicated on the assumption that the number of followers a girl has somehow numerically quantifies her awesomeness.
We know this belief to be laughable; look no further than cute animals that have over a million followers (most of which I shamelessly follow) to validate my point. Our worth isn’t contingent upon the number of followers we have, but when employers, or in my case publishers, factor in your following to determine whether or not you are a worthy investment to sign or to hire, you start to linger a little bit longer over those flashy opportunities and wonder if they might possibly work for you too.
When everywhere we look we are being told that we need to increase our followers and develop our brand, it can be easy to get lost in the “How To’s” and in doing so completely overlook the “Why’s”. Why do I need to acquire a following? Is it necessary to my success?
I want to make much of Jesus. So my personal success isn’t necessarily part of the equation; in fact, most of the time my personal success is in direct opposition, because of a little thing called pride. Regardless, I’m being made to believe that in order to make much of Jesus, I need to make much of myself first. Because…
“How can the people read a book that has not been published? And how can a book be published by an author of whom no publishers have heard? And how can the publishers hear of one who lacks a thriving social media presence? And how can one thrive on social media without a savvy personal branding strategy? For it is written, How beautiful on the device are those who offer free social media strategizing webinars!”
It’s enticing isn’t it? Logical, practical, convincing even. It’s not bad to self-promote necessarily, but we need to ask why we’re doing it. I refuse to believe that I need to make much of myself in order to make much of Jesus. I know myself well enough to know that I lack the mental fortitude necessary to distinguish between inviting people to worship Jesus and inviting people to worship me.
There was a king who also built an image and invited people to worship it. Think back to the book of Daniel, you’ll likely remember a lion’s den and maybe three guys in a furnace. Remember with me the reason those guys were thrown into the furnace and the lion’s den– it was because they would not bow down to the image that king Nebuchadnezzar had built to be admired and worshipped by all.
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold… He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (Daniel 3:1-2).
The text does not specify what the image resembled or to whom it was dedicated, but clearly the king took it personally when people did not bow down to worship the image. Hence, he be throwin’ folks in fires and lions’ dens.
Unfortunately I think I identify more with Ol’ Nebz than I do with anyone else in the story. I am in the throes of the “build yo’ brand” process, trying to concoct my golden image that is my social media presence and summon the masses to worship it. I find myself more concerned with appearing a certain way than I am with being that way. Do you find yourself doing the same?
Commentaries on this passage suggest that the image was not solid gold, but rather a thinly veiled gild. The gild provides the appearance of something precious and worthy, while actually disguising what was beneath the surface. Do you find yourself meticulously calculating what to post, filters, poses, inspirational quotes, and carefree date nights included? The gold veil sounds a lot like the “pretty filter” to me!
And we know how it ends for Nebuchadnezzar—covered in feathers, talons to boot, eating grass like a madman out on the front lawn. Think I’ll pass.
I have found abundant freedom in truth that a friend recently shared at Bible study. We are studying the birth of Christ and she noted how few people were in attendance: Mary, Joseph, a handful of shepherds, three wise-guys, and some livestock. Within the first ten days of the messiah’s birth, two old fogies, Anna and Simeon, also got to meet him. That’s it. What a ragtag bunch to be among the first to meet the messiah!
This measly crew is in stark contrast with the “multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest!’” (Luke 2:13-14)
Jesus didn’t enter the world with a parade. In fact, his initial followers likely amassed to about 20, on the generous assumption that the shepherds were rolling deep that night. It wasn’t flashy and God intentionally wrote it into the story this way. Those who got to meet the baby Jesus in those first two weeks were exactly the people that God chose to meet him.
So to the Christian out there tirelessly hustlin’ on the Gram for the sake of the gospel: take heart!
We get to trust that God will get the message he’s given you to exactly who wants to hear it. That may be one person or 1 million people, and we get to be content to walk in faithful obedience and trust God with the logistics. Praise! Remember, He cares more about His message reaching the masses than we do. We need only to be faithful to shepherd the flock that is in our care.
Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing.