God May Not Want You To Be A “World-Changer”

I was just barely removed from a life drenched in substance abuse and all other kinds of depravities when scores of well-meaning Christians began to inform me that I was “destined for greatness.” I was bombarded left and right with predictions about all the big and marvelous ways in which God was going to use me. They said a guy with my kind of testimony and gifts was sure to follow in the footsteps of spiritual giants like C.S. Lewis. And it wasn’t just me who was receiving these supposed words from the Lord. I was submerged in a Christian culture where anybody with a scandalous story and decent communication skills was labeled a future “world-changer.”

Though it was masked by spiritual language, self-promotional ideology was abundantly present in the Christian circles I ran in. There was more talk about networking and platform-enlarging strategies than there was about Jesus and his gospel. Though no one would have admitted it, the mentality was that your success as a Christian is determined by the effectiveness of your ministry, and the effectiveness of your ministry is determined by the scope of your influence. And people did whatever they could to be successful and effective! I saw ungodly young men thrown into leadership positions for no other reason except they were gifted guys with attractive personalities. Again, no one would admit that—but it was blatantly obvious. Christlike character and theological soundness weren’t nearly as important as being articulate and charismatic. Though I had only been born again for like five minutes, multiple people approached me about becoming a “leader” in their ministries. I was young, semi-articulate, and had a crazy cool story that would get people’s attention—so of course I was qualified (sarcasm)!

I so wish I could travel back in time and tell all the people who espoused this “world-changer” verbiage to zip it! I understand and appreciate the fact that most of them were likely trying to encourage me and rev up my excitement about following Jesus. But all they really did was 1) appeal to my carnal, self-exalting tendencies, and 2) set me up with unbiblical expectations about what it looks like to be mightily used by God.

You may be someone, like me, who formerly identified as a gay man and was plucked by God from reckless drunkenness and wild promiscuity. Or you may be an ex-drug addict who met Jesus with a needle hanging out of your arm. Maybe God rescued you out of prostitution or a gang or the abortion industry. Whatever your story and however compelling it may be, please hear me: the radical nature of your testimony and your ability to talk without stuttering does not necessarily mean God wants you to become the next John Piper or Joyce Meyer. But does this mean you won’t be used mightily by God? Heavens, no! God may not want you serving him in the spotlight, but he definitely wants you doing glorious gospel work in your local church, neighborhood, and living room. In the economy of God, being used in “big” or “amazing” ways isn’t measured by how many Twitter followers you have or how many people show up to your bible study. Christians do big and amazing things when they 1) simply do what God has called them to do—even if it seems mundane, and 2) stick to the true substance of Christian ministry: Jesus and his gospel. You may not impact the world for Jesus, but you will certainly be used by God to impact your little world for Jesus. And that has more weight and glory than your mind has the capability to fathom.

Oh, how I wish I had been beaten over the head with this kind of truth in my spiritual infancy! I might have avoided a lot of frustration, distraction, and even discipline from the Lord!

Early in my walk, I discovered I had a knack for putting words together and that I thoroughly enjoyed writing about the gospel. I also discovered that people responded well when I did, which confirmed in my heart that this was definitely going to be a significant part of my personal ministry. However, I felt like this ministry of mine needed to have thousands of spectators to be effective and impactful. So I worked double-time to get more readers. I wrote about controversial topics, not always because I felt led to, but because I knew controversy got people’s attention. I networked like a madman and kissed the feet of bloggers who had large platforms, in hopes they would share my stuff and direct people to my blog (they mostly just ignored my messages!). Sure, there were some good, God-honoring motivations mingled into my self-promotional mentality. I really felt called by God to write about the gospel, and I found tremendous joy in serving him and others in this way. But my less-than-godly motives eclipsed my pure motives. I wanted Matt Moore and his writing to be known by the masses more than I wanted Jesus Christ and his gospel to be known by the masses.

Thankfully, God stepped in with fierce grace and, through a series of painfully humbling events, shattered my self-promotional perspective of Christian ministry and my ministry-infatuated perspective of the Christian life. He stripped away my writing for a bit and opened my eyes to see he should be my primary source of joy and purpose. He showed me that my position in Christ, not my ministry for Christ, should be the spiritual well from which I drink. He revealed to me that I should be working to please him and not to be seen by the masses. He taught me that the legitimacy of my personal ministry isn’t measured by how wide my influence is but by how faithful I am to love others well by ministering content that is drenched with the grace and truth of the gospel.

Knowing Christ personally and laboring as he leads us is where joy, meaning, and vitality are found. Whether two people or two hundred thousand people see and benefit from our personal ministries is far less significant than whether or not our ministries are propelled by a love for Jesus and desire to see him worshipped. If we are driven by anything less than adoration for Jesus and a desire to see others adore him, we are either going to burn out or resort to less-than-honorable means of accomplishing our ministry goals. But if our focus in ministry is Jesus (not ourselves), and if we desire for others to make much of Jesus (not ourselves), our work in the gospel will be joyful, meaningful, and effective.

  • Bradley Joel Morton

    Wow! Thank you Matt, for this was the advice I needed, because I was thinking about sharing my experiences (literally today) with same sex attraction. I now know where to go and how to behave.

  • Genoteleno

    Good observation, Matt! I’ve never been good at standing up in front of a crowd (what ever number a crowd is) and speaking. I’m rather soft spoken yet I’ve had to lecture myself into realizing that my words may be few but I’ll always do my utmost at getting my best few words out there. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Lyle Nelson

    Ultimately, we work for the approval of an audience of one, God, and He usually reveals His plans for us one step at a time. If we pass one test, then He may choose to give us greater responsibility. But He is most likely not going to reveal His life plan for any of us on Day One, so we ought to be extremely wary about taking the advice of someone who suggests otherwise. In the end, the approval of anyone else does not matter,

    Certainly we ought to keep our hearts open at all times to what God may have for us. Just because He may give us a small ministry today doesn’t mean that He may not have something bigger for us tomorrow, Or He may not, and as you said , Matt, that’s perfectly OK too.

    We ought to take advantage of the wisdom of the more mature-in-the-faith brothers and sisters, whom we know well enough to trust, that God brings into our lives. Wisdom would indicate that we ought to only be listening to those who know us and our giftings well enough to be giving us guidance, before we take it seriously. Also, they should be knowledgable about the requirements of the directions they are suggesting for us. As Proverbs says, there is wisdom in having a number of advisers, in that usually we will begin to see some consistency in their suggestions, which is an additional indication that their suggestions are sound.

    And, first and foremost, pray, pray, pray about it!

    • Mary C

      Putting yourself first robs you of His blessings. I find myself counting the “I’s” and “me’s” in pastor’s sermons. The more they add up, the more I ignore them.

  • mike

    It’s a slippery place that limelight and even more is desiring it!

  • Amanda E.

    So true and very necessary to be said with so many experiencing such disillusionment.

    I much prefer, if someone is going to use any particular term, the phrase atmosphere changer, which as I see it is one who–in an intimate partnership with Jesus–is seeking to bring God’s love wherever we go or are stationed–small or large–whether our workplace or amongst family, friends and the places we visit regularly, to show God’s love as He leads.

  • Robyn Gibson

    Good for you Matt, thank you for your candor. I’ve had various things nurtured by my flesh and threaten to take first place over God. In all honesty, being a part of the online community, it is a battle to choose spirit over flesh.

  • heyoooo

    In other words, you were caught out as a hypocrite on Grindr, had to slink away with your tail between your legs, and decided you couldn’t deal with that level of scrutiny anymore. Better to stay under the radar so no one would be checking for you.

  • This is an unbelievably great article.

  • O’Neil

    Matt you and I have the same story I have emailed you a couple of times from Africa. Anyway I thank God because he is using you to help me in my life. Your weekly posts are always a confirmation of something I experience with the Lord that same week.
    Sunday I talked to a sister in Christ about my desire to join the ministry full time and she told me that in order for me to be successful I needed to have a testimony so that people could be drawn to the message. I basically have the same view that you do that God does heal you miracously or that you can stay with a flaw and overcome it with the Grace of God. Many people just do not see this as authentic christianity because to be christian means that you do not have to have any brokeness. Basically, I felt that this sister was telling me that in order for me to be effective, I needed to first be totally restored. Then tuesday morning I woke up early to pray and basically the Lord was saying the same thing you’re saying almost word for word. He was telling me that even if I never become a big christian leader, the goal was to have at least one person saved as there is joy in heaven just for one person. Even if people never found me credible enough to be a christian leader because of my brokeness if my brokeness could impact one person in my workplace, neighbordhood or social circle then I had done my job. I then started to read Phillipians as part of my daily bible read and when I came to 1 Phillipians 15-18, it just confirmed everything.

    I am so happy to read what you wrote simply because I received the same message from God this week.

    • When someone says that you must be perfect to be truly saved, remind them of the passage that says, If you say you have no sin you lie and the truth is not in you.

  • Sur

    Just the past Sunday, our pastor included the admonishment from Jesus to the Gadarene demoniac who had been delivered and wanted to accompany Him. Jesus’ instruction to stay and minister in his hometown is a tremendous insight to us all. God is desirous for us to reach those around us and to leave the numbers to Him. Great article, as usual, Matt!!

  • Abbey

    Wonderful post.
    I often hear people say, “God has a plan for your life” or, “I’m planning on doing this, but it God calls me somewhere else, I’ll do that!” and, for many years, I believed that God had destined me to be the greatest youth leader ever. I thought that my love of writing and dream to be an author were somehow less honorable than my passion to share God’s love with youth. I determined to attend college to become a youth leader… until I realized in my senior year of high school that I don’t have the right skillset to work in full-time ministry. I learned to accept that being an author is no less worthy than being a pastor, so long as I am writing to glorify God.
    I don’t think God has a specific plan for everyone; rather, I think that whatever we end up doing with our lives, God will use them to benefit his master plan. It’s self-centered to think that if we mess up, God’s plans (for our lives and for the world) will be ruined.
    The only plans that God has for our lives (that I can see) are to “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40) and to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

  • Ryan Tame

    This article really helped and convicted me, Matt. Thank you. “Oh, how I wish I had been beaten over the head with this kind of truth in my spiritual infancy! I might have avoided a lot of frustration, distraction, and even discipline from the Lord!” – You may consider my head effectively beaten by this article and, for that, I am grateful.

  • Kevin

    This is so good.

    It’s important that we understand that influence is not measured by how “popular” you are or your name is. Ananias is one of the most influential people in the bible is talked about one time in the bible. Why is he important? He is the individual that Paul went to get his eyes healed. And then sent out by him to become the great apostle he was.

    So, Christians, who are not in the spotlight, you are world changers. And You are because you carry a world changing message and that’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, invisible roles does not insignificant roles. Christ called those people the MOST honorable in the body