I’ve been praying about something lately. It’s about a flaw in me—and there are many—but it seems that the Lord has brought this one in particular to my attention in recent months. It began to center around the last sentence of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, “For Yours in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.” Actually, it’s the idea behind the last sentence: that the things I have just prayed about and will pray about in my time with Him can only be done by His rulership and power. There is no way that I can accomplish any of the things that I’m praying about. Only He can do them by His sovereign ability.

The glory for answered prayer is His: “for Yours is the glory.” This is where I began to realize the pernicious reality of my default Christian mindset to take the glory to myself for the things that the Lord had done. However, since the beginning of my Christian life, I would say that God gets all the glory for whatever happens. However, I’m beginning to understand that was too often just lip service.

Here’s an example of what happened a few months ago. Laurie and I were sharing with another Christian couple about what we had done around twenty years in the little church we were pastoring. Right across the state border from us was a strip of massage parlors. We decided as a church to reach out to these ladies. Small teams of men and women would bring the women baskets of nice, feminine things. Once, we even went into the lobby of one the massage trailers and sang Christmas carols. Sometime after our ministry to these parlors, they shut down. I told the couple that it “wasn’t long after” our outreach that they closed. Laurie said it was a few years later. I disagreed, saying that it happened soon after. This disagreement wasn’t a big deal at all at the time. We simply moved on in the conversation. However, I realized (I assume the Lord was pointing this out) that I was unhappy with Laurie because, when she stretched out the timeline for the closure of the parlors, it didn’t reflect well on the impact our ministry had in these very dark places. If it took a few years for them to close, it could have happened for any number of reasons. I realized that I wanted me and our ministry to get the credit, not the Lord. I want to get the praise for what I’ve done in ministry because it validates me as a ministering Christian man. Therefore, now when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I ask Him to change my heart so I will be a man who gives glory to Him alone for what He has done, not desire to take the glory for myself.

As I’ve thought about this, I cannot blame anyone but myself for this transgression. It really is quite terrible, when you think about it. In my heart, I want to be exalted and don’t want God to receive glory for what He does. Looks like I want to be a little god. How foolish and fallen is that?

Needless to say, I am a sick, sinful individual.

However, the church culture in which I spent the majority of my years actually encouraged me in my self-glorifying sin. Our churches live and breathe in this ministry-glorifying paradigm. At this point, there may be howls of denial, men and women who will say that their church always gives glory to God for the things that happen. That may be true in a minority of cases, but I doubt it holds for most. How do I know that?

Because our churches promote themselves.

This promotion seems quite sensible. You’ve got to the get the word out about what’s going on in your church. Like me, your church needs to validate its existence as a ministry. And the people who attend need to feel that they are validated as well, by their participation in it. Have you ever heard a church applaud when the speaker relates how many things got accomplished last year? Whom are they clapping for? The Lord or for the church?

So, here are some questions. If you deny what I’ve written is true and maintain that your church is truly giving God alone glory for what is happening there, does your church promote itself? Why? Why don’t you let someone else praise you instead of yourselves? The Bible says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2 ESV). If you were to tell me how exciting your church is, would you be offended if I said, “You guys aren’t doing anything worthwhile at all there.”

Because you’re not. God is. Right?

I have not fully grasped what Paul wrote about in Second Corinthians. However, lately I’ve begun to wonder if Paul was dealing with what the ministry boasting that is endemic in our current church system. I did a search on the word “boast” with my Bible software, and that word comes up in Second Corinthians more than in any other New Testament book. But Paul was also dealing with this boasting in his first letter to the church in Corinth. It’s not possible to do a thorough study of all that Paul taught in those letters in this post. Go ahead and let me know what you discover. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that, in the first three chapters of First Corinthians, Paul is dealing with the problem of believers gathering around certain gifted or effective speakers: Peter, Apollos, and Paul. Paul strongly battles this notion. And I find it fascinating that he writes this is Second Corinthians: “What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast” (2 Corinthians 11:17–18 ESV).

Hmm. Boasting according to the flesh. What were they boasting about?

Their ministries. Themselves.

Let me reiterate that, for whatever reason, Second Corinthians is dense to me. (Perhaps I should say that I am dense in regard to it!) However, it can’t be denied that Paul deals with a lot of boasting about ministry, both in this second letter and the first.

So, what’s the conclusion of the matter? Churches, in order to get and maintain “butts in the seats,” promote themselves. This is so “natural” that I would wager that it doesn’t even seem strange to almost everyone who reads this. However, no one in the New Testament promotes his own ministry or church. Why do we? When you read Paul, he is uncomfortable even talking about his ministry. In both of his letters to the church in Corinth he, by the inspiration of the Spirit, found it necessary to write, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17). Clearly, he and the Lord thought boasting was a problem in the church.

You may disagree with what I’ve written here. However, I encourage you step outside your “churchview” and ask yourself some hard questions about why, if the Lord is truly the only One getting glory in our churches, they find it impossible to stop promoting themselves.