10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
After Paul was called by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus, he began his ministry by traveling to a number of churches in an area called Galatia. This was just north and west of Antioch, his home base and sending church. After traveling this route, Paul returned to Antioch to share his ministry and at some point wrote a letter back to these churches. This letter is our book of Galatians.
As Paul begins his letter to the Galatian churches, he spends a lot of time defending himself from the complaint that he just made up this gospel he preached to win the favor of the people around him. This complaint came from Jews who followed him from church to church, city to city. Once he left a place, these Jews came in and began unraveling his teaching, his reputation, and even his gospel. So in his letter back to the churches, he has to begin by defending his ministry.
In doing so, he states that pleasing people is in direct contradiction to being a servant of Christ. I hear this touted regularly yet have not met a pastor who didn’t wrestle with this reality. For younger pastors, it is often a matter of standing in the congregation or popularity. While we all like people to say nice things about us, as we age we come to see that these things are pretty meaningless, to use Solomon’s phrase. For older pastors, it is far more often about keeping a job since most churches are looking for younger pastors and jobs for 50+ year old pastors are hard to come by.
Would that we could all be like Paul, traveling and planting churches and bound to no individual church but rather to the goodness of The Church. It would free us to preach the truth without fear of reprisal because we are too progressive, too conservative, too boring, or not a Leader. Yet who of us has the faith to face all Paul faced in his ministry? Lord, may we trust you more.