Don’t Live for Applause

“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.”

– Galatians 1:10

Today, I want to share with you about the bondage that comes from living for applause. Many of you who are called to ministry and/or leadership understand the pressure that grows from having authority and position. It feels good to have the attention of others and it’s very easy to begin to validate and measure your influence by the reaction of those you serve. The problem is that by doing this, you surrender your leadership and become a follower. When you try too hard to make others happy, you give them control and you follow their lead.

I remember when a guy named Richard Watts, who was a good friend of our family, took me on a hunting trip when I was 22 or 23 years old. It was then that I shared with him that I felt called to ministry and was going to start working with the college group at the Crystal Cathedral. At that point I still had braces, I was super-young, very honest, and really, really excited about my calling! Interestingly, my friend recognized that I had a certain roughness and even rogue-ness to my personality, and he encouraged me that day to never lose the “pokey” bits of my nature; he told me not to sand them down or let them go because they are good for me and for those I lead. Looking back on it all these years later, I believe that he was right — this is why I like having a church full of imperfect people with rough edges.

Friend, when you make the standard for your leadership the approval of others, you are walking right into an emotional and spiritual prison cell. Allow your rough edges, quirks, and “un-politically correct” parts to show and even shine as you carry out your calling. Only when you are true to yourself and confident in God’s unique love for you will you be empowered to make bold and brave decisions. Being completely authentic and fully grounded in Jesus enables you to be at the front of the line, confidently leading others as you churn a path through difficult places. Isn’t that good news?


Thank you, Jesus, for setting me free to be myself. Please protect me from the temptation to yield my uniqueness for the approval of others.


How has God used your quirks and the “pokey” parts of your personality to help you lead and impact those around you?

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