6 Ways to Find Purpose Outside of Self-Promotion



We live in an age of platform building and self-promotion.

I assume this has always been part of the human condition. Self-promotion feels like an outflow of selfish ambition and vain conceit.

Of course, social media has only amplified the issue.

I regularly see people retweeting themselves. Think about that. Those attempting to build their name or platform regularly attack people with larger platforms. We take dozens (hundreds) of selfies to ensure we have the right option for maximum likes, comments, and, if we’re lucky, shares.

I get it; platforms provide opportunities. At least initially.

Can I have an honest moment with you?

For most of my early ministry career, I struggled to be “seen.” I worked as a campus location lead pastor for Andy Stanley and North Point Ministries. Needless to say, Andy has quite the platform. And he earned it by loving people, leading well, and building a dynamic church.

Working at North Point allowed me to meet plenty of people with large personal platforms. Some, like Andy, built something significant that eventually offered the platform. Some gained a platform by working closely with or for another with a large platform. But some had what I could only call an “unearned” platform. They self-promoted or tore down others to see and be seen.

All I knew was that platforms provide opportunities. Opportunities to influence. Opportunities to preach or speak. Opportunities to feel valued. That’s what I longed for from time to time.

I’ve spent a good portion of the second half of my ministry career evaluating the insecurity in me that longed to find value through platforms and performance. As I did some hard, introspective work, I realized I wasn’t alone. Moreover, I realized even those who possessed what I thought I wanted often felt burdened by a similar insecurity. Apparently, more influence, new opportunities, and a growing personal platform don’t automatically resolve internal insecurity. Who knew?

My insecurity assumed that possessing a platform would settle my soul. That’s an immature thought. Insecurity isn’t solved or resolved through more opportunities, more speaking engagements, or likes, comments, and shares.

Insecurity is an appetite. It has to be replaced, not filled.

Targeting a different platform…

Perhaps this post will only serve as a reminder for me. So long as I’m human, I’ll most likely need occasional reminders.

Recently I experienced a reminder from Paul in Romans. I was reading the NLT translation. At the end of Chapter 2, Paul’s words hit me differently.

29 And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
— Romans 2:29b

As a follower of Jesus, I’ve been made new. I possess a resurrected soul. Yet, in my humanity, my heart can easily fall into the traps of our broken world.

I’ve adopted some practices to help my heart feel what my soul has become. Perhaps one of these could help you, too.

6 Ways to Find Purpose Outside of Self-Promotion

1. Praise God for what currently is.

Gratitude has an amazing effect on our attitude. Gratitude reminds us of what we have. When we recognize all we have, what we want is positioned in a better perspective.

There are so many ways to add systematic gratitude. You can begin every prayer with heartfelt thanksgiving. You can keep a gratitude journal. You can talk about gratitude over dinner. The options are limitless.

2. Ask God to praise you.

This seems counter to what I grew up hearing in church. We are to worship and praise God. God isn’t in the business of praising me. But look again at Paul’s words. Paul felt it appropriate for followers to feel God’s heart for them. We should praise God for all He’s done and ask God to help us feel or hear his opinion of us.

One of the most prominent ways God does this is through others. In my more insecure days, I allowed criticism to fill my heart. A heart full of criticism doesn’t have room to embrace compliments. That’s what I did. I ignored compliments and held tightly to criticism. That is until a close friend noticed this and reminded me that compliments are often God’s way of reminding us of our strengths, successes, and Kingdom contributions.

Compliments from others are often small praises from God. Receive them and keep them close to your changed heart.

3. Celebrate others.

This isn’t a new idea, but it’s powerful. One of the greatest antidotes to selfish ambition and vain conceit is celebrating the accomplishments of others. When you see a peer or person doing similar work succeed, make it a point to celebrate them. Write them a note. Send them a text. “See” them; in doing so, your compliment can serve as a small voice from God for their heart.

4. Check your motivation.

Honest introspection is a chore. Which is why most people don’t do it often. When we evaluate our inner life, we turn over the rock of our hearts to see everything growing and living underneath. That dark, damp space is a breeding ground for emotional unhealth. When that rock gets tipped over, our initial response is to flip it right back so as to not deal with what lies below. But that doesn’t make anything better. It may make things worse.

The next time you’re tempted to self-promote, ask yourself, “why.”

“Why am I wanting this platform?”
“Why do I want more opportunity?”
“Why do I want to be seen or heard?”

Continue to follow the “why” deep into your heart until you find the source of your desire. You may find a positive motivation, like sharing the Gospel, loving others, or growing the Kingdom. You may also find your motivation is your kingdom.

5. Focus more on “being” than “becoming.”

For most of my life, I didn’t know how to “be.” I was excellent at “becoming,” though. I was a tried and true becomer. I saw everything as a competition to win and a performance to provide. Life for me (and everyone around me) was not great when I didn’t win. When I performed well and was overlooked, it felt worse than a loss.

My father first mentioned this being versus becoming paradigm to me. Until this point, I’d never realized that my life was always focused on what could be next over what currently is. This led to plenty of anxiety, stress, and worry.

As Jesus said, and I paraphrase, focus on today, for tomorrow has its own worries.

So focus more on what is over what might become. Focus on where God has you now, not where he may lead you next. Focus on the person before you, not those walking beside you. And focus on joy over circumstantial happiness.

6. Serve others who can’t serve you.

In the once-popular show FRIENDS, Pheobe asked, “Is there any such thing as an unselfish good deed?”

This stumped the group. It stumps me. I’m not sure.

I am flying to preach at Hill City Church in Richmond as I write this. On the way to the airport, I stopped by Starbucks and grabbed a handful of $5 gift cards to give to the flight attendants as a thank you for serving us. As I boarded the flight, I gave four cards to the attendant greeting us at the plane door. She was shocked and very appreciative.

That was 20 minutes ago. And no other attendant has thanked me. Or offered me anything free. Or upgraded my Skymiles account.

I’m joking. Sort of. It’s nearly impossible to serve others without any expectation of reciprocation. Again, we’re human. But I have found the more I strive to serve others who can do nothing for me, the more focused I am on things bigger than me. And my platform.

God is in the kingdom making business…

Of course, God is in the Kingdom business, but he’s in the little “k” kingdom business, too. God gives kingdoms to who he chooses, and his selection process isn’t necessarily logical or malleable.

For this has been decreed by the messengers;
it is commanded by the holy ones,
so that everyone may know
that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world.
He gives them to anyone he chooses—
even to the lowliest of people.”
— Daniel 4:17 (NLT)

What a great reminder. Everything belongs to God, including our platform. Whether large or small, influential or inconsequential, it’s not ours. It’s His. Our job is to steward it, not build it for our gain.