they loved praise from men…

praiseaddicti use as the home page for my browser.  every time i log onto the internet, i get a quick peek at the headlines.  if there are other visitors out there, you saw the headline about “praise addicts” with a link to the story on (america’s leading theologian).  i had two main thoughts as i skimmed the article:


1.  most preachers i know are praise addicts 

in the article, author martha beck described a praise addict (“Sarah, the beautiful, brilliant, charming, the CEO of her company, the life of the party”) in this way: “Her entire life revolved around eliciting positive attention from others, and she succeeded magnificently — but always insufficiently. Being praised launched her briefly into manic giddiness, then dropped her into troughs of depression that made King Lear look like Howdy Doody.”

many (i was careful not to say “most”) of the church leaders i know would fit into that description.  i’ve written in this space about going home on sundays feeling bulletproof if the house was full and suicidal if the crowd was sparse…as if i could somehow control that.  in the monthly newsletter our local denominational headquarters puts out, there is always a list of glowing reports of dozens of people “getting saved” at a revival here or a children’s crusade here.   the statistical reports may make us feel good and might provoke adulation from our peers, but i keep wondering how dozens of people get saved every year but the church still has only fifty members.  do the math. 

perhaps it is this barely-latent narcissism that keeps struggling preachers (like me) in the ministry. 


2.  society is still searching spiritual for reality

the second point that grabbed me was in the section entitled “the path to recovery” where martha beck wrote,  “let your hungry soul find its real food.”  isn’t it ironic how oprha-ites use spiritual language to describe the human condition?  beck again:

Withdrawal pangs usually increase until the addict reaches a seemingly bottomless abyss of longing. When you get there, you’ll recognize it as the state you’ve been avoiding all along. In it, you’ll feel an unendurable sense of being absolutely alone, forever cut off from the one thing you really need, the thing for which praise is a shoddy substitute. “Your ego has all these wants,” said spiritual teacher Ram Dass in a 2000 lecture. “Your soul has only one want. It wants to get to merge with the Lover. Merge with the One” 

i suspect if one were to suggest to martha beck (or ram dass or oprah) that “the lover…the one” was actually the god we know as the creator, she would scoff.  but i am convinced that intimacy with god is the answer to most of the maladies in our culture (and in the church…and in the pulpit).  we can’t slow down long enough to pursue intimacy, though, because we are so important and so many people need us.  and we need them to need us. 

not me, though.  i appreciate a little praise now and then, but i’m not an addict.






4 thoughts on “they loved praise from men…

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I have been keenly interested in the concept of pastoring with the idea that they “love” to speak. It is hard, I’m sure, to separate the rush of having so many people hanging on your every word and really being inspired by the Holy Spirit. I think that the clear distinction on this really has to do with the “feel good gospel” of “your best life now” rather than believing that God is there in spite of suffering and hating sin for the simple fact it is sin.

    Thank you for your thoughts. I found this post to be very refreshing!

  2. Very interesting post and for sure we need to get back to being God pleasing instead of trying to please man,which we cannot do. Sin is still the main problem and some simply refuse to bow down to Jesus Christ,the only one who can bring lasting change.I enjoyed your post very much.

  3. Randy, addressing the spiritual hunger of this age is not an easy task. Traditional church is generally aware of this hunger, but mostly treats it as a menacing “new age” thing and responds to it negatively.

    Using language such as “Source”, “One”, etc. is I think some peoples way of saying “our word” God. For whatever reasons (probably many,many) traditional church has lost much of its ability to offer guidance. Many in our society are looking for spiritual guidance and nurture. If church does not forge a new identity, it faces a very real possibility of marginalizing itself.

    Over the 2000 year history of Christianity, the church has done just that; using “new” language, rituals, symbols, etc.

    Nietzsche said, “you need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”. Perhaps as a pastor you need the chaos to move you to what seem to be undoable things.

    Just the random thoughts of a spiritual sojourner. Does that sound like “Oprha-ite”? 🙂

  4. no, john, you don’t sound like an “oprah-ite” but you sound like someone with the unique perspective of having lived in both worlds.

    i completely agree with your argument, especially the comment, “if church does not forge a new identity, it faces a very real possibility of marginalizing itself.” the traditional church needs to understand that we are not at war with the culture, and the culture is not a commodity/market, but that the god we serve loves this culture more than we do. we (the church) must establish a foundation for conversation.

    and thanks for the delightful quote (you’re my only reader that quotes nietzche!)

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