The Seven Deadly Sins of Ministry Podcast Series Part 3: Seeking Popularity, Prestige, or Prominence

If you are new to these blog posts, I am in a seven-episode podcast series called The Seven Deadly Sins of Ministry. We have been walking through some of the most prominent ways men lose or destroy their ministries, not because we want to be sinfully critical but to help us all be sober-minded. 

Today, we come to number three on our list: seeking popularity, prestige, or prominence over seeking the approval of our Master and King, the Lord Jesus. This is an easy snare to fall into as a leader since we hold such visible positions. It can be terribly alluring to our sinful hearts, and none of us can say we are completely immune to it. To help me address how to battle this sin, I invited Pastor Fred Luter, Jr., the first African American President of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Senior Pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a conversation on my podcast.

First, let’s define this sin: 

SEEKING POPULARITY, PRESTIGE, OR PROMINENCE: Finding our motivation for ministry in the pursuit and praise of human recognition.

Scripture certainly is not silent on the topic of seeking the praise of men. We are reminded how we are to seek God’s approval over man’s in passages like Galatians 1:10, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Colossians 3:23-25, and Proverbs 29:25.

So, how do we battle this sin?

When I asked Pastor Luter what helps him when the temptation arises to chase after prestige and popularity, he shared that one thing has been realizing and remembering where God has brought him from. His parents were divorced when he was only 6 years old, and he came from a very tough part of the city of New Orleans called the Lower 9th Ward. He said it humbles him to think that out of all the people that God could have called and chosen to be a minister, He chose him, someone who certainly did not feel worthy. 

This groundedness in where he came from reminds me of what Paul told the Corinthian believers - “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). It’s hard to be boastful when we refuse to get over what the Lord has done in our lives. We cannot get over our salvation. 

Is it okay to still seek growth?

While we don’t want to fall into the trap of seeking popularity, prestige, or prominence, we do want to do the work of being faithful to sow into and grow the ministries God has entrusted to us. I asked Pastor Luter what wisdom he would share with young pastors who wonder if God will ever have something bigger for them than what they see before them right now. The four points he shared are good for us all to remember:

  1. Be Faithful to God. 

We have to remember who called us. It wasn’t our mom, our dad, our deacons, or our trustees. God called us to preach. 

  1. Be Faithful to God’s Word.

Pastor Luter reminded us that when it comes to Scripture, we cannot compromise it or sugarcoat it. We just stand up and share it. God will honor us if we honor His Word. 

  1. Be Faithful to Your Wife and Family.

This is critical and crucial. He has seen too many preachers lose their families because they are so busy trying to build a big church that they neglect their first ministry. Family is your first ministry, so you have got to be faithful to your wife and your family.

  1. Be Faithful to the Church Where You Serve.

Has he ever been tempted to leave the church he has been at for 38 years? Yes. But he remembers how they gave him a chance when he was nothing more than a street preacher, and he has continued to ask God to allow him to bloom where he is planted. 

I love some of the encouragement he ended with: "You may never get your name in lights. You may never get interviewed on a podcast. But be faithful to those people that look up to you because, in their in their eyes, you are the most important person in their life.”

When I think about those who have been influential in my own life, from men like my mentor Dr. Jim Shaddix to those I have only listened to who have influenced me like Dr. Adrian Rogers, Dr. Tony Evans, and Pastor Chuck Swindoll, my mind goes to the most important pastor of my life. He’s not a doctor. He’s simply Reverend Johnye Horton, my father, who pastored small vocational churches in rural Alabama. He never pastored more than 100 people, yet he was the same guy on Tuesday as he was on Sunday, and he has always loved Jesus. What Pastor Luter said is so very right. If you want to seek prestige, seek it among those who know you the best, and let your character influence their lives.

Want to learn more? You can listen to 7 Deadly Sins of Ministry Episode 3: Seeking Popularity, Prestige, and Prominence featuring Pastor Fred Luter, Jr. here. And make sure to subscribe to the Living Worthy with D.J. Horton Podcast to get the next four episodes.


  1. Where might this sin specifically show itself in your life?
  2. What precedes your struggle with this? In other words, what time, season, situation, or stress point usually triggers this in your life?
  3. Who could be best suited to watch your back on this?
  4. When you have experienced victory in this area, what helped you the most?