Commercial Christianity

Commercial Christianity
The ‘selling’ of ones self
Robert Wurtz II

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)

 In our previous study entitled Televangelicalism, we gave an overview of the rise of mass communication as it has been employed by evangelical Christian ministers. In this entry I wish to explore some of the ways the use of modern media has been exceedingly destructive to Christianity. I wish to show that the very nature of modern television is to militate against Philippians 2:3, a state of mind essential to any Christian minister. We will first examine the root cause and some of the consequences and then we will return to our text.


In the 1960’s and 70’s certain old-timey preachers adopted a nickname for the television; they called it helevision. Though some have disregarded their views and written them off as backwoods preachers, I doubt that there is one single thing that has been a greater source of trouble to Christians and the churches of God than the Television. It is more than we can even cope with in our times. 

Beyond the immorality and violence that exists on TV, there are mindsets that are being conveyed in every program and commercial. Understand that Television is about capturing an audience and retaining it. This is how ratings are built and commercials are valued. Programs and people have to be ‘sold’ or ‘promoted’ in order to gain a following. This means that programs can only survive if they attract the most possible viewers. There is little room for niche programming. Popularity is king. Simply put, you have to sell yourself to a viewing public. This phenomena has captivated the masses and I dare say Believers are not exempt. For over 60 years folk have been taking pointers on how to promote themselves from methods employed on TV. To find success would almost guarantee a mega ego infusion.  

Market yourself?

I believe it is impossible to calculate the negative effects of this philosophy of ‘selling’ (promoting) people and programs in this way. The strategy appeals to the pride of life and can subtly enter our thinking process almost unchecked. Why? Because pride is the most difficult of all sins to detect in our own lives. Being ‘proud’ is not just normal in this present evil world, it is greatly encouraged. 


Popular culture is just that, “the expression of what is made popular by or within the culture”. The whole concept was popularized by Edward Bernays just after WWI. It was a huge money making scheme that we dealt with in the entry titled Chasing the Wind.  Pop culture, when allowed to influence the churches of God, leads to pop preaching and pop trends within the churches of God (if allowed to go unchecked). Soon the philosophy in the youth department of the church in one generation becomes the philosophy of the adult church in the next. 

The sad thing is that everyone living today has lived through cycles of pop-culture. It is normal to almost everyone in the West and is therefore accepted. No one questions the process. But the effect is that everything ‘old’ is ditched for the ‘new’. People actually think this is how life is supposed to work, even in the churches. It is to the point to where there is almost no continuity with the past. Old things are typically shunned as outdated. The consequence is that the masses have become “performers” that echo and imitate what they see on TV. Too much of what we do is becoming plastic Hollywood pretense devoid of any real expression of the heart. We are a culture of imitators. 

And though we can talk about the positives of modern media, I must say that we would be much better off without the influence of TV. It is hard to even know where to begin on such a vast subject, but I want to target in this second entry one area as it relates to the wholesale distribution of “love for this present evil world”. 

The primary trapping

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB) 

Let us first observe that if anyone is moving in the three things listed in verse 16 then they are in the cross hairs of verse 15. That is to say, if anyone is moving in the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life then the love of the Father is not in them. These three are sometimes simplified to pleasure, possessions and personal pride.This makes for a very sobering passage. The very thing that constitutes enmity with God is being pumped out of networks at a wholesale level. We cannot entertain two lovers at once; God says if a person loves the world then He and His love is effectively not in the person. This means that the person is not moving in the love of God or the leading of God, but they are moved by worldly ambitions and desires.  They may seem to have a great zeal for what they are doing, but the source of the zeal is all wrong.  

The lure of popularity

It has been said that pride is the one sin for which the devil will not make you feel guilty. It is the snare and condemnation of the devil. The New Testament speaks of ministers being lifted up with pride. We are warned to take practical measures to prevent this. Why? Because pride is the most dangerous of all sins. Once a person is in a position of popularity, they are immediately in danger. When God looked for a man to take on the task of leading His people out of Egypt, He chose Moses, the meekest man on the earth. (Numbers 12:3) He was reluctant to do it, almost to a fault. If God had lined up a thousand men and asked for a show of hands as to who wanted to be the leader of His nation, Moses would have been last to volunteer. God did not want the first volunteer, he wanted the person that could walk before Him in meekness. 

Kicking and screaming

Television has been a primary source for the lust for popularity that exists in our times. Who can deny it? We even have programs designed to make people an ‘idol’, where lines stretch for blocks with people waiting for their shot at fame. This has crossed over into modern Christendom. The great lie of our times is that we can use God as a means to our own personal fame; but God is not going to be the means to any one’s end (P. Reidhead). I believe Moses would have to be drug into a studio kicking and screaming unless he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, and with no desire for personal ambition, that it was God’s perfect will that he do it. Not today. Many have a “pass me the microphone” mentality. This is dangerous. Personal ambition has always been one of the greatest dangers to the churches of God. This is likely why Corinth was divided. It is why Paul wept and cried when he left Ephesus in Acts 20:31f. If the devil can find a person with personal ambition, he has a beachhead into the churches.

God’s perfect will

God’s perfect will for a person’s life cannot be improved upon. If we are led of the Spirit we will carry out that will; but if we are driven by personal ambition we will do all kinds of things in the name of God that had little to do with Him. Some preach Christ out of envy and strife, nevertheless Christ is preached; but we must move in the will of God. We cannot seek to “win souls for God” in a way that will get our name in lights. We are not here to lead disciples after ourselves. We are to point people to Jesus. We have to be prepared to have the mind of Christ; who being in the form of God did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation. When John the Baptist stated, “He must increase and I must decrease” he was not mouthing soundbites. This was his heart disposition. If God calls us to minister to a small group of people for the rest of our lives, we have to truly be prepared to do that. GOD doesn’t want me to do great things for Him; He wants me to live by every word that is proceeding from His mouth. He wants me to walk in the Spirit and move in His perfect will. Doing “great things for God” can often be a cover for “making a name for myself.” God forbid.

The sin of electioneering

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)

Maybe it would be a good time to write sentences again to drive home the force of this truth:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit 
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Our Greek word for ‘selfish ambition’ means ‘electioneering’  or a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means” (BDAG). Paul here exhorts the church to be one in the mind of Christ not putting self forward or being selfish. James uses the same Greek word and it is translated as ‘strife’. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. (James 3:14) This is a sobering warning. A.T. Robertson rendered the word meaning to “put forward to personal ends.” James 3:14 speaks against having selfishness or self-promoting in your heart. (Wayne Steury) Paul said, “Let nothing be done through it.” Rather, in lowliness of mind let us esteem others are better than ourselves. By contrast with the world’s self seeking and exaltation, we are to humiliate ourselves by comparison; not in a foolish sense, but in a lowly view of ourselves that is devoid of conceit. 

Building a name

To cut against the grain of the paradigm of this devilish age we have to radically insulate ourselves from it’s mindset. We can’t think like the world and do anything for God. We have to have the mind of Christ. Self-promotion, self-glorification, etc.have no place in the Kingdom of God. For those that are inwardly seeking such, God sees it and so does Satan. The enemy sees in the person a platform from which to influence the people of God and promote all manor of lies and ungodly practices. Once a person gets “I want to be an idol” in their blood, they are dangerous to the churches of God. 

This TV, Hollywood, celebrity, glamour, spirit is one of the most dangerous things to the churches we can discuss. Once a person gets a little fame, they often become a law unto themselves. They are legends in their own minds and their followers shout their praises. Who can reach them? As we mentioned in our previous entry, they esteem popularity as a gage of authority. This party spirit and electioneering is contrary to God and His work. It is at enmity with God and His will for the churches. Paul said it best,  But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me. (Galatians 2:6) Man may honor a person for being popular, but God does not. Keep that very clear.

Corrupted thinking

There is something wrong with us when we view the Kingdom of God as a multi-level career opportunity. That ‘something’ is the corruption that is flooding our minds everytime we turn on a TV or admire a celebrity. God is not looking for celebrities that will maximize their talents and abilities to build their own name and kingdom, in the name of building Christ’s kingdom. God does not anoint people to build their own little kingdoms. He anoints us to do His perfect will for our lives. It is all He expects of us. Too many Christians are discontent with what God has them doing. They want more. They want to be seen by more and heard by more. But God has certain people that He has equipped us to reach. We must be content with that knowing that God judges not on quantity of exploits, but on obedience to His will. All we can ever be are good foot-soldiers taking orders. If God chooses to use us on a grand scale, let us be like Moses and move forward reluctantly and in the fear of the Lord. We are not here to market ourselves. As Paul said plainly, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV) Amen

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