“Never confuse prominence with significance. If you think because you are not prominent that your ministry is not significant, you are wrong.”
Of course, trying to track down the origin of the quote didn’t help. Whoever you are, Anonymous, thanks! Really. This quote caused me to dig deeper into my Bible for the answer to the title of this article, “Would you like to be prominent or significant?” In answering the question and thinking about the quote, I found some passages that have helped me personally (in my home) and professionally (in my ministry and in public).
You may be asking, “What does the sailboat have to do with this?” I’ll answer that in a moment, I promise. Just keep reading and it will all make sense.
Before we continue, let’s define the words “prominent” and “significant,” both adjectives.
The word “prominent” in the context of this article means, “leading, important, or well-known.” The Medical Dictionary adds that the word means, “immediately noticeable, conspicuous.”
On the other hand, the word “significant” means “important, notable, or momentous.” It comes from the Latin word significant which simply means to signify. Common synonyms for the word are consequential and weighty.
As you can see, the two words can be easily mistaken as synonymous (and in some cases they are). But in the context of our Christian life and service for the Lord, they are not the same. As the earlier quote suggests, the two ought not be confused.
It’s easy to think that prominence will make you significant. After all, doesn’t influence come with prominence? The more you are known or even immediately noticeable, don’t you have more opportunities to share what you know and Who you know? But are these moments of influence significant? I wouldn’t call them useless or unprofitable but think about your own experience, who are the people in your life that are most significant?
For D.L. Moody, it was a Sunday school teacher named Ed Kimball. For Charles Spurgeon, it was a Primitive Methodist preacher named Robert Key. For William Carey it was a fellow apprentice named John Warr. For me it was a youth pastor named Bro. Faulkner (I can’t even remember his first name). These people are significant not because of their prominence as measured by their church’s membership roster, or contributions to Christian magazines, or their position on some organizational board. They are significant because they were faithful in doing what God has called them to do. They just did their jobs! They served God without promise of recognition or praise. They just loved God so much that all they wanted to do was please Him.
Jesus didn’t focus on preaching to the 5,000; his focus was mentoring and discipling the twelve. Though Paul impacted many lives, his strategy was what Barnabas taught him: encourage, mentor and teach individuals. As the songwriter wrote, “Each one, reach one.”
It’s not about how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have. It’s about being faithful to the Lord and allowing Him to bless your efforts. Just because no one notices doesn’t mean God isn’t pleased.
There’s a saying most Navy sailors are aware of, especially those who serve on ships:
“It is the unseen wind that drives the ship, not the lofty sails.”
Though the sail is visible to us and may seem to be the source of the boat’s power, it is the invisible wind that moves that vessel along. Likewise in ministry, it’s easy to think it’s the people in prominent positions that can have the greatest significance but without the nursery caregiver, the children’s worker, the usher, the people in the media booth, the member that cleans the bathrooms and straightens up the songbooks, our churches would be a mess! They may be at times unseen, but they are the faithful force that helps drive our church forward.
So next time you think no one is listening to you or no one can see what you’ve done, remember that it doesn’t mean you aren’t significant. Look up Hebrews 6:10 and 1 Corinthians 15:58. Friend, serving our God brings real significance.
And finally, if you are blessed with prominence, don’t waste it by being insignificant. Impact live today!