I have a rule. If you work closely with me in ministry, then you know it well: No Newspaper. I use the term newspaper as a loose reference to media and publicity in general. Let me provide an example of why I have this rule in place.
In the summer of 2016 there was a man who was not a part of our team but helping our work within a government-housing complex. We were using the community center to do a summer camp for kids. Because of the gang related activity within the community, there was often damage done to the building. One particular day, we arrived to find some of the windows had been broken.
In this man’s genuine heart to help, he called the local news to come and video the building and document what we do to help children there. He was seeking support to help improve conditions for the kids. And we certainly received support. In fact, we had several people, including police officers, come and donate water and drinks and toys and games. I was unaware that he had done this until it was in the news. And it was big news.
However, it was also big news for the Housing Authority. They had just been publicly humiliated for allowing this to happen. The Housing Authority allows us the privilege of being there on their property. Fortunately, I was innocent in the situation, however it made things awkward for a little while and meant that we had to display some extra humility for some of the weeks that followed.
I am always reminded of something that John [the baptizer] said at the height of his ministry. Upon seeing Jesus, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30)
When we have the opportunity to make friends and be a part of a community, it should be our desire to decrease that they may increase. It is also our opportunity to represent Christ. Most frequently, it is our pride that seeks to see attention brought to our own efforts rather than seeing Christ made known in our opportunity.
Inviting the media to promote what we do gives the wrong impression to the community. It suggests that we are there to ‘fix’ them and ‘document’ them as needy people and celebrate ourselves as their providers. It also strips us of authenticity and makes it harder to promote the Gospel of Grace.