Now, don’t take that headline too literally!
I’m not. But I do hope it makes a point.
Before I get to that point, however, let me tell you how overwhelmingly grateful I am for those of you who recommend my books, websites, or podcast to others. Since we don’t do advertising here, word-of-mouth is the only way my books get passed along to new people they might encourage. Without that I’d keep writing to the same audience. Thank you for quoting them, reviewing them, or recommending them to others. Your willingness to pass it on makes a big difference in whether a book or podcast finds its way to those who will benefit from it. Didn’t most of you first hear of something that deeply touched you from someone else it had touched first?
However, the things I have written and said over the last twenty years were designed to help people discover a life in Jesus that is rich with his presence, and flows in love through them to others near them. I realize that God has given me a gift to put into words what he has already been showing others. Though they may not have found the words to verbalize it yet, they recognize what he’s been saying to them in words I’ve written. I’ve heard that over and over and I want you to know how much that has encouraged me—to know that some of the things on my heart have been woven into the fabric of Jesus’ family all over the world.
What I most hope for, however, is that those things become such a part of someone else’s journey that they no longer remember where they came from and share what they have learned in their own words, as part of their own story. Share as if Jesus had shown it to you because he most assuredly has. It may have been through the words of another, but when people actually begin to live beyond true principles and connect with him, they will incarnate his truth in their own story and not merely quote others.
That’s what I mean by Wayne Jacobsen needs to disappear. When people are excited about what they are discovering, it’s easy to refer over and over again to the person whose words or encouragement have helped them see it. “Wayne Jacobsen said…”, or Dallas Willard, or Brennan Manning. It can be anybody, really. People who are not already partial to your story will grow weary of hearing that same name repeated again and again and will eventually be distracted from what you’re actually saying because they wonder if you’ve been brainwashed by some new guru. I’ve seen that look in someone’s eye as I’m being introduced to them. They are sick of hearing my name and we haven’t even met yet!
Now, I get why people do it. Some are not wanting to take credit for someone else’s thoughts. Others are blessed to find someone outside themselves to validate what they are learning. “This is not just my crazy idea, I read it in Beyond Sundays.” Others are simply encouraging their friends to resources that were helpful to them. Unfortunately it often has the opposite effect of making it look like you’re just excited about another author as you chase down the latest fad. Wouldn’t it be better if you took the things you’re learning from Jesus and just shared it as part of your story? Don’t worry about crediting to me, even if you’re using my words. If they have resonated with his Spirit in you, maybe they were not my words to begin with.
I heard someone last week repeat a sentence I’ve often used without a hint of awareness that they were quoting me. They had obviously forgotten where it came from and had become part of them. I love that. Who it came through was no longer important; the truth it expressed was. I don’t need the credit and I’d much prefer that people see the truth as coming from Jesus, not from me. When your story makes someone else hungry and they are curious about the resources that have helped you, that’s a good time to recommend a book or author.
And let’s be clear here. I’m not talking about people taking other people’s words and plagiarizing them to craft books or sermons without attributing the source. I’ve had my words, stolen by others only to build their own empire. When you claim someone’s work as you’re own you’re only being advancing the kingdom of darkness with your own vanity and dishonesty.
But I hope my larger point is not lost. When something true about Jesus takes root in your heart, share it freely with others. The power is in what’s true, not who originally put it to words. Perhaps this is what John the Baptist felt when his own disciples warned him that Jesus was becoming more popular than he was. John’s response must have shocked them. He wasn’t threatened at all for he saw himself only as the friend of the groom, not the groom himself. “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3)
I love it when my input into the life of another person disappears into a deeper relationship with Jesus himself. I love it when they share about the cross or the nature of Jesus in their own words and with their own illustrations. That draws the attention back to Jesus to whom this kingdom belongs. He’s the one who wants to take shape in you. Discipleship is not a matter of following the wisdom or principles that someone else teaches, but of recognizing his work in you and following him as he loves the world through you. Don’t be in a hurry. This takes some time to see with our hearts into his world and his way of doing things. Letting him show you, however, is one of the greatest adventures of being human.
The fellowship I have with him is what I want everyone to experience and what I hope they pass on in their conversations with others.