Stop Photobombing Jesus

John the Baptist would never have photobombed Jesus. Crowds flocked to John, but he had one mission—make Jesus known. “I am not the Christ,” he declared. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28–30).  John was content serving offstage so that Jesus could be seen more clearly.


pho·to·bomb (verb): To spoil a photograph by appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Not long after my conversion, I was on stage. An intriguing testimony and apparent gifting opened doors for me to speak in churches and on college campuses. Despite encouraging feedback, I knew I needed to learn the Bible. So I moved to Denton, Texas, to study under pastor Tom Nelson.

We were charged to find an area of service, so I jumped into the college ministry, assuming I could help lead the way.

God had other plans.


John Bryson led the college ministry during those years. He’d been around enough young men to know I needed to learn a lesson.

Before the first gathering of the year, John said he had an important opportunity for me. I assumed he wanted me to share my testimony or preach, so I showed up ready. Instead of leading me on stage, he led me backstage. He pointed to a rope. I would be serving those on stage by opening and closing the curtain.

With each tug of the rope, my frustration increased. My hands burned and my heart criticized the speakers—If I were out there, God would use me powerfully. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but that night I had this distinct impression:

If you can’t be just as joyful back here where no one can see you as you would be out there where everyone can see you, then you are seeking your glory, not mine.


And then it hit me: I served God with mixed motives. I hoped lost people would be saved—but I wanted to be the evangelist God used. I desired Christians to be encouraged—but I wanted to be the instrument of edification. I wanted people to think God was awesome—and that I was, too.

This is where it gets tricky. The desire for God to be glorified through me is the height of my created purpose. But there is a fine line between wanting God to use you for his glory and wanting everyone to know it. It’s the fine line between pure worship and idolatry.

There is a fine line between wanting God to use you for his glory and wanting everyone to know it. 

It’s not wrong to desire to be part of what God is doing—you were created for this purpose (Eph. 2:10). It’s not wrong to want people to see God glorified in your life (Matt. 5:16). It’s not wrong to serve with the hope that people will be convicted of their sin and trust in Christ (1 Pet. 2:12).

In fact, I would say it’s sinful if you don’t desire these things. But we must give careful attention to our hearts so we don’t seek to steal glory from Jesus.


Here are six confessions of a glory thief.

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