Monday, after sharing a few thoughts on the latest bit of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll, I made the following statement:
Maybe our question should really be: how do we fix the problem of “celebrity-ism” that’s seeped into the church?
I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would deny this is a problem—not just for pastors with a particularly large platform, but for laypeople, too. I think the solution really comes down to one thing:
Regaining a right view of oneself.
I know—totally revolutionary and world-changing, right? Bear with me a minute:
How does celebrity-ism start? It always—always—begins when we forget who we are. For pastors, maybe the congregation’s grown to a size when people are starting to take notice. More people show up. Podcasts downloads increase. Someone suggests writing a book. That book sells more than three copies.
For bloggers (yeah, it happens there, too), it’s more or less the same. Traffic increases, shares are up, comments are exploding. Sooner or later, the idea of writing a book comes up and it, again, sells a few copies.
Maybe you’re in sales and rocking your quotas. Maybe you’re a mom who’s kids actually clean their rooms and stay in bed at night. Maybe you’re a barista who makes a wicked-awesome latte. Whatever your thing is, if you’re nailing it and people are taking notice, it can make you think you’re a pretty big deal.
But here’s the problem: it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a New York Times Bestseller or a blog with half-decent traffic—you’re just a person. So it’s silly to start thinking too much of yourself, isn’t it?
Paul, in Romans 12, is illuminating on this point:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8)
“Think with sober judgment,” Paul says, “each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” What’s interesting is he doesn’t say, “look at what you’re accomplishing and let that determine how you should see yourself.” He doesn’t say “if people are showing up, that’s a good sign,” or any of the other measures we come up with. Instead, he points to one thing:
What allows us to keep our heads out of the clouds of goofiness is being known by others, serving others and serving with others. This is what keeps you humble. This is what keeps you from acting like a doofus. When people know who you are, they’re able to call you out when you start acting like a big shot. In love, they remind you of who you are.
I’ve definitely benefited from this—and I certainly don’t qualify as a “celebrity.” We have copies of my books in our church’s resource center. And for a while, people used to ask me how my first book was selling, which was really nice because people care. They want it to do well. But we also spend some time making fun of the whole deal, usually with scenarios involving me using my royalties to buy someone a soda.
But more or less, people don’t make a big deal about my writing, my books, any of that kind of stuff. Instead, we talk about children’s ministry curriculum, small group resource ideas, theology, life, kids… normal stuff. (Or at least normal for me.)
Having people around you who remind you you’re a normal person (because you are). Serving faithfully, whether in the foreground or background of your church. That, friends, is the secret of killing celebrity-ism, regardless of the size of your platform. It’s what all of us—all of us who are tempted by the celebrity mindset—desperately need.