One if the ideas that ran through many of the talks given at Catalyst this year was the danger of celebrity. For Canadian pastors, this might sound like a uniquely American problem. I mean, after all, in the Canadian context a “mega-church” is one that has over a thousand members (as opposed to the American benchmark which I would put at around 5000+). At one of the conferences I attended in Atlanta, I heard a pastor say, “Hey, when we started out, we were a small church, too. In those days we only had 1,500 people on a Sunday.” This was at an Orange conference, which focusses on family ministry, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to hear the same sort of statement made by Catalyst attendees. There is no doubt that church is bigger in the USA. The world of church is very different south of the border.
So any of us who toil away in Canadian church world, where a big church has a Sunday attendance of 200+, might be tempted not to heed the warnings about celebrity. How famous can one actually be when your whole congregation is less than a hundred people?
But I have long held the theory that the cult of personality, the problem of celebrity, is just as pervasive in a small church as in a large one. All pastors find themselves put on a pedestal at one point or another. Sometimes it is because we helped a family through a crisis. Sometimes it is because of our teaching. Sometimes it’s nothing at all that we did, but simply the fact that our congregants may have been raised to think of their pastor in an elevated way.
The trouble starts if we start to believe our own legend. When we do that…well, we start to find our identity in things other than that unshakeable child-of-the-King-ness that I wrote about the other night. Our identity isn’t changed. Nothing can change the fact that we are children of the King. But it is like we develop identity amnesia. We forget that our hope, our joy, our life is found in the fact that we are children of the King. We start to look for life in other places…in the adoration of those we are leading, or the successes we are experiencing in our leadership.
And the reality is: that never satisfies. We are children of the King. Everything other than His love falls flat.
Take a deep breath and a long hard look at your life, and ask yourself this: are you looking for life-joy-hope-peace-affirmation from anything other than God’s love?
If so let me share with you something Jon Acuff said during the conference (told you I’d end up blogging about him more than once): the Living God of the Universe knows your name…and that is as famous as you will ever need to be.