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.


One of my favorite things about going to a conference is discovering new things. Whether it’s a new band, or a new speaker or a new author or a new perspective on an old story that Jesus told. Doesn’t matter, I just love discovering that I don’t know everything there is to know in my faith.

This year I discovered Jon Acuff.  He’s a blogger, so I had to like him, right? He was also a great speaker. He didn’t speak for long (maybe 15min, while the big guns got 45min), but his talk stands out to me as one of the most influential things I heard at Catalyst. I’m sure I’ll blog about him more than once.

But what is on my mind tonite is something Acuff said about the Prodigal Son. I loved that he used THAT story as his teaching Scripture, as it is one God has used to shape my life in powerful ways. Acuff zeroed in at one point on that moment when the prodigal returns home, and he has this whole speech prepared to say to his father. He’s going to admit what he did wrong, and then he’s going to ask his Dad to make him like one of the hired men. Only, he never gets to give the whole speech. He admits that he was wrong, and then he is cut off by his loving Father who just wants to throw a party because his Son is home.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Acuff said that the reason the son never got to give the “make me like one of the hired men” part of his speech, is that none of his experiences during his ‘wild living’ days could change his identity.  His identity was already set. No amount of squandering could change the fact that he was a son.

And it is the same for us. We are children of the King, sons and daughters of the Living God. And God will not ever, cannot ever, make us like one of the hired men. That is not who we are.

No matter how bad we screw up, no matter how broken we become, no matter how many failures we wrack up. We are still children of the King.

I need to know that. I need to hear it over and over again, because there is a very human part of me that wonders – always and eternally – if I am enough. I have to tell you, it is hard for me to admit that. I am struggling right this second to NOT delete that sentence. I kind of want to.

But the thing is…it’s the truth. And it is the reason I found Acuff’s teaching on this old, beloved parable so life-giving. Seriously. That is the story I want to shout from the rooftops. That is the truth I want to give my life to. That is the one thing I want to tell everyone: you are a child of the King, and all your squandering will NEVER change that. Your identity is set. You are enough.

And Jesus died so that your identity would never ever change. You are a child of the King.