We live in a culture that is defined by fame. A culture that is saturated by fame. A culture that sees its worth based not on financial security or social standing like previous generations had. Our cultural moment sees the acquisition of fame as the greatest good, we measure our value by followers, fans, and likes. If you ask most kids what they want to be when they get older they usually say a YouTuber. That is not what kids said when I was young. When I was a kid, most kids wanted to be the president, a businessman, a policeman, or a teacher.
The lie that our culture has given into is that if I have fame I will be enough. Our culture has placed fame above power and money because those things, in our information, social media-driven culture flow toward fame. Sadly this desire for fame is not absent in the church. We measure the success of our work as a pastor by weekend attendance and event participation.
What is more tragic is the people who are supposed to be a prophetic voice to the perils of culture have themselves turned the vice of fame into a virtue. Celebrity preachers wearing streetwear worth thousands, hanging with A-list stars proclaiming that they want to “Make Jesus Famous.” As the years have passed we have seen the reality is that those same celebrity preachers became more famous and Jesus became more distant. Because a heart that pursues fame as its greatest good can not pursue Christ. The way of Jesus is antithetical to fame. Jesus would regularly say hard things that were not popular because his kingdom is an upside down kingdom. Yet so often the temptation and the advice given to pastors is to avoid controversy. Don’t say things that will alienate anyone.
We have given ourselves and bought into the marketing lie that more is better and fame is the goal. The chasing of fame comes at the expense of our soul. You can not desire fame as your pursuit without fame taking its toll.
Contemporary pastors are tempted to measure their success, not to mention fulfillment, precisely by how well-liked they are. (M. Craig Barnes)
The temptation to be liked and loved and famous is ever-present in the heart of a pastor. The temptation to be efficient with people is ever-present
Eugene Peterson, commenting on the pastoral vocation, said this:
The pastoral vocation in America is embarrassingly banal. It is banal because it is pursued under the canons of job efficiency and career management. It is banal because it is reduced to the dimensions of a job description. It is banal because it is an idol a call from God exchanged for an offer by the devil for work that can be measured and manipulated at the convenience of the worker. Holiness is not banal. Holiness is blazing.
Pastors commonly give lip service to the vocabulary of a holy vocation, but in our working lives, we more commonly pursue careers. Our actual work takes shape under the pressure of the marketplace, not the truth of theology or the wisdom of spirituality. I would like to see as much attention given to the holiness of our vocations as to the piety of our lives.
Basically, all I am doing is trying to get it straight, get straight what it means to be a pastor, and then develop a spirituality adequate to the work. The so-called spirituality that was handed to me by those who put me to the task of pastoral work was not adequate. I do not find the emaciated, exhausted spirituality of institutional careerism adequate. I do not find the veneered, cosmetic spirituality of personal charisma adequate. I require something biblically spiritual – rooted and cultivated in creation and covenant, leisurely in Christ, soaked in Spirit.