The temptation to try and be “somebody” is strong in our celebrity-driven culture. Our world is passionate about making much of the beautiful, the popular, and the social elite.
This same world system can easily creep into the doors of our churches and into our own hearts if we’re not on guard. It doesn’t look the same in the church—a little less TMZ—but it’s the same spirit.
As church leaders, it’s easy to succumb to this system and, instead of seeking the approval of God, we start to seek the approval of the crowd, work to be known, and clamor for recognition. These things are not only wrong; they’re exhausting.
Let me offer a few words to encourage you not to get caught by the undercurrent of celebrity culture and, instead, to embrace a selfless style of leadership—one that’s unromantic, costly, and reflects the heart of Christ.
Here are three ways to battle the inner desire to be a celebrity church leader:
1. Transfer the success of your ministry quickly.
In his book Humility, C.J. Mahaney says, “Whatever success you experience in your life and ministry and vocation, learn to immediately transfer the glory to Him.”
God wants to use your giftedness, your strengths, and more importantly, your weakness for his purposes. Want greater ministry influence? Then stay humble, pray more, serve more, sacrifice more, and do it to the glory of God. In the end, this—and only this—will be rewarded. It won’t matter how many hits your blog gets per month or how many conferences you’re invited to speak at, or even that your Christian book was a big seller on Amazon. What will matter is that whatever you’ve done, you’ve done to the glory of God. Period.
When you experience ministry success make sure and pass it quickly back to God.
2. Speak the name of Jesus more than your own or others.
When the early church began to splinter and follow their favorite church leaders—some follow Apollos—Paul quickly pointed the church back to the beginning of their faith. He reminded them that they were all co-workers and fellow servants. He says, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Cor 3:7 NIV).
In reference to church celebrity culture, Francis Chan says, “It has gotten to the point where I believe we have taken glory away from Jesus. Personally, I am intentionally trying to mention human names less and speak often the matchless name of Jesus.”
Speak the name of Jesus and speak it often. When you’re tempted to make much of another leader (or yourself) remember, we’re all just servants of a great King. In the modified words of Paul—we’re nothing, there’s only God.
3. Fight from the trenches.
It’s easy to romanticize leadership, like the movies romanticize war. However, when you’re in the trenches, (praying, discipling, engaged in the mission) when the bullets are real, when you’re caught under fire, the romantic visions get snuffed out by reality. When you’re in the thick of battle, you’re not worried about getting the promotion or being liked by everyone; you’re concerned with advancement and survival. Someone once said that there are no atheists in foxholes; well, there are no celebrities either.
I like what Brenda Salter-McNeil says: “When you’re in a revolution, it’s not fun. It’s hard.” I think it’s time for many of us as leaders to stop romanticizing about being “that” leader and start doing the simple, selfless things that we were called to do when we first found Christ.
So stay in the trenches, stay close to the battle, and stay on your knees. Be the leader that God is calling you to be and always remember, you’re not watching a war movie—you’re in one.