Its the nature of the blogosphere to canibalise other articles... so let me confess my inspiration for this post, from Sam Storms
TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Evangelicals In America
Probably more lucid than me. But it got me thinking, do we need to be nationally influential? Must each of us deserve our fifteen minutes (or seconds) of fame? And what constitutes grounds for being influential in the world? I think Storms hits the nail on the head in his article, surely its faithful ministry, not book-sales or notoriety.
In Sheffield Church-Planter, Tim Chester's book Good News to the Poor he comments on the influence of William Carey in India. Chester recounts a story from Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi who ask: "Who was William Carey?"
The answers, depending on who you ask, include scientist, engineer, industialist, economist, doctor, social reformer, educator, administrator and philosopher. Whereas if you asked a Christian in Britain they'd tell of the Northamptonshire cobbler who became a pioneering missionary and evangelist. He was that, and much more.
Today many are famous for being famous, known simply for being known. The stars of reality TV. Influence is about instant impact and so is a short-term quality. Once, influence was about longevity and contribution, about knowledge, discovery and integrity. Once, it was about all of life. What is lasting influence? What is it worth being influential for?
Chatting with a student I mention that I'm doing a seminar at Spring Harvest this year (on Christian Life is... Lived in the World) with Tara Devlin from Tearfund. The immediate response was "Playing with the big boys". No offence to Chris but it's indicative of our Christian sub-culture (the very thing the seminar should begin to bite against, whilst suggesting a way forward). Somehow we exalt people, and suddenly I find myself in that category... which is hilarious!
For information-sake the Spring Harvest Team Lounge is not the Holy of Holies, it is not hallowed ground... its just a butlins venue with instant coffee on tap. There is no elite in God's eyes, all men are equal... equal in sin and equally able to be justified by the death of Jesus. And the very fact that I might fall into this elite Christian-minor-celebrity category proves its not elite at all. Anyone who knows me will know that!
What should be consider to be the attributes of sucessful ministry, grounds for respect and influence? As Storms comments, surely faithfulness, God-centredness must be that which we count as most desirable. I can only pray that that would be the mark of my ministry. I don't desire to be original (this post proves that!), just to be faithful with the old, old story.
In my dark hours (and other ones too) I probably quite like the idea of being famous. There is no gain in that though. Popularity feels nice but it probably only serves to inflate my pride and to massage my ego. It threatens my desire to have all my security and satisfaction in Christ rather than people and their opinion. The fame game blurs my vision so I'm tempted to think myself less sinful than I really am.
Paul's words in 1 Timothy 1v14-17 are very helpful. Paul tells of how God showed mercy to the worst of sinners (Paul), as an example of God's patience for those who will one day believe. The point is - if people must look at me, then let them see proof that God can save even the worst of people, for he saved me. If my life is influential then let it be influential for being an example of the gospel of Jesus Christ at work in my life.
Fame? You can keep that. I want to live forever, not as a memory in the consciousness of the Christian sub-culture, but in the presence of King Jesus.
TIME - Evangelicals in America