Would you sell your soul to wield more influence, to become a Christian celebrity? I imagine that most of us would answer with an emphatic "No!" But the temptation is there.
Not long ago I read a very honest blog post by Preston Yancey. It was one of the first of his pieces that I've ever read. My friend Sharon passed it along. He titled it, "When This Is Some Real Talk About Blogging." In it he confesses:
What I do know is that for awhile now I have written content that gets all the shares but I'm not always proud of. I know that for awhile I wrote things that were designed to get people to share them, tweet them, like them, because what I really wanted was for people to like me.
He goes on to admit, "I have spent a lot of time writing posts to get hits. I have spent a lot of time being friends with the cool kids not because I was really their friend, but because I think I may have wanted something from them." I don't know Preston, but I know it takes courage to make these public confessions and to say, "I'm sorry." Owning up to feigning interest in others in order to amass more followers and in order to ride on the coattails of another's glorious influence, and then apologizing for it? That's repentance (as long as he turns and goes the right direction). And it's refreshing.
When we've made a habit of chasing after our own fame instead of God's, when we befriend people because of what we can get out of them instead of befriend them because we care for them, people can often see right through us. However, most are loathe to call us out.
They just walk away with a sour taste in their mouths. The cult of Christian celebrity damages our gospel witness. Such behavior is odious to both Christians and non-Christians. I am weary of it. The apostle James warns us:
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:14-16, NIV).
Maybe our selfish ambition and envy of others who are more influential than us, along with our drive for Christian fame, is adding to the polarization and Christian tribalism within our ranks.
How quickly in our ministries do we forget that the way up in the kingdom of God is down. In his book Here and Now, Henri Nouwen calls this "downward mobility." The notion of downward mobility is what we must always keep before us lest we sell out. Jesus is our example (Philippians 2).