Fanning The Fame

“How,” asked St. Paul, “shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). In Paul’s day, the visit of a half-way decent traveling preacher or teacher to a new community was always of sufficient interest that an audience would gather. Therefore it may never have occurred to Paul to ask, “How shall they hear if they won’t come and listen?” But it occurs to us. There are plenty of people who have a good message, but to whom few listen. And there are others who have the same message, and who do not appear to have one hundred or one thousand times the oratorical skill, but who attract one hundred or one thousand times more eager listeners. What is the difference?

Certainly one factor is fame, which in our day is tied up with the mass media. Fame gets attention: attention means that people will listen to you. Having people listen to you means that you have a greater opportunity to minister to them. Hence, what promotes one’s fame also promotes one’s ministry (and sometimes one’s income, which may be an indication of a growing ministry). If one is devoted to one’s ministry, it is prudent to protect one’s fame, which is after all a prerequisite to an ever-wider ministry. From this we derive what may be called Eutychus’s Second Law, the Law of Prudent Protection: if one has a successful ministry, it is not prudent to say or do anything that might antagonize those who might otherwise be one’s audience (or customers).

Eutychus’s Second Law, though newly formulated, is already being widely practiced by many religious leaders who recognize instinctively that their celebrity and the good will they enjoy are valuable assets. Some people have an instinct for this sort of thing. Let one example stand for many. A newly famous ...

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