A funeral for the cult of fame

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Here at the RNW Blog we like to write about the era that we live in today quite a bit. We do this because we are strong believers that culture shapes our lives, quite a bit, for good or for bad. In this age of social media there is more opportunity to be seen, known (kind-of), heard and watched than ever before. Anyone and everyone can have a platform. Whereas this definitely has some has advantages (esp when giving a voice to the voiceless), most of us use this platform to expo slightly less righteous causes. We spout our opinions on everything, share our amazing vacation, show our meals that we’re eating, and mostly try and portray how exciting our life is. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with any of this. However, under the influence of how technology and culture operate today, we would all be lying if we said that we weren’t all a little bit attracted to “fame”.  

This attraction has all of its own unique manifestations in Christian culture. We have a dream about being on a stage someday preaching like our favorite pastor. We elevate worship leaders and influencers in Christendom to the level of celebrities. We operate in an illusion that someday we will “arrive” and most often that “arrival” has to do with being elevated, seen, known and (if we were honest)…famous.

Of course, if God did make us famous it would be “all for Him”. We would use that platform to make His name great. We would never touch His glory. We would never become addicted to the surge of power and appreciation that it is to be famous. Yet, we often already are addicted to wanting to be known, be admired, be liked and be elevated. We don’t need a microphone and a crowd of 1000 people to already have a daily value and pursuit of our heart’s desire to be famous. We can do it lying in bed scrolling through our feed.  

In my college years, I was in a jazz hip-hop band on the east coast. We played lots of shows, released albums and kind of become a name in our local and surrounding towns. It was small-time fame but it was fame none the less. It felt great. People would come up to you after shows and tell you how amazing you were. Girls treated you differently. By yourself, you were kind of a nobody but with the [enter band name]…people knew who you were.  After a number of years with the band, I felt the Lord call me to move overseas and become a missionary. I lived abroad for 6 years but would come back every year and visit my family and friends in that town. I remember one year coming back and all my old band friends were playing a concert at a street festival/block party. I stood in the crowd and appreciate the show, some new songs some old. They put on an amazing performance and their new bass player who had replaced me was absolutely incredible. At one point during the show, when the crowd participation was at its max, I remember looking around at all the raving people fixated at the musical members on stage. It hit me like a ton of bricks…I looked around and said, “No one here knows who I am”. Years earlier I would have been on stage, lots of people would have known my name, lots of handshakes and hovering people after the show. Now, I was another nobody in a crowd. It felt like a lead knot in my stomach and was a horrible feeling. I remember turning to the Lord and just saying “God, if I’m honest, I miss being famous…even if it was just a little famous…and I hate being hidden in this crowd, but I’ll do whatever you ask me to do. If I’m gonna be hidden….just keep me hidden in you”.

I believe to fully follow Jesus there needs to be a little funeral service in your heart for “fame”. Stand up, share a eulogy on how “fame” made you feel nice and fuzzy and how he’ll be missed… how you had 10-20k followers on Instagram, how you met “so-and-so-famous-person” and are kinda friends but not really, share your accomplishments and all the rest. Just let it all die.

To embrace the cross is to embrace obscurity. I think we could all agree that Jesus in His Godhead is probably one of the most famous ppl in the universe. Known by all of heaven and all of hell. However, when he came to earth he became an absolute nobody and he stayed that way for 30 years before He had a platform. I’m not saying that God won’t elevate you and give you a platform and make you famous. What I’m saying is that it’s your job to make sure that “fame” is thoroughly dead in your heart before he ever gives sends the platform your way.

One of the primary ways to keep our human nature’s love for fame in check in through the pro-active pursuit of humility and transparency. James 4:6 says God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:6 says:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

If you are praying for God to humble you, you are not doing your job. If you have to wait for God to humble you…it means you’ve waited too long. Our job is to look for opportunities continually to pro-actively humble ourselves.

Look for the opportunity to do the job that is “below” your stature. Share without being asked a failure or flaw in your life or something you’re struggling with. Reject the cult of fame and exalt someone else and their gifting instead of yourself. Treat “just another person” like their famous, and treat someone who is famous like they’re “just another person”. Both parties will be greatly appreciative (Most truly famous people just wish they could be treated normally again).

In our pursuit of loving and following Jesus we must reject the idol of our era, the cult of fame. Our role model should be one of the most famous men during that time, John the Baptist. He was extremely well known, by the common people and celebrities alike, yet his proclamation is what ours needs to be: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” In order to have a heart that is committed to Him we need to say goodbye to our love to be superficially known.     

Homework:

Have you ever prayed the prayer “God, make me humble”? Instead of waiting for Him to humble you, how can you pro-actively humble yourself this week. Write 3 ways you can humble yourself this week.

Have you ever been in love with “fame”. Write down your experience and tell the Lord. Remember, it’s more valuable to be honest than to tell Him what you think He wants you to say.

-Ryan Kee, RNW Leadership Team

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