This is a common theme I’ve heard in Evangelicalism- do big things for God. Typically what it translates into doing something that will impact people on a large scale, which naturally leads to a focus on notoriety about accomplishments. And this is something I’ve become increasingly aware of and disturbed by. We applaud those are in the limelight because of some grand accomplishment and marvel at their success.
An underlying problem that I think fuels this mentality is that contemporary Evangelicalism has capitulated to the American dream success culture. Mega-churches, grand accomplishments, celebrity pastors with book deals and media attention serve as the gauge of how success is measured. We are attracted to this type of success because maybe it shows how much we’re winning at doing Christianity.
So what does this do to average Joe Christian who will never see this type of notoriety? You know, the person who just goes about living their life and serving God the best way they can? Would it not create an impression that he or she is not doing big things for God, that they are not doing enough? I bet it would. It minimizes their contributions to the body of Christ.
Paul addresses this applause of “bigness” in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 because apparently the Corinthian church had the same problem of applauding the bigger more visible parts of the body. So Paul had to chastise them for dishonoring the those that didn’t necessary seem to be doing big things for God. Specifically in vv 22-24, listen to his exhortation
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our special parts need no special treatment.
Um, did you catch that? The ones doing the big and great things should actually not be applauded. Ouch! How does that fit in with the praise that bigness and celebrity receive today?
Carl Trueman has this to say about our emphasis on celebrity and bigness
As soon as your group, whether it be a conference or a coalition or a college, starts to be influenced in its choice of ‘leader’ or keynote speaker by the chosen one’s ability to command serious media attention or simply fill that stadium, you have Corinthian Christianity and you are heading for disaster.
It’s disaster because it’s focused on the wrong thing and that disaster is reduced to smallness. Not only that, when we measure success based on bigness, what does that mean for that rural pastor, small congregation or those content to serve God in small ways while just doing everyday life? Some congregations will never get past a certain number and many members will never achieve what we deem success. But maybe its because we need to think differently about success, which in Christianity’s paradigm is a loving the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and loving neighbors as ourselves. It is serving and giving rather than receiving praise or celebrity status.
Yes, service. This concept seems to get drowned out in the loudness of leadership and doing big things. But Christ himself demonstrated that bigness is actually laying our life down for the sake of others even in the smallest of ways. This may not earn the praise lavished on celebrity accomplishments but its pretty big in the eyes of God.