There are two truths championed by simple/organic church paradigms that are vital to the health of the whole church:
- There are no superstars in the Kingdom of God. Rather, spiritually speaking, we are all superstars equally filled with the Spirit, equipped with gifts of the Spirit, and called to a vocation of serving others.
- When ministry is recognized by worldly standards (size, scope, media recognition) this has no bearing and is often counter to actual Kingdom impact.
This is on my mind because it seems the news is filled with the misbehavior of political and Hollywood ‘stars.’ And more significantly, the church as we know it, in regards to those who are publicly recognized, is not far behind. Without making comment or judgement on anyone in particular, it is enough to note that super-stardom is a difficult role to handle. It is rare for humans to handle worldly honor well. But, for the church, the point is a simple one: worldly acclaim is not a Kingdom marker.
Now, to be fair, almost all of us are guilty. Either we have allowed worldly acclaim to get to us in some measure personally, or we have looked to certain other people with a measure of veneration because of worldly markers. Or both.
Thus it might be a good idea to re-look at the most influential individual in all of church history who described his ministry this way:
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
He concludes this self-examination with this statement:
If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. (1 Corinthians 11)
Now, Paul has given us markers to aspire to and to measure others by. Further, I am reminded that the power of the church is found in everyday believers (the only kind there are) stepping by faith into their gifts, their calling, their spiritual vocation and serving others with no expectation of being recognized for anything other than their utter weakness apart from God.
Let us each aspire to be all that we can be in the Kingdom by faith (embracing whatever challenges and persecutions God has for us) while avoiding all trappings of veneration in this world. The church will shine more brightly and the world will be impacted more powerfully.