Famous :: Sarah Bessey

Famous people make God famous.

Famous people, big stadiums, big churches, big podcasts and inflated book sales. Bestseller lists and headlines in newspapers, stages and webinars. Football arenas for Jesus! Big concerts with jumbo-trons and livestreams. Thin, beautiful, charismatic leaders with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media tweeting and retweeting each other. This actor went to church! This athlete pointed to heaven and bowed his knee when he scored a touchdown! This pop star said the name Jesus once! Put the name “JESUS” in lights – score one for the Kingdom.

And if we want to make Jesus famous, well, what better way than to be famous ourselves?

***

Is God made famous on stages and platforms? Perhaps. Yes. Sometimes. Sure. It’s worth celebrating the good that is done, the people who hear the truth, the wounds that are healed, the Gospel that is preached. You do you, I say. If God has called you there, then be there as a fully engaged disciple, not as a hack using Jesus as your get-on-stage-quickly card. I think the stages and the bestseller lists and whatever have a lot of potential to do good, it’s a resource to be stewarded.

Fame is just a tool, perhaps. Sometimes it’s handled well, sure. But it’s often wielded recklessly, resulting in damage and wounds. not the least of which is inflicted on the soul and life of the famous one themselves. Let’s not pretend there isn’t a price to pay. Even small time fame that exists only in your own twisted heart is dangerous, be wary. The Gen-X kid in me remains suspicious, the line between “making Jesus famous” and “making ourselves famous for Jesus” is whisper thin.

Believe the hype.

***

But here is the question I wonder these days: Is it really fame that God is seeking?

I think God is seeking redemption, restoration, rescue, and reconciliation.

Famous is one thing: resurrection is another.

***

The Apostle Paul’s warning in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him.” (1:17)

***

Love is well-known and easily identified, it needs no stage and no bestseller status. God is famous in the family dinners and protest marches, in the re-reading of a favourite book to small children and in Wednesday night Bible studies open to the public, in the prayers of the unknown and the faith of the uncelebrated.

I wonder if fame is more a construct of our celebrity-obsession, but God isn’t the new celebrity to brand and make palatable for the masses – there is too much complexity and wildness for God; God won’t obey the spreadsheets.

It’s resurrection, resurrection, resurrection. Bringing the dead things to life, life into dry bones, beauty from ashes, sorrow to joy, day after day, choice after choice, step after step towards glory.

I think the greatest sanctification of my life happens far from fame, it’s repetitive and practiced. Making God famous might begin with walking away from our constructs or ideas of fame. Perhaps God is hiding in plain sight, off-stage, in the whispers, in the beauty, in the ride home in the dark after the big event has packed up and moved on like a circus.

***

We can confuse a lack of fame with a lack of blessing, perhaps, when the truth is that a wide open and spacious life is waiting in even the smallest and most obscure of moments, an abundant life, healing, wholeness, courage, love, all hiding in the crucible of everyday life, everyday justice, far from applause.

I don’t think transformation usually happens in a top-down celebrity driven experience. That might be a high, it might be exciting, it might ignite a spark, but the real long work of discipleship and transformation happens far from the stages.

It’s unsexy until you understand: this is it. This life we have right now, as it stands, is an altar, a meeting place, and there is holiness here.

***

Can we really speak of the God of the ordinary miracle of life when our lives are spent in manufactured experiences, curated for branding? Can we really know God in the details of our lives when we are separated from the goodness of our neighbours, our local communities, our families by our schedules and our platforms? I know I can’t and so perhaps this is more of a meditation for me.

Be here, be present in the life God has given to us, find transcendence and transformation and healing here, first, maybe always. Practice love here, in the life where you are. Maybe God doesn’t want to be famous, maybe God yearns to bring the dead to life, justice to the oppressed, wholeness to your body and mind and soul, and bring life more abundant, in the seeds of a right-now life.

Even for you, and in you.

 

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  • Sandy Hay

    My family has been on the wrong end of the big church , fame thing. It’s so not God. GREAT article Sarah 🙂

    • I’ve witnessed that “wrong end” in so many families I love. It’s hard to feel the same way anymore about a system that damages ones you love.

  • Megan Clark

    Thank you so much for this. I get so distracted by the desire to be known by others, and when that happens, I always end up neglecting the relationships that are most important. I needed this reminder today.

  • Thank you for addressing this important topic. Obviously, all those of us who write are hoping to reach a large audience, to say things that resonate with people, to see society influenced. When I started my blog earlier this year, it was very a reaction to a world that increasingly seems to see itself at odds, whereas Christ calls us to bear with one another, forgive one another, love one another despite our differences. Will that message ever catch on? I hope so, God willing. But a huge struggle for me was around this very issue you raise: what if it does catch on? How I avoid walking the same road, and reaching the same dead-end, as Francis Chan when he recently said, “Even in my own church I heard the words, ‘Francis Chan’ more than I heard the words, ‘Holy Spirit’.” (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/22/%E2%80%9Cchristian-famous%E2%80%9D-pastor-quits-his-church-moves-to-asia/)

    When I built my site, I studiously stripped away any reference to me personally, even though the personal, human touches are some of the things I most enjoy about other authors I follow (picture Rachel Held Evans at the roadside with her sign saying “Dan is awesome!”). I can so clearly see your point– what better way to reach the world for Christ than by being famous? But it is also a trap, and I think you have very clearly stated the only escape, being present in Jesus. We must remain in him if we hope to bear any (good) fruit.

    Thanks again, and all the best to you.

  • Tonya Gunn

    There is only One that needs to have our hearts. Thank you for writing.

  • Mary DeMuth

    LOVE. Thank you. I’ll be pondering your words for some time, digesting them. I’ve always bristled at “make God famous.” Isn’t He already? Because of what He has done and who He is? Why would He need US to make Him something He already is. Besides that, the kingdom of God is not a circus. It’s upside down and quiet, often.

  • When I read your post I immediately thought of my favourite quotation, from The Fellowship of the Ring: “Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” Faithful presence, that’s what it’s all about: God’s, and ours. Thank you for writing about this.

    • Beautiful, Jeannie – thank you for sharing that!

  • Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts

    Thank you so much for this, Sarah. It both resonates and convicts.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Yes. Just yes!

  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Tanya

    Reminded me of one of my favorite quotes. “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God: but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes” – Oswald Chambers
    I so enjoyed reading this.

    • Oswald will bring it, every time. Love it.

      • Dawn Paoletta

        Truth! Every time.

    • Joy

      YES!

    • Absolutely thanks for sharing.

    • Samuel

      i completely agree. Please support the good work gofund.me/yae7yxg thanks

  • Joy

    This is the post I have always wanted to write, but couldn’t ever finish. Thanks for doing it for me, and so much better than I could!

  • So much yes.

  • This is wonderful and I am thankful that you wrote it.

  • JennaDeWitt

    Thank you for always saying the thing I don’t think I’m allowed to say and asking the questions I am afraid I’m not supposed to ask.

  • jennieallen

    Yep. Just left my childhood friends and this was the topic. I keep coming back to small tables and my people and finding my soul again and more of God. xo

  • Amanda

    Excellent Sarah 🙂

  • It takes a lot of guts to say these things and a big part of me loves every word you wrote, but it also makes me a little uncomfortable as I feel that gnawing of Scripture, “…Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” I would love to read more from you on the “reckless wielding,” and the “damage and wounds” Christian celebs (web and otherwise) create. Are you seeing false teachings?

    • I have written quite a few times about my openness and welcome for those who preach popular messages but didn’t think to link them there to bring that nuance. Thanks for pointing it out here though because you’re right. And yes, I do see the reckless wielding and wounds but I prefer not to trot out other people’s stories too much for examples, if that makes sense.

      • Yes, it totally makes sense. It would not play well. A popular Christian blogger recently wrote something on her blog that floored me. It was completely counter to the teachings of Christ. If I were to write about it I’d 1) Come off spiteful, jealous and self-righteous and 2) Possibly be flogged by Christians and non-Christians alike. Still, I can’t deny that when I read that post the verse that came to mind was, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but
        having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit
        their own passions…” (Timothy) Thanks, Sarah, for taking on such a tough subject in the Blogosphere with class and courage. I think I’ve exceeded my comment word limit for this post. =)

  • Good words, Sarah. Thank you.

  • Simon Shorten

    Really good piece. Well done

  • Bianca_J

    I love when you stroke backs and then kick butts. Your honesty opens the doors for many others to jump in and I love it. Great post!

    • That might be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. 🙂 xo

  • What a beautiful sentiment for such a well-loved author to explicate. Thank you for this reminder that the fullest life is God increased and myself decreased.

  • Ashley Harris Dargai

    Yes, yes, yes. I’ve sat in a stadium at a making-God-famous event and thought, “Does God even care?”

    I feel lame for doing this, but I wrote a blog post last week with a similar sentiment about the misled notion of “putting God first,” that he is not part of our ranking systems, that he is not anyone’s first place because he doesn’t compete. I only write that because I emphatically agree with you that God is not interested in playing our cultural games of fame and competition.

    Here’s the blog post: https://ashleydargai.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/the-problem-with-putting-god-first/

  • Angie Tolpin

    Sarah,
    I haven’t been to your blog before, but if this is your writing… I will be back. This is the kind of message that needs to be heard from a mountain top, yet not. There is a time for bold truth to rebuke the hearts of men who follow God and have been swept away by the temptation in our hearts to glorify ourselves. Good, strong … Yes! I want to shout Amen Sister!
    Your post reminds me of a quote I read a long time ago, I think it was Billy Graham. The most dangerous place for a man is on a stage.

  • Sybil

    I have been struggling lately with this concept. Not really fame, per se, but seeking the approval of others. Because, if I am doing God’s work and others love what I’m doing, then they must love him, right? This morning I read in Matthew 19 and it really hit me that I would much rather be first in the eternal Kingdom than in this one! Love the translation of the 1 Corinthians verse. Very powerful!!

  • Rea

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, ever wary of the ‘small time fame’. If my words ever reached thousands, would that REALLY be a good thing? Thank you for words that ground me and center me on reflecting the God who is seeking redemption, restoration, rescue, and reconciliation. Come what may, I want to be faithful in the smallest of things.

  • TheLangGangLoves.com

    Thank you for this Sarah. Sometimes I feel caught between two worlds. The world I am most comfortable in is around a table with women noshing and chewing on the scriptures; Grappling it’s meaning, and using it to pour into one another.
    The stage world has become more comfortable, yet there is alsways a desire to just have the same talk without the lights and whatnot.
    Thank you for reminding me of roots. Of Jesus. Of the why.

  • I am seeing the verse from Corinthians in a new way today. If my prayer is for me to honor or share God through my writing, the true and best “follows” would be his, not mine.

  • Yes Sarah. Just yes. I fell for the fame trap for a short time. It almost destroyed my art, and maybe even my faith. Thankfully I knew good people – and God – who brought me through and rescued me from it. Thanks for this post – so many need to hear it. Including me.

  • Dawn Paoletta

    I was reading in Isaiah 43 the past week and the verses continue to resonate with me. We are His witnesses…sometimes it seems we confuse the focus completely. You said well much of what urks me of what I see in much of contemporary Christianity, that I have not been able to articulate well. Thanks for that.

  • Nisha Varghese

    Wow Sarah. You’re so right God doesn’t want us to be famous he wants us to be more like Jesus every day.

  • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

    This. Simply this.
    Thank you, Sarah.
    Your writing of family and loving large by living small — speaks in the gentlest, most reverberating ways for me.
    You are loved.

  • Brittaney Borman

    I’ve been living a small, intentional life for a couple years now, first by force, then by choice. I have found that the smaller I live, the bigger God’s presence in me and through me grows. Maybe instead of focusing on this particular definition of famous, we should ask ourselves is God famous in my life? Is He the biggest thing in my life, am I constantly seeking Him out, am I awed by His loving Presence? Do I have both a fascination and also holy fear for Him? In taking the focus off of self, it allows more of our time to be spent looking for Him in the everyday. Magnifying Him, makes our trials, worries, stress, griefs etc. small.

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