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.