Why I Worry When Other Clergy Say, “I Want to Be A Household Name.”

I’m part of an online clergy chat group.images

I don’t contribute to it much, and I don’t always watch it regularly, but it’s usually pretty interesting.  It’s good to have a community, even a virtual one, to share successes and frustrations with.

And yes, it seems that often the same names pop up on the message roll.  And, yes, I wonder if they have work to do and how they have so much time to spend on there.

But today’s posting by the moderator got me thinking.

He began by lamenting how so many in my faith tradition, Lutheranism, are too humble with their work and their writing and their music and their art.  And how we have to start promoting our work and “getting it out there.”  And how we should be “household names.”

And others responded lamenting how we don’t have any Lutheran “Joyce Meyers Ministries” or the like.

And I was lamenting because, although we don’t have any Lutheran Joyce Meyers Ministries, we don’t need any more of those in this world.

Because you have to give up a lot to be a household name.   And I wonder if it’s worth it.

Fr. Richard Rohr isn’t a household name, but I think he’s done so much more for humanity than any televangelist.

Ken Wilbur isn’t a household name, but I think he’s done more for humanity than any “order today and receive a discount DVD set on how to heal your relationships” offer.

Martin Marty is prolific and inspiring, and he’s not really a household name.  Walt Wangerin is beautifully wonderful, and unless you’re Lutheran or really into children’s books, he’s not a household name.

And Ron Strobel, and Kirsten Fryer, and Manda Truchinski, and Josh Ebener….these aren’t household names, but they are ministers who are authentic and doing good work in this world.  And I hope you can check out some of their work.

But I hope they don’t become “famous”…whatever that means.

Because you give up a lot.

I think you give up some ability to live without the trappings of fame and fortune and name recognition and always being forced to do that next best thing.

I think you give up living without the constant burden of profundity.

I think you give up a little of your soul.

Look, I think there are Lutheran clergy out there doing wonderful work.  And I hope people read them, and listen to them, and buy their work, and pray for their work (Jim Honig would be one to check out right away).

I hope they are able to support their families with their work, as I support mine.  I hope they talk about God and Christ in an authentic way and not fall into the trappings of telling people what they want to hear.

Because that’s what you have to do to become a household name.

I hope they don’t become famous.

I hope they don’t get series of book deals that force them to lie about God or their faith, or begin to take themselves too seriously, or come up with “visiting criteria” that places that want them to speak have to abide by (along with enormous speaking fees).

Because we don’t need another Joyce Meyers Ministries, even if its content is different and something I might agree with.

Because authenticity is lost in that.

We need more good people doing the small work.  And if you want to lift that up, go ahead.

Because good people doing the small work won’t, I hope, take themselves too seriously or struggle with profundity.  And they won’t worry that they’re not a household name beyond their own home.

I’m a reluctant Christian sometimes because it’s so easy to fall into the fame trap, and Christians do it so often “in the name of Jesus,” while using obnoxiously large font to plaster their name on the front of all the posters, and fliers, and mailers.

And I wonder if we take Jesus’ call to be yeast seriously if we’re trying to be the whole loaf.

4 thoughts on “Why I Worry When Other Clergy Say, “I Want to Be A Household Name.”

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