I’ve always been keenly interested in famous people, inhaling scores of articles, books, and documentaries to see what makes them tick. Candidly speaking, for much of my life I wanted to be among them.
As a young boy on the Little League diamond, I dreamed of playing in the majors. Maybe I’d even hit the game winning, walk-off home run to win the World Series. When my baseball career ended at 16, I entertained thoughts of becoming a Pulitzer-winning journalist. Quickly discovering my dislike of late nights in smoke-filled news rooms, I decided, rather than Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward, I’d shift to business and become a Lee Iacocca or Sam Walton.
That all changed in the early 80s. I got saved, married, and surrendered to full-time ministry, all in the course of a few months. Years later, with seminary behind me, while toiling away in obscurity in rural churches, I just knew I’d one day follow in the footsteps of Charles Stanley or Adrian Rogers.
Then, when the writing bug resurfaced in the late 90s, those names became Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado. Eleven self-published books (most of which I’ve given away) later, my name has yet to appear on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
And now, at 59, my goals have changed. Rather than wanting to be famous, I’m so thankful I’m not. Note these seven reasons why:
More Demands on My Time
I’m busy enough as it is without being well-known. At this point in life, I don’t want the crazy schedule that goes with being a Christian celeb. I’m a people person who thrives on spending time with folks, hearing their stories and building relationships. I’m pretty sure the macro nature of fame lends itself more to Metropolis than Mayberry.
Attention from the Wanna-be’s (of which I am one)
Having spent a lot of time in that camp, I speak from experience. Lord only knows how much time I’ve spent in lines waiting for a signature, photo op, and a brief conversation. And to think what email, phone calls, tweets, Facebook, etc. add to the fray.
An Increase in Temptations
The list steadily grows of well-known Christian leaders who have caved in to the wiles of sex, money, and power. Others water-down the gospel in an attempt to increase sales. Satan is no respecter of persons. He’ll bring down anybody he can. Nevertheless, he’s crafty and resourceful, targeting those through whom he can cause the greatest damage.
Strain on the Family
Looking back, I’m so thankful I was there to take my young girls to school on a regular basis and then come around later to cheer them on, help with homework, and tuck them in. I’ve heard more than enough stories of wives and kids sacrificed on the altar of ministerial ambition and notoriety.
Lack of Anonymity
Just because I’m a people person doesn’t mean I need to be around them all the time. Frankly, having just completed an 18-year pastorate at a small-town, country seat congregation, I grew weary of continually being recognized and drawn into a conversation. The older I get, the more I crave solitude, especially if it means time for reading, meditation, and prayer.
Pride and Arrogance
Who can deny the fact that fame and fortune goes to the head of most that get taste of it? If it were me, I’m afraid I’d start believing all those nice things people wrote and said about me.
The flip side of the above issue is the continual criticism that comes with notoriety, especially in this era of social media. We live in a society that thrives on building people up, if only to tear them down. While legitimate reproof is valuable, I wouldn’t want to experience a constant barrage of it.
John the Baptist, at a moment in time when his popularity could have skyrocketed, stepped aside for Jesus, declaring, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30). And while I don’t cherish the idea of getting my head chopped off, I very much want to finish my time here on earth making Jesus known, hoping I can pull it off without the need to become known in the process.