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The Kingdom on Cat’s Paws

 In Columns

 

By Sam Collins

A number of years back, I interviewed a guy who was considered a go-get-’em guru in certain church circles. He was the darling of a lot of pastors and church folk trying to catapult their congregations into the Guinness Book of World Records by reaching a Sunday morning attendance average surpassing the population of Papua New Guinea.

I was less than underwhelmed by Mr. Haint I. Wonderful (not his real name). It appeared to me that he had spent way too much time reading his own laudatory press clippings and drinking too deeply of the intoxicating brew of fervent adulation.

The cult of personality has invaded many areas of the church as surely as it has infected the culture at large. So mesmerized have we become by our own set of celebrities and pop idols that I sometimes think we would garner greater enthusiasm for the red-letter biblical words of Jesus if we ascribed them to some high-profile Christian icon who had penned a bestseller, warbled a tear-inducing gospel ditty, or conducted standing-room-only seminars with titles like “Why the Pillsbury Doughboy Could be the Antichrist.”

By no means am I saying that all Christian celebs are egomaniacs. But conspicuous glorification can easily stunt or skew the emotional and spiritual development of the unwary. It can also have a deleterious effect on those of us who only hear the fulsome praise choruses as bystanders. The siren song of notoriety and elevated esteem is highly seductive. For those of us who labor in clergy or lay ministry roles that are roughly as high profile as playing the fiddle in a covered crater on the dark side of Neptune—and, let’s face it, that’s most of us—it’s all too easy to compare ourselves to those who belong to the gospel glitterati and reach the gloomy Gus conclusion that we either aren’t measuring up or aren’t getting the recognition we deserve.

Perhaps we need to aspire to become a bit more like John the Baptist. John had his five minutes of fame dunking people in the Jordan River just before Jesus arrived to divert the attention of the paparazzi in first-century Palestine. Not only did the Baptizer seem undisturbed about having the spotlight shifted away from him, he said this: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 KJV).

The kingdom of God is not primarily made known by or manifested through individuals who are so magnetic that paperclips and carpet tacks sail through the air and affix themselves to the bridge of their nose and their upper lip. It often tiptoes in on cat’s paws through the lives of the seemingly ordinary, the gently unassuming, the quietly diligent, the faithful heart bearing and emulating Christ in the soft-focus shadows.


 

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Church of God Ministries or, at points, even the writer, but are written with tongue firmly planted in cheek to hopefully provoke a leavening bit of laughter and a smidgen of thought.

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