I'm a Christian Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here
Okay, I have to ask a delicate question, “Am I a Christian celebrity?”
The other day, one of my new Ridley colleagues said to me, “Mike, I’m beginning to get the impression that you’re kind of a big deal.” To which I smiled, raised an eyebrow, and replied, “Yes, I guess I kind of am.” Everyone else in the office at the time stopped, looked at me, giggled, then one other colleague chimed in, “Maybe in your dreams Mike.” To which we all laughed, myself included. No, I’m not a big deal, well, maybe I’m a slightly-above-average deal in a very small pond of evangelical academia. But that’s a small pond.
But seriously, do I have any claim to Christian celebrity status? To be fair, you could technically make a case for it:
I’ve authored over 30 books.
I’ve won awards for books.
I get asked to endorse books.
I’ve debated Bart Ehrman and did a book tour with N.T. Wright.
I’ve written articles for WaPo, ABC, and CT.
I’ve been blogging now for - oh my gosh - nearly 20 years!
I have nearly 25K twitter followers, 3K subscribers to my you.tube channel, and many readers for my Substack newsletter.
Does that make me a celebrity or just mean that I’m very productive on several platforms? Probably the latter!
Yet the uncomfortable truth is that there is part of me deep down that can think and act like a celebrity. The sad reality is that I’m more likely to demonstrate hubris than suffer from imposter syndrome. I have a sharp wit and can deploy it to build up and to tear down. I do revel a bit in being a theological agent provocateur. I can be a tad too quick to publish critical thoughts on a topic rather than allow the dust to settle on some dispute before offering an opinion. I do like promoting my own work and ideas, partly because I believe it is a genuine ministry and people find it helpful, but also because it is gratifying when people talk about you.
No, I’m not a celebrity, but I do experience the temptation to think and act like one.
I see the dangers for others and myself. I know that success is a dangerous basis for self-esteem and a poor source for identity. It is unhealthy to think that productivity and ministry are the same thing. It is selfish to invest more time in your platforms rather than in the people who need you.
In my own head, I’m a celebrity, so how do I get outta here? How do I think and act like Christ’s servant and not like a guy who is destined to end up on Preachers in Sneakers?