This idea ? that Christian leadership is a competition to become well known and well respected ? is sadly more prevalent than you might wish to imagine. As Ruth Garner discovers in her feature on ‘Building a platform’, the Christian ‘scene’ has a fairly hefty pile of dirty laundry in this area, from suspiciously - inflated testimonies to the purchase of Twitter followers. In the last few years there’s been an interesting ‘democratisation’ of influence ? it’s no longer just the church leader or the conference speaker; anyone with a Twitter account can start to build themselves a profile. On one level of course this is great, (power to the people!), on another, all that has happened is that new communication platforms have made everyone more vulnerable to the sin of believing your own hype.
For spectators, it’s easy to point the finger of blame at those who vault ambitiously toward the stage, but it’s a mistake to do so without acknowledging our own complicity. While we need our leaders to resist the seduction of the platform, we all have a role to play in holding them ? even our spiritual ‘heroes’ ? to account. Leaders, and dare I say it, ‘Christian celebrities’ can’t put themselves on a pedestal; they need us to follow them, buy their books; turn up at their meetings.
Often the antidote to this is to cynically ‘knock’ any person who finds themselves in a position of influence. As Jeff Lucas wrote in this magazine some months back, being a ‘celebrity’ has almost become a dirty word. We, the Christian public, elevate people and then are the first to try and shoot them down when they achieve a measure of success, none of which is a right or helpful response. Just as with money, the answer to handling profile is not to avoid it altogether, but to learn how to be a good steward of it.
I am so grateful to have good friends who hold my ego to account. Whenever I get ideas of my own importance, they bring me back crashing to earth with a gentle (but often acerbic) rebuke. I’m blessed to have trusted friends who, while I can be sure they have my best interests at heart, know they have permission to correct me when I start investing in the wrong kingdom. We all need this.
We need to be careful of the lure of the platform, and not allow glitz and showmanship to be the devices that win our trust and respect. More often than not, the kingdom of God is built and extended through unremarkable moments of service and self-sacrifice, not noisy pronouncements which might get you noticed. The oft quoted management mantra states that ‘leadership is influence.’ The Bible seems to indicate something very different: that leadership is service. Let’s make sure everyone remembers the difference between the two, starting with ourselves.