On the podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, a former staff member of the church recounts a time when he accompanied the pastor, Mark Driscoll, to a preaching engagement at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
After the event, a few people were waiting outside to get Driscoll’s autograph and a photo with him.
Afterwards, as they drove away in a taxi, the colleague expressed amazement that a pastor would get this kind of response. In reply, Driscoll says:
‘I don’t know if you have noticed or not, but I am kind of a Big Deal’
His colleague laughed, thinking he was ironically quoting from the film Anchorman (pictured). He then realises that Driscoll was being serious and he thinks ‘Man, we’re in trouble’.
Such stories about high-profile people are amusing. We like to puncture pomposity and mock hubris.
But, as I wrote in my previous article, perhaps its more healthy to use such stories to look at ourselves. Where does our self-importance and pride lurk? How brittle are our egos?
In my final year at University, I was elected as a Vice President of the Student Union. It was a full-time, paid role and meant you were one of 6 others (all in their early 20s) running a large and busy Student Union for a year.
In this role, you had a big photo of yourself at the entrance of the Union. At the start of the academic year, you did a speech to all the new students. On a busy night at the bar, when everyone else had to be give plastic ‘skiffs’, you always got a proper glass. People knew who you were. Within the bubble of campus, it was a little taste of celebrity.
Such things stroke the ego and I felt the lure of it. It was easy to feel like a Big Deal, and the experience taught me some painful lessons.
Like money and wealth, profile and fame are not inherently bad. But they are dangerous. They feed our sense of self-importance.
Blogging holds a similar intrinsic danger. Its easy to obsess about stats and who is doing better than you. Writing about faith creates subtle hypocrisies: maybe I can become well-known for writing brilliantly about humility?
Humans have an insatiable desire to create hierarchies. We are continually comparing, assessing the value of others. We like to look up to some, and down on others.
Pride and insecurity
But hierarchical views of people’s value deepens both pride and insecurity. It makes us jostle for position, crave recognition and feel aggrieved at lack of appreciation.
All this damages how we relate to others. Time and again I see brittle pride undermine relationships in families, workplaces, sports clubs and in the church.
Aspects of religious culture fuel these tendencies, especially those relating to status, platforms and profile. But authentic faith can help us overcome them.
Knowing our place
In CS Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, the Lion Aslan explains to Prince Caspian that he is descended from pirates. When Caspian expresses disappointment in his heritage, Aslan says:
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve…And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
This is brilliantly condensed theology. All humans are made in God’s own image and there can be no deeper affirmation. Yet we are also weak and vulnerable, and we continually make a mess of what we are given. We need to accept this dual reality.
Accepting this grace and truth can help us be both confident and humble. All of us are all chipped, cracked and prone to error. The best status we can claim is that we are both loved and redeemed by God.
In the history of the Church, Augustine of Hippo could legitimately be considered a Big Deal. But 1600 years ago, he wrote this about following Jesus:
‘The way of Christ is first through humility, second through humility, third through humility. If humility does not precede and accompany and follow every good work we do, if it is not before us to focus on, if it is not beside us to lean upon, if it not behind us to fence us in, pride will wrench from our hand any good deed we do at the very moment we do it.’