The current state of evangelicalism, especially mega-churches, reminds me of a commercial that aired many years ago. It hit the mark perfectly with its witty, profound message. Slightly dark, satirical, and irreverent, the commercial was thought provoking, while also being entertaining.
It starts with half-a-dozen clean-cut, all-American grade-schoolers announcing to us, the listening audience, what they want to be when they grow up—what their lifetime goals and aspirations are. Expecting them to say they want to become doctors, teachers, engineers, or professional athletes, I was surprised by what they actually said. One nine-year-old girl proudly announced: “When I grow up, I want to be the office gossip.” A ten-year-old followed with boyish bravado, “When I grow up, I want to be a brownnoser.” The other kids made similar ignominious assertions. It was hysterical. I can’t remember the product these kids were peddling, but I grinned from ear-to-ear each time I watched the commercial.
The satire was obvious. Nobody sets his or her career goal to be cowardly, devious, or ingratiating. Nor does anyone want to end up being a brownnoser. When young people enter the workplace, they have praiseworthy, high-minded goals. You can see it in their eyes when they graduate from high school and college. During nearly every commencement ceremony, those graduating listen to a successful businessman or politician pontificate about how the current generation has the unique ability to change the world, making it a better place for each of us, while at the same time, accumulating substantial wealth to enjoy “the good life.”
During commencement, when you look from one smiling face to the next, you can see hope radiating from these young people. Coupled with their enthusiastic smiles, each graduate anticipates the future, believing he or she will produce noble, praiseworthy accomplishments. They are convinced their dreams will soon become a reality. All that is required to achieve their dream is hard work—performed honestly and honorably.
Unfortunately, that’s all it ever is for most—a dream. Reality is far different than what they believe it will be, making the commercial as poignant as it was funny. The “real world” produces far more brownnosers than men and women who stand by their convictions—especially if negative consequences are certain to follow.
This is no surprise; but if this dichotomy is true in the world of politics and business, the difference between aspirations and reality is even more pronounced for those who choose to serve Christ by working for ministries. Nearly all who pursue this path—the road less traveled—do so for altruistic reasons, sacrificing material gain as part of their noble calling. It just goes with the territory. They decide that fulfilling their dreams can best be accomplished by working for the Lord, which is a praiseworthy ambition.
Serving Christ, however, also means being employed by the ministries, mega-churches, and publishers that champion His name. This is where a huge disconnect occurs. Working for Christian leaders has little resemblance to what most envision life would be like serving the Lord. It’s different—worlds apart really—but not in a healthy way.
The stars of Christendom—those whose faces and voices are easily recognized by millions—bear little resemblance to the biblical version of Christ or the principles He taught. Somewhere along the way, the career path for many who have been “chosen to lead” takes a sharp turn from the biblical standard, producing an entitled mentality, elitist behavior, and a consumptive lifestyle most would consider antithetical to the desires of a servant of God.