March 20, 2015
Many of you are no doubt familiar with the sad tale of Congressman Aaron Schock. Representative Schock recently announced his resignation from the House amid scandals involving his spending habits. It seems Mr. Schock loves the high life. He famously, or infamously, spent many thousands of tax payer’s dollars to remodel his office in the style of Downton Abbey. He flew around the country on the public dime to sporting events and various other events and exotic locations.
Some have chalked Schock’s rapid downfall up to “Potomac Fever,” the virus that quickly addicts politicians to the money and prestige served up to them in such copious quantities in D.C.’s halls of power. It is a temptation too great for most. In fact we the people are so accustomed to Potomac Fever that we seem to accept a certain level of corruption from those we elect. Schock is, as Todd Purdum points out in a piece at Politico, “proof positive that long after Washington’s original swamp was drained, Potomac fever remains an incurable disease.”
I cannot help but wonder if evangelicalism has spawned a similar fever. Call it “Eva Fever.” Oh, we’ll never have the sort of money and prestige to throw around as our betters along the Potomac. Nevertheless Evangelicalism possesses enough of those commodities to tempt even the best of men. Big Evangelicalism is big business.
I am fortunate enough to take part in a weekly podcast with two friends. It’s not a big deal. It’s something fun the three of us do in our spare time. But I do receive some kind notes here and there and was even recognized once at a conference I was attending. Small potatoes in the world of Big Eva. But it tends to stick. “Maybe I am a big deal.” “My mom was right. I am special.” I can only imagine the temptations for you brothers who have truly gained a large following of admirers. If I get tipsy when one person recognizes me I can only imagine what it would be like to have thousands and thousands hang on my words and request photos with me.
When I was a young pastor of a growing but still rather small church (less than 400 in attendance) I was thrilled when a well-known speaker agreed to come to a weekend event we were hosting. The event was well attended and encouraged our little congregation. It was not long however before that same speaker would no longer entertain the idea of coming to a church our size. In fact as his star grew so too did his expectations. The explanation I was given was, “God has given me significant gifts and it is not good stewardship to use those gifts in a smaller venue.”
That is a lie brothers. That is Eva Fever.
Here’s the deal: I understand. Truly I do. Money and prestige are intoxicating. And that is precisely why pastors (and preachers and writers) must be vigilant to fight the enticements of Big Eva. Here are few suggestions off the top of my head…
1. If you are the pastor of a local congregation you are blessed. It is a high and holy calling. Be content and do not believe the lie that unless you are well-known, unless you write a book, unless you speak at a conference or regional denominational meeting you are somehow missing something. You aren’t missing a thing. Pastor the flock God has placed under your care. He loves them dearly and so should you. Perhaps the Lord will give you opportunities to minister more broadly. But don’t ever let those opportunities come at the expense of your primary calling.
2. If you have become well known because of exceptional skill in preaching and/or writing then beware. Fame is a fire my friend. It is not inherently bad. But, because of our sinfulness, fame is inherently dangerous.
3. Accept invitations to preach at small churches. Make yourself available to unknown pastors. Do not succumb to the hype brother. It is not poor stewardship to minister to a smaller congregation. It will bless them, encourage their pastor, and be tremendously helpful for you.
4. Don’t accept flattery from men of influence. They will expect something in return. The benediction of top men generally carries with it certain expectations that, if accepted, will require you to compromise. Don’t do it brothers.
5. You have not done wrong if people desire to hear you preach or read your books. If your preaching and writing are excellent and edifying for the church then I thank God for you. Keep up the good work. But remember that Big Eva is big business. No preacher, alliance, coalition, or ministry is too big to fail. Never demand that people treat you as indispensable. We are merely a breath brothers. Chances are no one will be listening to us 50 years from now.