The Thirst for the Limelight

For over half my life I had an unrelenting desire to stand on a big stage to give voice to my thoughts and ideas. Oh, I thought I wanted to do it for God, since those who seemed to hold the stage spoke so poorly of his truth and rarely demonstrated his character off of it. I thought I would be different in those same circumstances and spent many years in frustration because I couldn’t get the platform I thought I deserved.

Then that kind of thinking didn’t seem near as arrogant at the time as it feels typing it out today. It was for the kingdom after all, or so I thought, even though Jesus never sought the limelight, even though he chose Galilee over Jerusalem. And over the years I’ve watched people who thought they could dwell in the limelight and remain unseduced by its power. Precious few have succeeded.  And I’ve watched dear friends become a shell of their former selves trying to hold the stage and live in that self-serving culture that forms around so-called celebrities. At some point it becomes more about power, money, and acclaim than it does letting Jesus’ light shine into the world.

I’ve been close to this world in the last few years and the amount of dishonesty and corruption that it takes to live there sickens me. Over the years of learning to live loved my desire to be on a stage surreptitiously vanished. I discovered it is not the environment in which God moves best and have enjoyed far more the value of smaller conversations from 2s and 3s to 30 and 40. That’s a far better environment for honesty and help to really happen.  I have relished the last couple of decades and the people I’ve gotten to know and the conversations about life and grace I’ve been a part of.

I just had a conversation this week with someone who used to work for a big-name in Christendom and to hear how much insecurity and how little character existed behind the scenes only affirms to me that we know nothing about someone’s heart or character when we’re just watching their giftedness on a stage.

Earlier this week this quote found it’s way into my inbox, and it helped me recognize the truth behind what God has been doing in my heart for a very long time.

Christ was crucified because he would have nothing to do with the crowd (even though he addressed himself to all). He did not want to form a party, an interest group, or a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual. Therefore everyone who will genuinely serve the truth is by that very fact a martyr. To win a crowd is no art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions. But no witness to the truth dares to get involved with the crowd.

Søren Kierkegaard in Provocations

If I could say anything to the Wayne of thirty years ago, or a young person like him today, it would be to forget the limelight. The fame and notoriety are a trap.  It pays well, but at what cost to the soul?  Look for God’s hand in the next person you meet, or the next opportunity he brings your way. Share your gift wherever you can, but don’t think the number of people who enjoy it is any commentary on its value. And if you ever find yourself on a big stage someday at God’s doing, keep it real by being genuine, and look to get off as soon as you can. Don’t believe the lie that you’re being more effective in this kingdom by the amount of attention you command or influence you wield; it’s only in the people you love and how you help them see Jesus.

Unfortunately, I doubt I would have listened.

20 thoughts on “The Thirst for the Limelight”

  1. In truth, we never know what our influence will mean. Was Billy Graham a great man–but what about the unknown person who brought him to the campground meeting? Was St Peter a great man–but what about his bro, Andrew, who never made to the Inner Circle of “Peter James and John.”

    BTW, C. S. Lewis was an Irishman who, all his life, fought against fascination of being “in the know. in the Inner Circle.” He was considered an “outsider” by most of the Oxbridge (Oxford-Cambridge) connection.

  2. Helena vd Nest-Strijdhorst

    Thank you so much Wayne, this is so true, and sets us free to live the life of the Beloved. God is more concerned about our character and to have a relationship with us.

  3. Well put Wayne. I have been on a big stage with someone who is truly gifted by God.
    I thought I was wonderful. It was only later that I was not gifted for this even though I was getting words of knowledge praying for people the Holy Spirit was going through me people were going down in the spirit. I thought I had made it.
    However I was gleaning from the lady I worked with her gifting.
    I could only do it if she was there.
    Then I knew I was a fake.
    I didn’t think I would ever know God like she did. I didn’t think I had any gifting.
    But thanks to you God is bringing up stuff from my childhood, two marriages, doing a clean out of stuff I thought I had dealt with by forgiveness but that is only the beginning.

  4. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for sharing. I was especially moved by:
    -” Jesus never sought the limelight … he chose Galilee over Jerusalem.”
    – ” At some point it becomes more about power, money, and acclaim than it does letting Jesus’ light shine.”
    – And, “Don’t believe the lie that you’re being more effective in this kingdom by the amount of attention you command or influence you wield; it’s only in the people you love and how you help them see Jesus.”

    My father was a pastor–he really was a great pastor (I know that better now as an adult that I did as a kid). Over his forty years of pastoring, he had four churches. The first three had about 200 members each. His last one grew from 300 to 700 in a few years.

    Shortly before dad’s death he shared something with me. He said that during his years with the 200 person congregations, he thought of “growth” as the deepening of the member’s relationship with God (in prayer and Scripture study, and out of that, in service to others). But when he got into the congregation that had greater “numbers” he began to think of “growth” as numbers.

    My father concluded, “Sam, exchanging ‘growth as depth’ for ‘growth as width’ was probably the greatest perversion in my thinking I ever experienced.”

    1. Yeah, I sure wish we could recognize that when we’re younger. It seems we all have to make the mistake that bigger is better before realizing that this kingdom is passed on life-to-life, not crowd-to-crowd. Love your dad’s journey!

  5. Six of my besties just cried through The Shack, Wayne. I wondered if this amazing project would have spiraled you into such notariety you would have been tempted for this life of fame you speak of. After all, the movie was incredible and seriously, if its not nominated for an Academy Award I’d be surprised. A few of my friends said, “It’s been years since I’ve read the book. I forgot how good it was!” With that said I was thrilled to see the same Wayne Ive known these past few years through your writing, podcasts, etc. in this article. We wouldnt want to lose you to Hollywood’s or for that matter, Christendom’s dark side. Lol

    1. I didn’t have much to do with the movie, so no great risk there. Brad on the other hand had a lot to do with the movie, but I think he’s pretty grounded in realities outside of Hollywoods….

  6. I am very happy to see that you have not strayed from relational Christianity! I was deeply moved by the movie and will be buying it so I can absorb more of it. It’s been a long time since we have talked Wayne, but God never let go of me. I still yearn for more of God in an intimate setting with other believers. I am hopeful that many of my brothers and sisters close to me will embrace coming together again. Most of them are going nowhere and are discouraged. We have fond memories of your visit with us in this little town of Alton. It changed our lives! Thank you for obeying and embracing just a few, rather than the big stage. Grace to you on your journey.

  7. So very good Wayne! Thanks. I am a former “vocational” (I don’t know of any other word for it) pastor who served for 20 years in a full time capacity but now bi-vocationally for the past 10 years. Oh, what an unraveling that has taken place in that time. I have been on an painful yet wonderful journey of learning to live loved, which included becoming free from a hidden alcohol addiction that developed from trying to medicate myself while attempting to perform as a pastor. I am just beginning to step out of “limelight” ministry as a worship leader and little by little have been stepping away from other ministry responsibilities. I know that those around me can’t figure out why I’d want to go this way but the fact is that it has completely “lost its luster”. Listening to Father and following his nudges into the relationships he is leading me into is so very new to me and yet so refreshing. I doubt that the stage will be part of my life in the days to come but that’s really OK with me and in fact it feels wonderful. Thanks again.

  8. Hi Wayne, I was very encouraged by your post because my life also has been the endless story of frustration produced by always feeling that I deserved a platform for sharing all the amazing revelations that I had concerning the truth that the church needed to hear in order for God to be glorified in revival in the current situation. I think the fact that people loved the revelations I spoke about, and the recognition of my gifting and ministry in the church was really encouraging for many years, all this made it more difficult for me to realise the deception I was in concerning my own relationship with Jesus, and my need to realise my even deeper need of a close walk with him in my desperate need of the kind of intimacy with him that produces the kind of character he wanted to replicate in me. He has now brought me to a place where genuinely, the audience of one is of greater value than the audience of 200, whether its teachings I am giving more songs I am singing and composing. Although, like you, I was off and told this when I was a younger man, and never really listened or believed it, knowing it now is so worth the wait of the years And a means to a fulfilment and joy that I would have never dreamt possible before!

  9. This was SO good. I got introduced to you in Charlotte back last year and am so thankful for that! You’re blogs and books have spoken to the things the Lord has been doing in my heart but didn’t hear any outside sources speaking about them. I am still transitioning away from the “gotta change the world” mentality/performance driven Christianity. I realized one of my biggest dreams was to have a platform so I could speak, my question I am asking myself is why? Thank you for bringing light to the trap that can be so easy to fall into. Believing that we need to be “out there” and “known” to be significant in the kingdom and to make a difference. It’s been 6 years since I’ve been out of institutionalized church and still on a journey of finding my place even though I know I’m right in the middle of Fathers love! Thanks again!

  10. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, being bullied out of church leadership was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It set me free to “live loved” – and loving 🙂

  11. Wayne thanks from a Wayne down under 🙂 Appreciated reading this blog. Talking with a person in ministry a few weeks ago re: this topic. There is something within a person even though they are caught in this system, they intuit there is something wrong because in reality it doesn’t work … for anyone. Over a period of 40 years worked outside the various systems in universities supporting myself teaching, tutoring and workshops etc. Loved it. Now I’m being led into a different ‘outreach’ one on one in rural Australia etc. Funny how the human heart grasps for a platform. Lurking inside me a thought popped up “This is a stepping stone to sharing my heart before people.” As I contemplated my self talk, the Lord spoke very clearly to me through Scripture, Jeremiah 45: 3- 5. As I received “Should you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” (NIV) disappointment rose within me at the same time a relief that I didn’t have to be ‘someone’ to validate ministry … simply abide, be close, lean upon His breast. Freedom and joy came as I thanked God for His beautiful gentle reminders to me, somehow I realised my life was not a failure because I hadn’t arrived in front of people on a platform. I recall my own teaching to K.I.S.S. it (Keep It Small Simple) Thank you Lord.

    Wayne thank you for sharing it was confirmation to a struggling heart and so good to know what you said. Peace and Blessings Wayne R Crockford

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