Perhaps I ought to subscribe to ‘Christianity’ magazine, as there are often some very good articles in it: I don’t always get it, as I’m away a fair bit, as you know(!) and by the time I get to my local Christian bookshop, they’re gone….
This month, there’s an article on ‘Building a Platform’ – writer Ruth Garner heads the article by asking ‘Is the lure of fame and fortune winning out over kingdom-building and serving God?’. She addresses the issue of ‘fame’ – though, in the Christian world, especially in the United Kingdom, that means being a big fish in a relatively small pond. There are people I know who want celebrity, status, recognition. There are, of course, plenty of those on the ‘God Channels’ on TV, image is vital, appearance, audience, sales – all become important.
Probably not too many who read my blogs will have heard of Ken McGreavy: sadly for us, he’s no longer with us, but enjoying the voice of his beloved Jesus saying, ‘Well done, good, and faithful servant’. I got to know Ken way back in the ’70s, when both of us were involved in Youth for Christ. For a brief period, I remember Ken being asked to do the ‘Bible Readings’ each morning at Spring Harvest, in that same era. But he was never really on the ‘radar’ of those wanting the big name, big personality speakers. When God called Ken into ministry, as a (wonderful) prophetic Bible expositor, God gave him a choice: ‘Do you want prominence, or do you want significance?’
If you knew Ken, you’ll know what he chose. If you never heard of him, you’ll know what he chose! Ken’s life and ministry had a profound effect on countless people, in ministry today, because of the significance of a great man of God. I lost touch with him towards the turn of the millennium, but his influence on me was enormous.
Those of you who read here often (aside: you know, it’s interesting to hear from people who read my blog, as some of the people I’d have thought read it, don’t – ‘cos they ask where I am, where I’ve been, what’s happened, and so on – which is all in these pages!) – and therefore see quite a few of the posts I put on Facebook, will know that I really respect, rate, and blown away by, an American preacher by the name of Francis Frangipane. In this country, he, too, would probably not be very well known. I read a quote of his today, that sort of prompted this chain of thought. Here’s what he said: ‘If you find yourself more drawn toward prayer than self promotion, more toward humility than hype, you are being prepared by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God’. God, please, please, please, keep me from self-promotion…..
For many years, I had people telling me to produce ‘publicity’ about myself, write a book/books, go to places where I might be ‘noticed’. For some years after my time in Youth for Christ, I was pretty narked with God. Why? Because in my era in the movement, there were many of us, similar ages, maybe similar backgrounds, all working together – people who went on to become Christian ‘household’ names – Clive Calver, Graham Kendrick, Eric Delve, Sheila Walsh, Roy Crowne – I could go on. All great men and women of God, all of them on ‘big platforms’ like Spring Harvest, in demand here, there, and everywhere.
And I was narked, because that didn’t happen to me! I’d ask God ‘Why aren’t I like Graham Kendrick?’ (‘Well, you can’t play a guitar and sing properly!’: ‘Why aren’t I like Clive Calver?’ (‘Well, he actually understands the Bible, he knows how to present it, and he’s not shy like you are!’). I left YFC in 1983: and it was a while before God finally cornered me, and I began to become happier with my ‘lot’.
But then I started going to the States, and people WANTED me to have a ‘ministry organisation’, publicity, the lot. I just didn’t want that. That’s where Ken’s story impacted me so much. I fought against even having a website until about 7 years ago (I’ve been in ‘ministry’ – whatever that means! – for 34 years); what I REALLY want this website to do is just be a vehicle for telling about what God is doing, about miracles, about ordinary people who’ll never be on the ‘big platform radar’, seeing God do astonishing stuff.
It’s funny, but about 8 or 9 years ago, I was ‘persuaded’ to write a book: a book that, if I wrote it I felt, I’d want to encourage ‘ordinary’ people into mission/ministry, but that was funny, too. I had a lot of wonderful editing help from a certain Adrian Plass, who I’d known since the late 70’s too. In fact, the church we were in was the church in ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, aged 37½’…. most of those characters, caricatured in inimitable Plass style, sure, really existed….
Adrian touted the book around publishers (and as probably the UK’s highest-selling author, he had clout!), but the recession was looming, and ‘new, unknown’ authors weren’t on the publishers’ radar, either. I was relieved, to be honest, as my ‘style’, when I’m speaking, is NOT to have a slot where I sell my ‘stuff’: as part of what I’ve just preached/spoken, I want to start praying for people immediately, as faith is raised then: to stop and sell would cut it like a knife, kill it stone dead.
Last year, through a good friend, I was put back in touch with a publisher. I won’t say which one, you’ll see why in a moment! They want/wanted to publish my book, having read it (it’s ‘sat’ on my computer for years!). I ummed and ahhed about it: saw one of their editors, who emailed me regularly to ask me if I’d done some relatively minor tweaks that they wanted. I dragged my feet doing them, if I’m honest. THEN – that editor wrote to me again: telling me the name of another editor who’d look after me, as and when I decided to run with it, because she was leaving – to go into mission, in part as a result of having read my draft! If that’s all it was for, it was worth it!
This article in ‘Christianity’ goes on to talk about ‘preachers charging’ fees…. man, this one is a contentious issue! When I began, I didn’t have the ‘same’ call as Ken: God’s a bit more creative than that! Mine was to trust him, for home, security, and finance, and never to ask a fee’. Of course, preachers have to ‘live’ – preaching IS their living – it’s mine: and for me, I hope and pray that people in ‘western world’ countries will recognise that it doesn’t cost nothing for a preacher to be in a church, especially these days. Preparation time, travelling time, fuel, wear and tear on the car, the car…! – bills, rent/mortgage, the same as anyone else….
I heard, a few years ago now, about a church in Scandinavia who wanted to book a ‘big name’ American preacher. No problem: just the preacher, a large ‘entourage’ travelling with them, first class airfares for all of them, a whole floor of a hotel, and about $5,000 a day, all to be guaranteed. The church agreed: on condition that the preacher guaranteed 5,000 people saved a day during their visit, and a certain number of miracles. Needless to say, the preacher backed out!
Most of the places I go to couldn’t even afford my taxi fare from where I stay, to their church, let alone an airfare (first class? dream on! – cattle class here, or ‘sardine class’, as giant Adrian Plass calls it!), a hotel… just the fact that a foreigner will GO to their little church, often in a dangerous area, means that they are expectant, and miracles happen. I preached a lot last week in Colombia: I didn’t receive a single peso (there are 3,000 to the £!). Would I swap for all the trimmings? Not on your life!!!
I often find myself under pressure from other PREACHERS to ‘charge’. I can’t. I won’t. If it means I never become famous – thank you, Jesus. If it means I never have a book to sell – so be it. Who’d buy my book in a church of 15 people, in the poorest part of Cali, Colombia, or Mexico City, or Africa? And how would I get them there? The size and weight of my luggage is a standing joke among people who travel with me, anyway, let alone an additional bag full of books -which I’d have to give away, and in English, too, when they only speak Spanish, or Swahili, or …whatever!
Prominence or significance? I know what I want, but it’s tough when you know preachers who ask for, and get, £100’s or $1000’s for going somewhere. So all you lovely people who support me regularly, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. You make it BEGIN to be possible: what I know I will receive each month is about 25% of what I need – so, ‘trust me…for your finance….’ has been, and no doubt WILL be my story. He’s certainly done the ‘security’ and ‘home’ bits over the years, and, as I often say to people, after 34½ years of this, do I LOOK anorexic to you….????!!!!
Let me leave you, again, with that Francis Frangipane quote: ‘If you find yourself more drawn toward prayer than self promotion, more toward humility than hype, you are being prepared by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God’.
Yes, please, Lord….