There’s a guy at your church who is on the praise team, is an usher, teaches the Alpha course, volunteers in the kids’ Sunday school and hosts a Bible study at his house. There’s a woman who leads a small group, is a VBS teacher, serves as an ambassador to the local food pantry, adopted a refugee family and manages the schedule for after-service coffee where she makes the best muffins imaginable. You know who these people are. You might be this person.
If so, you’re a church superstar.
Yeah, you’re pretty cool…
First off, let’s just acknowledge that there’s something superhuman about you. You don’t believe in being “too busy” or saying “no.” You don’t disappoint. You are working the vineyard, raking in the harvest when others are trying to stay awake in the pews.
Second, let’s be clear that you deserve more than thanks than you get. You’ve made service to the church a priority and you don’t give up on your commitments. You’ve sacrificed hours and effort, and possibly relationships and money, for the sake of a different kind of good work. So, thank you for all you do.
Now, I just have one question for you: Maybe, just maybe, should you lay off a bit?
…but not that cool
For all its greatness, there are a few reasons why being a church superstar is a dangerous proposition.
1. The most obvious reason, and probably the most serious peril, is the temptation that is common to all people, but especially these VIPs: pride. Everyone in the church sees how great you are, so it’s pretty likely you know how great you are, too. You know how much time you’ve put in and how many other things you’ve sacrificed. And, what’s more, you know that everyone else knows. It’s a recipe for a big head, for forgetting that this is about obedience and gratitude to God, not a resume builder or a way to impress that one girl.
2. Connected to pride is the temptation to show off. Sometimes church heavyweights come to believe their way is the best way, possibly even the only way. Maybe you think you’re doing the congregation a favor by lending your skills in Sunday school (and, quite possibly, you are), but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re the most capable person around. Teachers must be taught, too.
3. The church’s standouts need God just as much as anybody else. Sometimes, Christian superstars get so caught up in doing things for God they forget to live for him. I’ve seen some bigshot volunteers spend four or five Sundays in a row in Children’s Worship. But don’t they need the spiritual nourishment of communal worship, too? I’ve seen church MVPs sign up to serve coffee after every service. How, then, will they mingle with the rest of us? How will they invest in the people of God’s Church instead of just its snack table? God calls us to work, but he also calls us to worship. He calls us to serve, but he also calls us to be in real relationship with his people. Let’s not let the good work get in the way of the best work.
4. Church superstars have a bad habit of keeping others from stepping up. First of all, it might be that others in the church want to get involved, but feel inadequate, or feel like the position is already filled. Second, others in the church should get involved whether there is a void or not. You might be scared to step away from your leadership position in the nursery because, well, who else will do it? But maybe creating needs in the church, opening up roles, will compel others to commit where they wouldn’t have otherwise. And, when that happens, it’s very possible the new person will bring ideas and experiences that weren’t there before.
Okay, but there’s nothing wrong with being a church superstar if you do it in a responsible way, right?
That’s right. Pulling your weight, going the extra mile and building up the Church are very good things. We should take a lesson from superstars of old — Paul, the disciples, Esther, Moses and a whole bunch of others who stepped up for God’s people — and do hard things for the good of the Church.
Especially when a church is new or tiny, it needs allstars to do a lot simply because it has only a small pool of people to pull from. Also, there are some roles in the Church that can’t be handed out to just anyone — paid roles like the pastor, worship leader and coordinators, but also roles like elders, deacons and teachers — these spots must go to aces of the faith.
But I worry — and I’ve seen it happen — that a few church hotshots, even with the best intentions, can shrink the possibilities for a church by hoarding the work. God’s Church is a body where all the members are important and each brings his own gifts. We cannot all be eyes and hands; we must have the brain and the pinky toe and the jejunum, as well. So, remember one of the greatest paradoxes of Christianity: leaders must also be servants, so superstars must also be stellar pew-dwellers.