I was having dinner the other night with a couple of friends who are involved in a ministry of significant size, albeit somewhat of a niche community.
I was waxing eloquent – droning on – about the necessity (in my view) of using social media to further one’s agenda. I knew they are “old school,” but still, each is willing to try new things in order to advance God’s call on their lives. It was when I held up my phone and showed them Twitter that I thought I would lose them.
Launched five years ago, Twitter now has 200 million users, with 200 million “tweets” per day. Probably no one can see where the implications of such social networking will take us.
As I constantly hear from and network with authors, I am always interested in finding those elements that are necessary for greatness, or, more precisely, stardom. The two (greatness and stardom) can be quite different, of course. I find that most people want stardom.
For example, most authors I talk with are keenly interested in what it takes to come to the attention of media. Because of this, I often study authors/spokespersons who are in the spotlight. One such fellow is Rob Bell.
A graduate of Wheaton, and the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., Bell shot to prominence by appearing in the “Nooma” videos, produced by Zondervan. Bell’s appearance – let’s be honest – is but one key to his success. He just looks like a guy who would appeal to a younger audience (unlike the sincere, Greatest Generation preacher I listened to this morning as I visited friends).
Rob Bell has a natural ability in communicating that most don’t possess, but the question becomes: Is it possible to develop the necessary qualities to put yourself in the public eye?
I am of the opinion that it is, and that’s good news I suppose to those who want to grab for the brass publishing ring. I was once consulting for a fellow who wanted to combine his knack for writing compelling books with the use of social media to advance his career.
We spent a good deal of time shooting video of him on location, going “from scratch” to a finished product that was quite good. In the beginning, he had little (OK, he had no) confidence in himself.
He had the beginnings of the ability to speak on camera, but it had to be developed.
Bell seems to have been born with it and has refined it. The end result though, between a novice who wants to work to get better, and someone like Bell, can be similar.
Bell, whose controversial books (including the recent “Love Wins”) enhanced his visibility, has now resigned from Mars Hill and plans a move to Los Angeles to take advantage of certain opportunities.
As his PR team put it: “Feeling the call from God to pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities, our founding pastor, Rob Bell, has decided to leave Mars Hill in order to devote his full energy to sharing the message of God’s love with a broader audience.”
It’s no accident that Bell finds himself in this position. As one of the shining lights of the Emergent church community, Bell’s ability to generate buzz has been noticed by publishers and those who, as the Mars Hill statement further states, see for Bell “increasing opportunity to extend the heartbeat of that message to our world in new and creative ways.”
He is a star. One can speculate that a “clergyman” of Bell’s stature and ability will virtually create something new when the Midwest boy meets the make-believe world of Los Angeles. Anyone who writes books titled “Sex God” and “Velvet Elvis” knows how to be provocative.
Can you imagine Charles Spurgeon doing something like that? I can’t, either.
Rob Bell is a star.
And then there are those who achieve stardom indirectly, or at least not always for themselves.
The pop singing sensation Justin Bieber, a teen who is in the process of making a phenomenal fortune, seems to have little to do with Christianity (although there are reports he is a Christian). Yet publishers are capitalizing on his popularity.
New publisher, Worthy, has produced “Belieber! Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber.” Wow. I don’t want to spread too much criticism before reading this one – can I get through it? – but in this type of project I think we can see how far the Christian world has moved from piety to pop.
According to a story from Christian Retailing: “Worthy Publishing ships ‘Belieber!’ to stores on Sept. 27. The book describes Bieber’s incredible popularity, and [Byron] Williamson said it is suited for teenage fans and for mystified parents of children who idolize the star, many of whom memorize his song lyrics.”
This type of project is perhaps on the path to stardom. But greatness?
Unless you are an extremely unusual person, you will probably have to choose between stardom and greatness. One is temporary; the other is lasting.