The Billy Graham Syndrome
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47
A close friend and I do a fair amount of addiction and jail ministry together, both knowing that we’re not evangelists. We’re just two guys trying to help others in need. We’ve joked many times though, that if God asked us to become evangelists, we’d want some guarantee that we’d be the next Billy Graham. Sure, we’d like to help others find God, but what we really want is the success, fame, and fortune of Billy Graham. Honestly, we’re not interested in radical obedience. We just want to be universally respected while we brush elbows with presidents and celebrities. If we’re going to be obedient, we want to be well rewarded for it.
This self-seeking behavior is a problem for me. Following my own way is what led to my addiction in the first place. Recovery means following God’s plan above my own. I may be sober, but I still find myself turning to my way. I felt God wanted me to write a blog and book. I was obedient and I did that. Now, I find myself disappointed that my book isn’t yet on the New York Times Best Seller list. I was obedient God, now I want success.
In today’s passage, we’re told how the early Christians met together, studying, praying, and worshipping. In that environment, God’s Spirit moved and used those Christians to reach others around them. Day by day, God added more to their number.
It’s easy to read the story and think that success means numbers. If I obey God, then I’ll see success. In thinking this way though, I miss the truth of the passage. The success of those early Christians was that their lives were changed. God used that transformation to reach those around them, but that was God’s work. Those Christian’s had success in their own faith, even if they’d never seen a single convert.
The lesson for me, is that I’m not responsible for changing other’s lives and my success isn’t marked by numbers, fame, fortune, or popularity. Personal success happens when I’m obedient to God. That’s all. I’m responsible to love God and to love those around me. What God does with that is up to him. I don’t have to be the next Billy Graham. I just need to do what God asks of me.
Special thanks to Jon Mellema who provided the honesty and inspiration for The Billy Graham Syndrome. Everyone should have a brother and friend like him. It’s his mug in the Facebook post, so if you read only by email, you’ll have to look up the Facebook version.