A song titled, “Hall of Fame” by The Script (feat. Will.I.Am) has a chorus that rings:

“You can be the greatest,
You can be the best,
You can be the King Kong banging on your chest, 

You can throw your hands up,
You can beat the clock,
You can move a mountain,
You can break rocks,
You can be a master,
Don’t wait for luck,
Dedicate yourself and you gon’ find yourself,

Standing in the hall of fame (yeah),
And the world’s gonna know your name (yeah),
‘Cause you burn with the brightest flame (yeah),
And the world’s gonna know your name (yeah),
And you’ll be on the walls of the hall of fame.”

Sports have always been an intricate, seemingly indispensable, part of my life. As far back as I can remember I was running, jumping, catching, and throwing balls. Sports made a name for me in high school and guaranteed my admittance into college. Like most boys on the playing field, I wanted to be the best. I wanted everyone to know my name.  I wasn’t afraid of the competition. I relished it. Unfortunately, that desire for greatness didn’t die when I entered the gospel ministry. It only changed playing fields.

Instead of jumping and shooting, catching and throwing, now I am preaching and writing, teaching and pastoring.  The drive to be the best, the desire for everyone to know my name, is still there. Before I reveled in it. Now I have to fight against it. And I know I am not alone in this.

The recent fall and failures of some prominent preachers (here and here) has me and others asking the question again, “Why do I do what I do? What is my motivation?” Whatever the particulars of these men’s indiscretions, it is safe to assume that the trappings of prominence played a role. Consequently, as I lament the failures of these men and others, I am left asking myself, “Am I any different?”

Sports breed competition – winners and losers, achievers and failures. The gospel ministry does, too. Where I grew up, the area churches would at times have what was called “preach offs.” These were essentially preaching competitions between the young preachers in the area – a kind of a bootleg Sunday’s Best for preachers. It was really the worst. It cultivated the covetous heart that lay in us already. Yet, if we are honest, these preach offs continue today, if nowhere else but in our hearts. Too many of us want to be known, have a book on the best seller list, a song on the top of the charts, a church filled to overflowing, a blog read and referenced by thousands.  We want to be invited to the largest conferences and given a plenary voice. We all want to win. Paul Miller in his book A Praying Life writes:

“Everyone wants to be a winner. In contrast, Jesus never used his power to show off. He used his power for love. So he wasn’t immediately noticeable. Humility makes you disappear, which is why we avoid it.”

Sports and the ministry are wrought with the prideful. Being in the Hall of Fame and all the world knowing your name may work in the athletic arena, but as we have seen, are disastrous in the kingdom of God.

At times, I’m asked why I don’t speak at more conferences. It’s not because there is something inherently wrong with conferences. Rather, there is something wrong with me. I know I want notoriety. I know I want people to mention my name with others they respect and admire. Therefore, I also know I must guard my heart or I may find my name mentioned amongst those others deem disqualified.  The path to the hall of fame often leads to the hall of shame.

In all honesty, the temptation for the pastor today is to want to pastor the world. Multi-campus, multi-site, multi-media have us striving for more, which often times means less – less integrity, less oversight, and less accountability. However, I am slowly learning that if I can faithfully pastor East Point Church (which is challenging enough), why must I look for more? If my name is great in my own home, why must I strive for it to be great in yours? Peter’s inspired words are challenging to me when he said, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…” (1 Pet. 5:2). No one is called to be pastor to the world, only the flock in your midst.

Brothers, the Apostle Paul reminds us that there is a race to be won (1 Cor. 9:24). However, it is not the race that leads to the hall of fame, but the race that leads to the Master’s feet. It is not where everyone will know my name, but where the Master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” – not the greatest, not champion, just servant.

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  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Carter:
    This was a very challenging and convicting article. So much to think about.
    “There’s something wrong with me”, wow now ain’t that the truth?

    Let me ask you a question. Along with keeping a guard up against those things that feed our penchant for notoriety, do you have any other counsel for brothers who struggle in this area?

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Solid word for shaky times, bro.
    That drum major instinct ain’t no joke!

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    You got that right T.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Yeah, the drum major instinct was the very thing that kept coming to mind. MLK Jr got that one right, didn’t he?

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Lou, I am reminded of what Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Being content with the portion God has allotted to us and not perpetually reaching for that all illusive star is not easy. Even Paul said it is a learned trait. Perhaps spending time with Jeremiah Burroughs “Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” or Thomas Watson “The Art of Divine Contentment” are good places to start. What do you think?

  • Avatar Brian Davis says:

    Timely thoughts, brother! Dope reminder to rest in our limitations and prize faithfulness over fame. Thanks for the exhortation and the corresponding example.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Carter:
    Those are great places to start and stay for awhile.

  • Avatar Todd says:

    Thank you for this article. I just met with my pastor yesterday and was complaining about lack of recognition and disappointment in some of my personal desires not coming to pass. (Although I attempted to present my sinful desires and immature wishes in much more sanctified manner smh) He patiently discussed the importance of Jer. 45:3-5. In particular, if you are sensitive to the surrounding cultural problems, judgments and societal ills its pretty narcissistic to be “seeking great things for thyself”. So I thank you for this post and am thankful to the Lord. This post reiterates what I know is true.

    Also, thank you for addressing this issue. I’m aware how little responses these post receive in comparison too “hot button issues”. So this type of post exemplifies the very thing you were discussing.

    2nd Cor. 13:14 to you Brothers

  • Avatar Todd says:

    One other thing. I must admit I am a bit of a “chronological snob”. Are there any other books by more modern authors, at least within the past two centuries, that you could recommend on this subject?

  • “If my name is great in my own home, why must I strive for it to be great in yours?”

    Great perspective and a reminder to “run faithfully in our own assigned lanes”.

    Thank you for this article!

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Hey Todd, I feel ya. The oldies but goodies are great, but sometimes it’s good to have a fresh wind blow through the house. Here are a couple of good ones to consider: “The Secret of Contentment” by William Barcley and “Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry.” Hope this is helpful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the porch. You are right about the popularity of “hot button” issues. May God bless your labors for Him.

  • Avatar Larry Miles says:

    Very sobering article. It is of a truth, the spirit of competition is alive and well in the heart. And, one has to be intentional in taming it.

  • Avatar Pastor Bruce says:

    A humbling post brother. Thank you.

  • Avatar John Erickson says:

    Using this with our interns this morning. Thank you!

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Hey John, glad to our conversations are helpful. Blessed to know that your interns are chopping up God’s calling to humble service. May God grant favor to your time with them this morning.

  • Avatar DréAn says:

    This just hit me right in the face! Thank you!!

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