Adjust Fire: Part 1. A Problem

When I was in the Marine Corps I got to do a few missions as a forward observer (FO) even though that wasn’t my primary specialty. The FO’s job is to watch a target and tell other groups, like artillery, mortars, or air support, where their rounds are hitting. When rounds are missing the target the FO calls for an “adjust fire” and helps them correct their aim to hit the right target. I think we need an adjust fire in the world of faith, and especially among ministers. So, here we go.

The “prosperity gospel” (PG) is not as popular, and therefore not as damaging or concerning, as it was a few decades ago. At least not in the prototypical expression of it. The recent phenomena of “hustle culture”, “over-achiever culture”, and “influencer culture” have offered the PG fresh cultural DNA with which to adjust its appearance and present itself as a different animal altogether. Simply put, I think the PG popularized in the 1970s-2000s is being repackaged and rereleased in a new generation.
This new version has the same orientation toward self and is driven by the same engine of greed as its predecessor, but has swapped out the object of affection. Instead of financial wealth, the new form is greedy for social significance. Money, mansions, and Mercedes have been exchanged for book deals, guest-speaker spots, and titles/achievements. “I’m important” is the new “I’m blessed”.

To be clear, ambition has always been a potential point of temptation for humanity and there have always been those prone to find their identity in what they can accomplish. The allure of fame is certainly not new. But something else is happening now. The green eyed monster is taking full advantage of the proliferation of YouTubers, streamers, podcasters, content creators, insta-models, Tik-Tokers, and countless others who seem to be achieving worldwide influence with relatively little effort, and is whispering to believers that they also need that level of societal notoriety and cultural influence if they want to have any meaning at all. The same monster that led many a generation ago to need others to know they had the biggest bank account around is now leading many to need others to know they have the biggest voice/following/influence/social significance around.
This phenomenon is hitting the clergy especially hard. Those who are called to some form of public ministry are inundated with the pressure to get a bigger platform, gain more notoriety, and have their name attached to more and more things going out into the world. This current cultural context in which anyone can become famous for any reason (or no reason) is duping those who truly are called by God to have influence and to be “up in front” of people into thinking if they aren’t influencing the masses and if they aren’t in front of millions of viewers/listeners/readers then they are a failure.

We see it in the proliferation ministers plastering their own name on everything related to them to ensure its their name people are remembering more than the truth they are teaching.
Nick Pridemore, founder of Nick Pridemore Ministries. Watch more at or read more of Nick Pridemore’s life-changing content written by Nick Pridemore at Be sure to call 1-800-NICKPRIDEMORE to get on the “daily thoughts by Nick Pridemore” mailing list.

We see it in Christian organizations and institutions catering to the desire for fame and social significance more than facilitating the call to give our lives away so that the name of Jesus is made known. Ministry schools and training programs are appealing to this need for social significance and promising to give it to students who attend here instead of there. I recently saw a ministry school with almost this exact slogan on their main page:
A place where history makers, culture shapers, and big dreamers can prepare to make an impact on the world that will reverberate for generations!

Note, I only changed the statement enough to not be a verbatim quote and was careful to not exaggerate what the original statement said. The impetus of such statements is an appeal to my need to find significance in my own accomplishment. It’s aimed at stroking my perceived sense of my own greatness. It plays into my broken and fallen greed for fame and notoriety. It’s making the promise to correct the disparity between how much reach I have and how much reach I should have based on the awesomeness that is me.
I would wager this approach is not primarily attracting those who desire to have influence because they are passionately committed to the truth/value of their cause, but rather those who crave influence for its own sake. That is, they would find the same fulfillment in becoming a known fitness coach or political pundit as they would in introducing someone to Jesus. The nature of the impact they have on others isn’t as important as the size of the impact they have on others.
We see it in the need to recreate the wheel so that there’s a wheel with my branding on it.
In addition to being the CEO of Nick Pridemore Ministries and traveling the world coaching others to be more Nick Pridemore-like as the founder and president of Pridemore Consulting Group, Nick Pridemore is also provost of the Nick Pridemore School of Ministry, which trains leaders for the Pridemore Ministry Network using books from Pridemore Publishing House.

We see it in the exploding need to exaggerate distant contacts and normative processes into “dear friends” and “partnerships”. For example, after a natural disaster we don’t collect an offering to give to a disaster relief charity because they are able to disperse it where it is most needed. Rather: My dear friends at Disaster Relief Charity are partnering with us and some other churches in order to maximize our resources to alleviate suffering.

It’s subtle, but that change in phrasing is an example of how we are tempted to move ourselves to the center of a situation and exaggerate the role we play, and therefore the significance we have. My fear is that this trend is opposite of biblical markers of true wisdom (deeds done in meekness/humility) and is related to, or at least leads to, the selfish ambition James gave such strong warnings against (James 3:13-4:4).

Like the financial PG, the trap of this new social-significance PG is bated with a certain degree of truth. It’s the kind of truth that is intended to be part of a bigger story and understood in relation to other characters in the plot, but ruins the entire story when it pushes its way to the front of the stage. For example, the financial PG started with a true premise: God delights in answering the prayers of his people and blessing them with tangible provisions. But that truth was twisted and distorted when certain people forced it out of its place and into center stage. To get there, it had to steal the show from other characters who were also supposed to say lines such as, “Blessed are the poor and hungry”, “Our God is in Heaven and does as he pleases”, and “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness”.
Likewise, this new social-significance PG started with a truth. God does want his people to influence those around them, and even to have a broader effect on society. The commands to go make disciples and to let our behavior silence our critics are pointless apart from the ability to influence others. However, this truth also overshadowed its co-stars in order to take center stage. Influence shoved past characters like Humility, Servanthood, and Anonymity and yelled “Look at me!” over beautiful lines like, “I must decrease so Jesus can increase”, “Some are preaching to compete with me, but I don’t care as long as Jesus is proclaimed”, and “What is Paul? What is Apollos? Nothing more than servants of the King!”

My goal here isn’t merely to complain about something I don’t like. Pointing out an issue without offering a solution is rarely helpful. I hope in the next week or two to be able to write the next part of this; a biblical solution. I’m still studying relevant passages and working through thoughts, but here’s the spoiler: Prayer and faithfulness aren’t paths to the reward of influence and success. Communion with Jesus is the reward and faithfulness is success.
By the way, it’s not lost on me that I’m creating content about obsession with influence and hoping people read it and are influenced by it. I’m not sure how to comment on these things in a way that is helpful to anyone else without embracing some amount of that contradiction. But know that I’m not blind to the contradiction. I speak so strongly about this issue because the green eyed monster lives in me. I’m not only pointing out what I see “out there”, but I’m also confessing what Jesus has shown me “in here”. Lord, make me faithful.

Stay awesome.
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