JR Vassar learned an important lesson a little over a year ago. From 2005 to 2013, he was the lead pastor of Apostles Church in New York City – a church which he had also planted. Mid 2013 he began wrestling over whether to leave his ministry there. God’s calling seemed clearly to lie elsewhere, but something was clouding the decision. That something was “glory hunger.”
As Vassar explains it, “If I left New York, I feared I would be merely normal, average, ordinary – and forgotten. I was in bondage to my glory, and I was in competition with Jesus for his glory” (90). Graciously, God allowed Vassar to “divorce” his identity from his zipcode, and now he serves as lead pastor at Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Texas. And as a result of the lesson learned, he has written Glory Hunger: God, The Gospel, and Our Quest for Something More, which thanks to Crossway, is currently free for Christ and Pop Culture members.
Taking what he learned from his own experience, Vassar begins his book with several chapters outlining the problem. Early on he observes,
“We are hardwired to ascribe glory and praise to what we deem impressive. We feel wonder over a breathtaking vista, or shock and awe when our bones are rattled by rolling thunder. Giving glory is a natural human response to witnessing greatness, which is why our world is infatuated with celebrities. We are addicted to greatness. And when we see it, we ascribe worth and value to it” (15)
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this, but as we all well know, nothing is ever in and of itself. The problem is that we are quick to ascribe glory where it isn’t deserved and often want our glory ascribed in return. A legitimate hunger for glory often takes illegitimate and idolatrous turns (25). As a result,
“We are broken people looking to other broken people to fix our broken lives. We are glory-deficient people looking to other glory-deficient people to supply us with glory. Looking to other people to provide for us what they lack themselves is a fool’s errand. It is futile to look to other glory-hungry people to fully satisfy our glory hunger, and doing so leaves our souls empty” (36)
Having outlined the problem, Vassar then spends several chapters pointing to not just a solution, but a Person. As he explains, “Our glory hunger can be a gift to lead us to the only one who can satiate it. Jesus is the end of our glory hunger. He restores to us the glory that Adam lost for us” (51). Vassar traces through Scripture how this is accomplished through the person and work of Christ. He closes encouraging readers to seek Christ in Scripture, for “The Bible motivates us to satiate our glory hunger in the right way, seeking glory from the glorious Father by responding to Jesus with everything we have” (122).
If you take a moment and look around at our celebrity obsessions, you’ll probably ask like Vassar, “Has a generation ever been so concerned with its own glory?” (60). It’s certainly possible, but our generation’s concern is clearly the most documented. As Vassar observes, “Our narcissistic culture has made celebrities into cultural icons and heroes, and celebrity status is now the holy grail” (58). Vassar’s book speaks to this issue without dwelling on it too extensively. While this isn’t a pop culture book per se, it models good cultural engagement by showing cultural awareness of something innately human that takes a problematic turn and then speaking to it cogently from the Scriptures.