GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book Shadow Christians: Making an Impact When No One Knows Your Name by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!
Have you ever heard of a shadow Christian?
Shadow Christians are people who work in the margins—in the shadows created by the spotlight shining on others. Sometimes shadow Christians can feel insignificant or overlooked. But God chooses and uses shadow Christians.
Today’s 4:13 Podcast episode will shine a bright light on Christians who serve in the shadows as Dr. Jeff Iorg gives us such a great perspective on this age of “celebrity Christianity.”
Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary, a learning network with five campuses and a strong distance learning program. He speaks frequently on leadership and pastoral ministry issues in conferences and classroom settings. Dr. Iorg is featured on the Lead On! Podcast and has written or edited several books including Shadow Christians: Making an Impact When No One Knows Your Name. He and his wife, Ann, live in Ontario, California.
You’ll be reminded that God sees us, and nothing you do is overlooked by Him. Plus, you’ll find encouragement if you’re weary of serving in the shadows. I loved this conversation and so will you!
Jennifer’s Highlights and Take-Aways
Jeff and I began our conversation discussing that we are in an era of celebrity Christianity.
He pointed out that it’s good for some to have large platforms of great influence, but that can also confuse Christians who aren’t in the spotlight. They may think they aren’t as valuable to the Kingdom of God.
But Jeff explained that “the Kingdom of God is empowered by a lot of other people doing a lot of other important work,” and he calls those not in the spotlight “shadow Christians.”
What is a Shadow Christian?
A shadow christian is a person who works outside of the spotlight. They serve in the shadows of Christian ministry, indisputably making a difference, and powering up what happens in God’s Kingdom.
Jeff explained that over the years, he has received attention and credit as a leader, but it’s not what he does—it’s what all the people behind the scenes do—that makes the difference. The leader often gets the credit, but it is the shadow Christians giving of their time, energy and money who make the vision happen.
Jeff shared the truth that “God’s Kingdom is empowered by people who are in the shadows making such a profound difference.” Leaders are important, but nothing happens until shadow Christians mobilize.
Examples of Shadow Christians
Jeff went on to show examples of this in Scripture. He listed several nameless people—shadow Christians—in the New Testament who had a profound effect within the early church.
For example, the church planters in Acts 11 who started the church in Antioch were simply called, “some men from Cyprus and Cyrene.”
It was those famous, but nameless, men that made Jeff curious and prompted his study on shadow Christians. He said there are approximately 170 named people in the New Testament, but so many more whose names we will never know.
Another example is the 12 disciples who were all named, but there were 72 others sent out by Jesus whose names we don’t know. And yet, they accomplished amazing things in Jesus’ name.
“God wants us to recognize that all of us have a place in His Kingdom,” Jeff added. “Not just the people who get their names mentioned.”
Jeff also described an older couple in the midst of young couples and families in the newly planted church where he served. The older couple said they wanted to build a church for the future, and the older lady, Inez, modeled hospitality for the younger women. She had no expectation to be noticed but was vital to setting the tone and adding warmth to the church life.
That was 30 years ago, and now it’s one of the strongest churches in the region; it’s strong because of the shadow Christians like Inez.
The Impact of the Invisible
Jeff affirmed that people behind the scenes are vital! “The miraculous waits on their very mundane involvement before God steps in and does what only He can do,” said Jeff.
Unnamed people are proof that all of us matter. Whether you’re a spotlight leader or a shadow Christian, your contribution matters. Families don’t function without people willing to work in the shadows, and we need people who say, “Even if no one knows my name, I will show up and do my part.”
Discouraged Shadow Christians
To the discouraged shadow Christian, Jeff offered two wise pieces of encouragement:
- God highly values the invisible and unseen. God values the parts of His body that we don’t always see but are so vital to its function.
- God promises over and over in Scripture that He sees everything and He will reward those who serve Him. Those who don’t get much attention in this world must remember that God is seeing everything they ever do. He sees it all and says, “Someday I’m going to reward you like only I can for your faithful service.”
We’re All Shadow Christians
When you think about it, all of our work and service is so Jesus will be made known. Jesus’ name is above all names, and our name should be lost in the shadow of His cross. So ultimately we are all shadow Christians. He is the light. He is supreme. May we all find ourselves in His shadow.
Oh, sisters! To Jeff’s beautiful message and perspective, I say, “Amen and amen!”
Remember, whatever you face and however you feel, you can serve, you can work, you can do whatever God is calling you to do in the spotlight or in the shadow because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
- You can win a copy of Jeff’s new book, Shadow Christians: Making an Impact When No One Knows Your Name. Hurry, we’re picking a random winner on August 6. Enter on Instagram here.
Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
- Invisible: How You Feel is Not Who You Are
- Invisible for Young Women: How You Feel is Not Who You Are
- Invisible: How You Feel is Not Who You Are [Audio Book]
More from Jeff Iorg
- Learn more about Jeff
- Shadow Christians: Making an Impact When No One Knows Your Name
- Follow Jeff on Facebook or Twitter
Links Mentioned in This Episode
- Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the 4:13 Podcast here.
- Were you encouraged by this podcast? Reviews help the 4:13 Podcast reach more women with the “I can” message. Click here to leave a review on iTunes.
4:13 Podcast: Can I Make an Impact When Nobody Knows My Name? With Jeff Iorg [Episode 152]
Jennifer Rothschild: Shadow Christians are people who work in the margins, in the shadows created by the spotlight shining on others. Sometimes Shadow Christians can feel insignificant or overlooked, but God chooses and uses Shadow Christians to accomplish his work in this world. Today author Dr. Jeff Iorg is going to shine a bright light on Christians who serve in the shadows and he's going to give you a great perspective on this age of celebrity Christianity that we live in. Plus, you're going to get two great pieces of encouragement if you are weary of serving in the shadows. I loved this conversation and I just know that you will too. So, K.C., let's get this going.
K.C. Wright: Let's do this. So are you ready?
Jennifer Rothschild: I think they're ready. Hit the intro, K.C. Hit it.
K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you up to live what we call the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Now, welcome your host. She's five-two, but much taller on the inside --
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.
K.C. Wright: -- trust me.
Jennifer Rothschild: Skyscraper.
K.C. Wright: Here's Jennifer Rothschild.
Jennifer Rothschild: Welcome, our friends. We're glad you're here. It's going to be a really good day. You have tuned into the perfect podcast for wherever you are today. I'm Jennifer, here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life, and I'm with my buddy, my seeing eye guy, K.C. Wright, and it is two friends, one topic, zero stress. So if you're feeling any stress, breathe in, breathe out --
K.C. Wright: Inhale, exhale.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- and let it go. OK? We're talking about something so good today, this topic of Shadow Christians. And so I just had to tell you my worst story of getting this all wrong. OK? I'm about to make you feel better about yourself today. OK? So this was years ago. And for those of you who don't know, I teach the Bible. I get to travel and speak. And so years ago I was at this large women's event -- OK? -- and I was one of the speakers. And prior to me, Beth Moore was the speaker. And everybody loved Beth. You know, there's thousands of women and, of course, she dazzled the audience. And Travis Cottrell led the worship, and he's phenomenal. And so Saturday morning it was going to be me and a different worship leader. Well, I woke up and I felt so intimidated to follow, you know, Beth Moore, because she was just such a big deal. And nobody knew me and so I was just this wad of emotions inside. And so I get dressed and I get to breakfast that morning and I'm sitting with the woman who's going to lead worship. And she was nervous, too. We kind of talked about how we were both a little nervous and intimidated. Because nobody knew her either, you know. She was new on the platform. And so we were not the A team and we both knew it. All right? So over scrambled eggs I'm trying to unwad my feelings and I said, "I hope that they give us a good introduction because nobody knows who we are, nobody knows our names." OK, I could hear her chewing. I'm like, what did I just say? And so I keep chattering, you know, and I'm just continuing to say more unnerving and unnecessary comments. And I start to feel this embarrassment right now, y'all, as I'm even telling you this, because it's like, oh, my gosh, what was I doing? I wasn't ugly, I promise I was not ugly, but I just didn't say anything helpful, right? So as I continue to go, "Nobody knows us" and, "I hope they give us a good introduction," and blah, blah, blah, I noticed that my new friend -- at least she's my friend at the time being -- she gets super quiet. And so in a few minutes she gets up and she mutters something about needing to brush her teeth and she leaves. So I sat alone. Well, I wasn't totally alone, because with me was this growing awareness that I had done this whole thing wrong. OK? I couldn't bear my own insecurity, I couldn't bear feeling like I was, you know, in the shadows of Beth or Travis, and so I, unfortunately, shared all my insecurity with my new friend, the worship leader. So it was in this painful moment that I'm sitting here that I hear Travis. And Travis is like, "Hey, Jennifer, do you want me to walk you to the green room?" And I'm like, "Yeah, thanks," and I'm trying to act like nothing's up. But inside, oh, my gosh, K.C., I was crumbling. I had known -- gosh, I know I blew it, and I knew it and it was sucking the life out of me. So we finally get into the green room and there she sits. She's on the couch. Well, evidently Travis could just tell immediately, by probably her wet eyes and her dripping mascara, that she had been crying. I couldn't see her, of course, and without even seeing her, I could tell, I could just feel it in the room. And so as soon as the door closed behind us, I burst into tears also. OK? Now, at this point -- this is, you know, 30 minutes before we're both about to take the stage. And I wish that I could have seen Travis at this moment, because here's these two women sobbing before 8:00 a.m. in the green room, for no apparent reason as far as he's concerned, and there he is, right? And he's standing in the green room, like, drowning in emotion and estrogen. And, you know, I'm just wondering, what is he thinking right now? I bet he's praying at this very moment, God, please remind me once again that you called me to work with women. I mean, it was bad, K.C. OK, so while --
K.C. Wright: Oh, no.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- Travis is probably praying and pondering his future in ministry, I maneuvered my way over to the couch where my friend is sitting and I said, "I am so sorry. I was so wrong and I'm so sorry." And, you know, she consoled me and I consoled her. And I don't know if anyone was consoling for Travis, who was probably bewildered in the corner, but anyway, he comes over and all three of us pray together. And by the time she went out on stage to begin the morning and lead worship, my friend, who I had just totally rattled, the worship leader that day so many years ago and who no one knew, the woman who nobody knew, Mandisa, nailed it. That was Mandisa. Long before American Idol, before she was on every radio station, I -- it was bad, K.C. But that woman, she sung heaven down. And I tell you this because there's an awareness that we all need to have that we're all Shadow Christians on some level, no matter how bright the spotlight, and there's -- and it's OK to be a Shadow Christian. And the point, as you're about to hear, is not about getting our names known. I mean, I just really admired this conversation that I had with Jeff about his attention to this topic and this book because -- I tell you that embarrassing story because I think it's a good picture of what it feels like to be a Shadow Christian and how it's good. So I think you've heard enough of my embarrassment. I think we just need to hear this conversation with Dr. Jeff. So introduce him for us, K.C.
K.C. Wright: I'd be honored to.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, wait a minute before you do, though.
K.C. Wright: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: Didn't you have an encounter with Mandisa that was embarrassing for other reasons? I don't want to miss your opportunity.
K.C. Wright: Well, somewhere on the interwebs, maybe it may be there. They could have taken it down by now. But one day years ago she was trying to teach me to dance --
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, that would be embarrassing.
K.C. Wright: -- In a radio station studio. She was like, "K.C., come on, I'm going to teach you some moves." And someone got a little video of this. And anyway --
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, if we can find it, we are going to link to it on the show notes, because I want you to be as embarrassed as I just was.
K.C. Wright: It was very embarrassing. She had her work cut out for her for sure. Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary, a learning network with five campuses and a great distance learning program. He speaks frequently on leadership and pastoral ministry issues in conferences and classroom settings. Dr. Iorg is featured on the Lead On Podcast and has written or edited several other books. He and his wife, Ann, live in Ontario, California, and today he is a 4:13er.
Jennifer Rothschild: Woo-hoo.
K.C. Wright: So let's listen in on Jennifer and Jeff Iorg.
Jennifer Rothschild: You know, Jeff, we live in an era of what I call celebrity Christians.
Jeff Iorg: Right.
Jennifer Rothschild: And I'm not going to make a judgment about it. It is what it is. But I do feel like it has an impact, and sometimes it's subtle on how ordinary believers perceive their role and their importance. So I'm curious your opinion about that.
Jeff Iorg: I agree completely, we are in an era of celebrity Christianity. And while it's always good that God raises up some people and gives them broad platforms of influence -- and we're not certainly against that --
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Jeff Iorg: -- the downside of it is many people feel devalued if they don't measure up to that standard. They think the only people God can use and the only people that really matter in his Kingdom are what I call the spotlight leaders, the people that are on the stage, on the platform, who get their name in the printed materials, who are talked about on podcasts like this one. And really, the Kingdom of God is empowered by a lot of other people doing a lot of other important work.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and you call them, thus your book, you call them Shadow Christians. And I think that's interesting, because you write the book for those of -- those of us, but I say -- I say that, those of us. I feel like I'm one of them, but I know I do have more of a platform. But I do believe the ground at the foot of the cross is perfectly level. So you write this book for people who don't live in the spotlight. And I just hate it that they might feel like they're more in the shadows. You call them Shadow Christians. So define what you mean by that.
Jeff Iorg: A Shadow Christian is a person who works outside the spotlight, in the shadows of Christian ministry, really making such an incredible difference in powering up what happens in God's Kingdom. And really this concept of Shadow Christians became very real to me over the past few years, particularly as I lead a seminary. You know, I get a lot of notoriety and a lot of credit for what the seminary accomplishes. But the longer I lead, the more aware I am that it's not so much what I do as it is the 100 or 50 employees and the 2,000 students and all the people behind the scenes who are making it happen every single day. And as I look back over 40 years of ministry leadership, every time I've cast a vision for an organization or called people to rise up and do something in God's Kingdom and they've responded, I've typically gotten the credit for that. But in reality, it was all the Shadow Christians who gave their time, their energy, and even their money to make the dream a reality. And so God's Kingdom is empowered by people who are in the shadows making such a profound difference. Yes, leaders are important. They call Shadow Christians together and say, "Let's go forward," but nothing really happens until Shadow Christians buy in and say, "Let's make it happen."
Jennifer Rothschild: Let's do it. And, you know, I love it. I have prayed often, Lord, let me live in the shadow of the cross. And when you think about it, that's the point, is that He is seen, yet at the same time the acts of service, obedience, worship, I mean, it all matters whether you're on the platform or sitting in a pew.
Jeff Iorg: Exactly.
Jennifer Rothschild: I'm curious, though, about the historical precedence for this. Because the New Testament is full of people who are anonymous and unnamed, you know, these characters who made this big impact moving the Gospel forward, and we don't even know their names. So I know you do that in the book. Tell us about some of these folks.
Jeff Iorg: That's the second stream that flowed into the creation of this book. The first stream was that I -- as I've already said, my growing appreciation for the Shadow Christians who've worked around and with me all of my life and really accomplished so much. But parallel to that, a few years ago I started studying the characters in the New Testament who did something consequential but didn't get their name mentioned. The first ones that got me started on the study were the church planters in Acts Chapter 11 that planted the church at Antioch, which many people believe is the most significant church in the New Testament world, and yet all it says in the Bible is some men from Cyprus and Cyrene arrived and started preaching the Gospel. And I remember putting my Bible down on my desk one day and saying, Who were those guys? Couldn't their names at least have been mentioned? They were the most famous church planters perhaps in the Book of Acts and their names aren't even mentioned?
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Jeff Iorg: And that started me studying all the different people in the New Testament. You know, there's about 170 named characters in the New Testament, but there are dozens of others who did remarkable things like -- remember the boy who brought the lunch that fed the 5,000?
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Jeff Iorg: What was his name? And then that day that Jesus told his followers, Go into the city and you'll find a guy there and he'll have a colt. And I want you to get it and bring it and I'm going to ride it in. And he'll ask you what you're doing, just tell him the Master needs it. And I thought, Jesus knew the name -- or Jesus knew where the man was going to be, the animal he would have, what he would even say, and yet they couldn't mention his name? And I could go on and on and on with stories like the leper that Jesus healed. And his story's told in all four Gospels. He's so well known that it's told by all the Gospel writers, but yet nah, no name. And then Jesus told those guys, I want you to fill up those pots with water and I'm going to turn them into wine. But before I can do that, I need you to fill all the pots. And I did the math on it, it's about a thousand gallons -- about a thousand pounds of water that was taken to fill up those pots. And I thought, why couldn't Jesus just miraculously fill them with wine from the beginning? But, no, he had to have some people in the shadows fill up those water pots with water before He could even do the miracle. And I could go on and on and on with these stories. But the more I studied them, the more convinced I became that the people who are behind the scenes doing all this hard work that powers up God's Kingdom really are vital, that even sometimes the miraculous waits on their very mundane involvement before God steps in and does what only He can do.
Jennifer Rothschild: You know, Jeff, it's interesting that there are so many in the New Testament that we know their names.
Jeff Iorg: Sure.
Jennifer Rothschild: And then there's these significant people who you just mentioned with no names. So why do you think that is? And I know I'm just asking you to speculate, but why do you think that is? God knows them, they matter. So why no names?
Jeff Iorg: I think it's because God wants us to recognize that all of us have a place in his Kingdom, not just the people who get their names mentioned. It's not just Peter and James and John and the 12 disciples. But remember that passage where it says Jesus selected 72 more and sent them out? Well, those 72 don't get their names mentioned, but they're still vitally important. And when you read what they accomplished, they accomplished miraculous things in God's Kingdom. And what I think the unnamed, anonymous characters in the New Testament are trying to say to all of us is all of us matter. Whether you're a spotlight leader or you're a Shadow Christian, your contribution is vital, and without it God's Kingdom is not empowered. Now, I'll just go on beyond that and say not only is God's Kingdom not empowered, but, you know, families don't function without people willing to work in the shadows, schools don't function, communities don't function. People have to be willing to say, I know my place, I know what God made me to do, and whether anyone ever notices or not, I'm going to show up every day and do my part.
Jennifer Rothschild: Amen to that. OK, so let's fast forward then to today. OK? So we do hear about the spotlight movers and shakers, but I'd love it if you could pull somebody out of the shadows and show us what this looks like today in everyday life and in church life. Do you have some examples of those?
Jeff Iorg: Oh, I'll give you a couple. A number of years ago I was a church planter and an older couple visited our new church plant. Man, they stuck out like sore thumbs. We were all these young families with a very contemporary, innovative kind of church that we were trying to get started, and this older couple came. And after a couple of weeks, I sat down with them and they asked me this question: "Is there any place for a couple like us in your church?" I said, "Well, certainly there will be. But you have to understand, we're going after a very younger -- much younger generation." They said, "We know. We want to be a part of that. We want to build a church for the future." And they joined our church, and Inez, was the woman's name? And she said, "I have something I could do." She said, "I'm good at hospitality. Do you have any place for me?" I said, "We sure do." Because I had a lot of young moms and a lot of young professionals that really didn't know a lot about hospitality at that point in their lives. And so for the first year of our church's life, Inez was a Shadow Christian. She made sure that every event had a special touch, that we had food and refreshment and we had décor and we had an ambiance, just a sense of belonging together and just at ease when we came together. And eventually, she got where she couldn't do it physically any longer, but she had set a pace and set a pattern in our church that continued on. And I think about her often, a woman who joined a church with no expectation of ever being noticed and of doing anything in the public light, but who made a vital contribution behind the scenes. And going back to that same church plant, I could name you other women like that who joined our church and taught Sunday school, cared for children, sang in the worship team, helped keep the church financial records and other things, that worked behind the scenes to make our church successful. And today -- that's 30 years ago. Today many of those women are still serving in those behind-the-scenes places in that church, and now it's one of the strongest churches in its region. But it's strong not because of the pastor who was there for a while. That was me, but then I moved on. It's strong because of the Shadow Christians who invested their lives making that church what it is today.
Jennifer Rothschild: I love that you're talking about this, Jeff, because I think there are so many who feel like their service or their role is lesser because it's not grandiose, they don't have a ton of social media followers, they're not on a platform every Sunday, however they define it. And so I'm so appreciative because I am a cheerleader. I stand on the shoulders of the Shadow Christians who have taught me Scripture and who have enabled me to do what I do. And it takes all of us in our level of service in obedience to the Lord. But I know that there's some women especially listening, because I work in women's ministry and I know how women serve in the church, and so this will be our last question. I know there are some who serve in the shadow and she is tired right now. She is worn out. And maybe she's even secretly frustrated that nobody sees her or thanks her, or even knows her name, and she's just discouraged. So what would you say to that believer, woman or man, who just is getting worn out from being in the shadows?
Jeff Iorg: I'd say two things. First of all, remember that God highly values the invisible or the unseen. You know, in the King James Version, the body of Christ is described as having members, and it said that God values the unseenly members. And while I don't use the KJV very much anymore, I still love that phrase for years, the unseenly members. That's who God values. God values the parts of the body that we don't always see but are so vital to our function. And then the second thing I would say is God promises over and over in Scripture that he sees everything and he will reward those who faithfully serve them. I sometimes think that people who are getting a lot of accolades in our lifetime, they're well known, they get a lot of money, perhaps they get a lot of praise, I sometimes wonder what it'll be like for them in heaven. And then I think about the people that don't get much in this world and I think God is seeing every good thing they ever do: every diaper they change, every nose they wipe, every Sunday school class they teach, every carpool they drive, every youth event they make sure happens. God sees every one of those acts and he says, I'm keeping score, and someday, someday I'm going to reward you like only I can for your faithful service.
K.C. Wright: Well, that was just downright encouraging. I love his message. It's God's message to all of us.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
K.C. Wright: He sees us. He's the God who sees. Nothing you do is overlooked by him. And when you think about it, we do it all in his name so his name is made known.
Jennifer Rothschild: A to the men. Amen. His name is above all names, and our names should be lost in the shadow of his cross. We are all Shadow Christians, when you think about it. Jesus is the light. He is supreme. May we all find ourselves in his shadow?
K.C. Wright: This book really, really sounds so encouraging, and I know somebody listening right now needs it or needs to share it with somebody who feels lost in the shadows. And you can win a copy by entering at Jennifer's Instagram. She's at @jenrothchild, or go to the show notes now at 413podcast.com/152 to find a link to her Instagram. And you'll also get Jennifer's highlights and takeaways from this incredible, great conversation.
Jennifer Rothschild: I got to say, K.C., I love what he did with the names and the no names --
K.C. Wright: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- in the New Testament.
K.C. Wright: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: You know, check out his book, my people, definitely check out his book. But also check out the book, The Bible, because you might need to read through the New Testament yourself and discover some of the stories and names that he mentioned. I always tell you about it, my favorite Bible app., Dwell. You can just turn it on and let people read to you with beautiful music behind you. It's a great way to just abide in the Word. So if you want to get acquainted with that and get a subscription, you go to 413podcast.com/Dwell. But, of course, we'll have a link to it on the show notes too.
K.C. Wright: Remember, whatever you face today and however you feel right now, you can serve, you can work, you can do whatever God is calling you to do in this moment in the spotlight or in the shadow, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.
Jennifer Rothschild: I can.
Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.
Jennifer Rothschild: I did feel for the woman, though, who is just known for centuries as the woman with the issue of blood. How would you like to be known as the man with the issue of balding? Give the woman a name, for heaven's sake.
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