I decided to Google myself this morning. (For those who are not computer-savvy, Google is a very effective search engine that helps find websites that match the information you put into the system.) In this case, I typed in "mark jackson" pastor (the quotes make sure the search engine looks for occurences of the whole phrase) and it spit out 614 results. I found ample evidence of my gaming obsession - not only stuff I've posted on the web but also mentions from friends. (There's even a reference to an internet radio show/podcast that I did late last year on a show called Geekspeak.) The website I put up when I was hunting for a church (and you guys here at NewLife were hunting for me) is still active. (Which is weird... but kind of cool.) There's even an article I was quoted in about the On Target Conference I attended back in February. (I remember being interviewed for the California Baptist state paper - though I don't remember saying one of the quotes attributed to me. Not that I disagree with what it says I said... I'm just not sure I said it to the reporter.) Then, of course, there's the references to people who aren't me, but just share my name:
- Mark Jackson, NBA star, who somehow got caught up in a turf war between the coach of the Knicks & the team chapel pastor
- a playwright named Mark Jackson (though the reviews of his play call it "sprawling & unlikely")
- any number of Pastor Mark Jackson's, including a couple of Dr. Mark Jackson's (man, that looks weird to see my name with a "Dr." in front of it)
- a Lutheran youth ministry professor
- some dead people (obituaries)
- and at least one guy serving in our armed forces
Which brings me to the most interesting part of my search - there's a Mark Jackson who is, oddly enough, been convicted of bilking church members in Tennessee and California out of approximately $1.2 million dollars. (He's also up for charges in Georgia... you can read the article at Apologetics Index for more information.) Here's the random thoughts that went through my head when I found this guy:
- boy, if I'd embezzled over $1 million bucks, we sure wouldn't need to do a capital campaign later this year
- how weird is it that this guy bilked churches in the last two states I've lived in?
- man, I hate the prosperity gospel - it's anti-biblical and it has a tendency to give people permission to do stupid things
- what would it take in my life to turn me into a con man?
If you're looking for a grand point to all this, I'm not sure I have one. But I'll certainly give it a try... maybe the overwhelming "someone walked on my grave" feeling of finding this con artist sharing my name comes from the fact that I'm invested in taking care of Mark. I've spent nearly 41 years building a reputation & a persona, and I'm not interested in letting someone/anyone mess that up.Not even God. So, maybe my reaction is not so much about my righteous indignation at a health & wealth "gospel" matchstick man. Maybe it's about my own fears of my precious life plan being altered... or of my carefully built facade crumbling under the weight of reality. I don't know... I'm going to have to think about this one a bit. What about you? What "important thing" are you scared God is going to take away? We must remember there are many more important things, many more important things . . . off hand, I can't think of what they are, but I'm sure there must be something.
Willie Wonka, from the film Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
This post originally appeared in the 5/2/05 edition of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.