MrBeast's Appeal to Be Extraordinary Echoes Jesus' Call to Live Fully

Jim Denison | Denison Forum | Updated: Mar 20, 2024
MrBeast's Appeal to Be Extraordinary Echoes Jesus' Call to Live Fully

MrBeast's Appeal to Be Extraordinary Echoes Jesus' Call to Live Fully


Who is the “most watched person on earth,” according to Time magazine?

If you’re following the news, you might nominate:

  • Taylor Swift, who now has the 1 music film ever on the Disney+ platform
  • Princess Kate, who was just spotted in public for the first time in months
  • Tom Cruise, ranked the most popular actor of 2023
  • Or Lionel Messi ranked our most popular athlete.

But the answer is twenty-five-year-old Jimmy Donaldson, better known by his online alias MrBeast. His videos have garnered a social media audience of over 425 million fans; he estimates that he appears on a screen somewhere in the world about thirty billion times a year.

Now, MrBeast is making news for a deal he struck with Amazon worth as much as $100 million. “Beast Games” will consist of a thousand contestants competing for a $5 million cash prize, the largest single prize ever offered on television or streaming. Donaldson will host and executive produce the show, which will be available in 240 countries and territories.

His secret is not just his entertaining and well-produced videos (Time reports that he shoots as much as twelve thousand hours of footage for a fifteen-minute clip). It’s also the way his viewers are invited to engage with him. At his suggestion, for example, viewers planted twenty million trees, and more than six hundred thousand people donated enough money to help remove thirty million pounds of trash from the oceans.

Grayson Logan, an eleven-year-old who watches MrBeast videos every day at his home in Arkansas, says, “I like him because he’s super nice, and he helps people and gives them money.” A digital marketing expert says of Donaldson’s appeal: “His whole perspective is, How do I make the average person extraordinary?”

This question helps explain Donaldson’s astounding popularity since most of us seek to be “extraordinary” every day. There’s a paradoxical path to our goal available right now, one that transcends anything our media-driven culture can offer.

“My core identity is not that of a consumer.”

It was my privilege to hear Rev. Tish Harrison Warren at Dallas Baptist University’s Veritas Lecture Series last night and then to join her on the platform for a conversation.

Her book Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life was Christianity Today’s 2018 Book of the Year (Here’s our review). Her second book, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep was Christianity Today’s 2022 Book of the Year. She was also an opinion writer for the New York Times. I have followed her ministry with great gratitude for her intellectual brilliance, practical relevance, and evangelical yet ecumenical cultural engagement.

In Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish writes:
Christian worship, centered on the Word and sacrament, reminds me that my core identity is not that of a consumer: I am a worshiper and an image-bearer, created to know, enjoy, and glorify God and to know and love those around me.

She also states:
The crucible of our formation is in the monotony of our daily routines.

Our problem is that our faith formation and our “daily routines” so seldom seem to intersect.

Privatizing Truth and Meaning

You and I live in a “seeing is believing” culture that defines reality as that which is material and measurable. This is one consequence of our scientific, secularized society, “secular” being Latin for “of this world.”

Earlier societies lived with mystery and the reality of the supernatural, from the Greeks and Romans with their pantheon of Olympic gods to early Christians who sought and lived by the power of the unseen Holy Spirit to medieval cultures governed by the spiritual rhythms and dogmas of the Catholic Church.

Then came the birth of modern science, founded on the scientific method, which focuses only on that which can be measured in some tangible and objective way. Darwinian evolution further removed the mystery of creation, and Freudian psychoanalysis taught us that religion is an infantile neurosis. Now, our postmodern, relativistic culture is convinced that all truth claims, including (especially) religious truth claims, are personal and subjective.

But this privatizing of truth and meaning isolates us from others and from the God who made us. It insulates us from our inborn quest to be part of a cause greater than ourselves. It separates spiritual formation from our daily routines. And it commodifies our faith as a means to personal, even selfish ends.

It should not surprise us, therefore, that a video creator who gives viewers a chance to change the world in a collective and tangible sense would be one of the most popular media figures in history.

How to Live an Extraordinary Life

To live an extraordinary life, stay connected to the One who came to give us “more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of” (John 10:10 MSG). Make him your Lord by submitting to his Spirit’s power and leading. When you “steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions,” as a result, “you’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew 6:33 MSG).

Tertullian (AD 160–240) noted:
Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

Will you experience such victory today?

Wednesday news to know

Quote for the day
“For any person of faith, public engagement must be balanced with times of withdrawal, of silence, prayer, questioning, and wonder beyond the reach of words. Otherwise, faith, with all its strange and startling topology, becomes a flat and sterile thing, something to be dissected instead of embraced. And typically, once something is fit only for dissection, it is dead.” —Tish Harrison Warren

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Phillip Faraone / Stringer/Julio Aguilar / Stringer
Publish Date: March 20, 2024

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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MrBeast's Appeal to Be Extraordinary Echoes Jesus' Call to Live Fully