D-MinLead Adversity

I’ve been in the business of buying and selling talent (a nice way of saying “actors”) for about 30 years now. When I came to Hollywood in 1984, I was blissfully ignorant of the structures of power and fear that are so often the foundations of the entertainment industry.

I was also blind to the fact that God loved me and had a plan for my life in Jesus Christ. All these things would be revealed in time. In short, God found me, claimed me, saved me—and then asked me to become a talent agent. Through the hard-knock years of this profession, I’ve learned some lessons that have played dual roles in my life as a Hollywood talent agent and an associate pastor.

The plans God has for us and our ministry usually don’t align with our desires. I had been a casting director, a buyer of talent, for about nine years when God revealed His vocational plans for me. To say the least, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this call. Buying talent is much different than selling talent. Buyers get to say “no” and slam the door. Sellers live in constant humility, often mindful of the seeming futility of their efforts. Such was the path to which God called me and thus prepared me in unexpected ways for ministry.

The harvest of humility is authenticity. It doesn’t take long in sales before you can feel as if dignity has been crushed out of you like juice from an orange. After all, it was Willie Loman who said, “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away; a man is not a piece of fruit” (Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, Act 2). That’s one of the first things I encountered when I became a talent agent—feeling like a thrown-away peel. I poured my energy, my resources and my relationships into developing careers for actors, only to have the success of that endeavor result in that actor rejecting me to move to a larger, more powerful agency.

After one too many times of saying to myself, I can’t take this anymore—what’s the point? I had to ask myself if I was OK with being humbled if it was the Lord’s will. The answer was yes. Paul’s words in Philippians 2:8 (“He humbled himself and became obedient”) deeply resonated with me. Beyond the humility and the exhaustion were the authenticity and integrity of knowing that whatever small “suffering” I encountered in this profession meant nothing as long as I knew I was where God asked me to be. From this place of obedience, my identity was not based on how I felt or how the world measures success, but on earnestly knowing myself before God.

The futility of our efforts is God’s greatest glory. We can work ourselves to death sometimes—just burn out. I think the only place it might happen more often than sales is in ministry. As a talent agent, I invest in people whom I believe have potential. This cosmic roulette wheel might seem like a great game of chance. But I know it is the place of divine mystery—a place of celebrated miracles and dedicated perseverance. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that our efforts are futile. Know this: When you invest in people, something will come of it.

After a few years of being a talent agent, God called me to ordained ministry. And while I thought that surely He would phase out the talent agent to usher in the minister, I’ve found He has retained and nurtured both in me. One informs the other. He’s given me a ministry in two worlds that somehow I know He intends to make one. I serve Him in the secular and the sacred. There is, to be sure, a holy calling in both.

Kim Dorr-Tilley serves as an associate pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles and is co-owner of Defining Artists Talent Agency.

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