Christian Celebrity & the Church

There are a lot of blogs, articles and conversations that circle around the topic of ‘Christian Celebrity.’ I find it pretty interesting that the Church now has ‘celebrities’ that are only ‘famous’ within the church.  If you ask any non-believer who Chris Tomlin, James Dobson, and Tim LaHaye are, you’ll get a blank stare.  It’s even more mind blowing that there are hundreds and thousands of people who are trying to ‘break’ into the Christian realm of celebrity with their blogs, records and books; solely to become ‘famous.’

Now, they would never say that outright.  It would be masked by saying, ‘I want what God has put on my heart to be heard’ or ‘I have a deep passion for ____ and God is using it to impact the lost’ when the truth is their books/records are only being sold in Christian bookstores never reaching the hands of the lost and is simply inflating their infatuation to be ‘heard’ and only heard by other Christians.

The reason this fires me up is because I’ve had the same passion and desire deeply rooted in me almost my entire life.  I wanted to be famous, bigger than Elvis!  I had no other reason for wanting to be known other than to be known, which translates into ‘I have deep-rooted idolatry in pride.’  It was always about me and what I wanted.  I played shows to make me famous.  I led worship to make me famous.  I acted to make me famous; all the while slapping a loose fitting Christianity sticker to everything I did to cover my tracks.

In Romans 12, Paul talks about the unity of the body of Christ and being members of one another.  What we’ve done is taken this passage and sectioned it off into ‘most important to least important’ in a practical way to serve our selfish desires in the church, and the interesting thing is I don’t see ‘Worship Leader’ ‘Executive Pastor’ ‘Youth Pastor’ or ‘______ Pastor’ in there anywhere.  I fully believe that those positions are important in the church today and would go as far to say we need those positions filled to serve our community well, but it’s when we get wrapped up in the status of those positions and the seductive lure of  entitlement that we begin to construct idols in our lives and deconstructing the unity of the body at the same time.

In his book, ‘Unceasing Worship,’ Harold M. Best unpacks Romans 12 and says this,

‘Being members one of another is not a mechanical arrangement, this part interlocking with another, the whole somehow greased up into smoothness.  Rather, being members of one another is organic.  In a love-driven community of believers, no one should be able to find the seams.’

When we project our faith in Christ for the glory of ourselves and not for Him, not only are there seams, but those seams are busting with pride, arrogance and disunity.  If our sense of entitlement either in our role in the church or lack thereof becomes our focus instead of Christ crucified and resurrected, we have some serious heart checking to do with the Holy Spirit.  To put it more bluntly, if being a Lead Pastor, Worship Pastor, Christian Recording Artist, and having people know you for what you do is more important than giving God glory and pointing people to Christ; take a week off and see if anybody notices.  Chances are, you’re bigger in your head than you think you are.  I know I was.

Am I calling us to retraction of public exposure in the vein of the ‘Christian Industry,’ no, but does anyone else find it interesting that there is a ‘Christian Industry?’  As if God chooses to dwell in a duality of His presence being only in this place, but not that place.  His Spirit moving in this song, but not that song?  Have we so pressed down our view of God that He exists only in the radio stations found between 88.1-91.1FM?

My observation is simple and pointed at me directly.  Let me not be misunderstood in what I’m saying because this all stems from a place in my personal heart where I feel convicted.  I simply wanted to share it with you all to examine yourselves as well if you may or may not have the same tendencies as I do.

Am I living to glorify God or myself?

Do I still struggle with pride, wanting to be known, fame?  Yes…but it’s beginning to expose just how really sinful I am, and just how perfect and holy God is.  He’s been so gracious enough to take my sin, put it on Christ and punish Him in my place.  Who do I think I am, scratching at glory as if it were ever intended for me?

What do we do next?  How do we live in such a way that we aim to give God glory and not hijack it for ourselves?  Louie Giglio puts it this way,

“But to mean it when I say that I want my life to count for His glory is to drive a stake through the heart of self – a painful and determined dying to me that must be a part of every day I live.”

Every day.  Not just an epiphany or  a moment of clarity.  Everyday.  We die to ourselves everyday.  I’m not sure what that looks like for you, but I know what it looks like for me and although it is very painful, my heart yearns to give God His glory forever.

9 Comments

  1. Good thoughts. One positive fruit from Christian
    “celebrities” is that many of them are serving the body (universal) well. But, you also have men and women with poor theology doing the body harm. I have been dwelling on this subject as well lately and believe that the pop culture that we live in makes people (even christians) want to pop on to the scene of culture or even just sub-culture.

    People look at Driscoll, Warren, Piper, Giglio, Chan, Tomlin, etc. and want to be known and be influential. I do believe that God GIVEN influence is a good thing. I believe that man-made , forced, influence will destroy us. I present every pop culture icon in history as my case.
    The question is, who was Giglio 10 years before he broke on to the scene? What about 5 years or even 2? These men and women who God has raised up as gifts to the church lived in obscure obedience for years. Living in obscure obedience means that God calls on you when it is time or he leaves you in obscure obedience for the rest of your life. Either way, He is glorified and we are at His mercy. King David lived in obscure obedience. But, how many New Testament (and beyond) martyrs/saints will we meet and only know of their obedience and zeal for Christ in eternity?

    • Great thoughts. I agree 100%. Obed-edom had the Ark of the Covenant show up on his doorstep one day. God given influence is beautiful and brings Him glory. I wrestle through it daily because if God ever chooses to give me any sort of influence outside of obscure obedience, I desperately want my heart’s reaction to resound, ‘for Your glory Lord.’ and nothing else.

  2. Bro, I just love your posts. So open, honest, convicting, and transparent. You get down to the root of issues.

    I feel like this “culture” is becoming huge in the church (in a general sense). “Hey check out who I’m hanging with.” Or, “(insert name here) is speaking at our church, with a church over 20,000+ members.” Or “(insert name here) has written top selling books.” Or can you remember the last time a well known Christian artist commented back to you on FB, Myspace, Twitter, etc? The list could go on and on for days. I’ll be the first to say I’ve struggled with this at times. Wanting to be known. Feeling important. It just never ends. And it’s fulfilling (or seems) for a very short time.

    The last time I checked Jesus had 12, and they changed the entire course of history and life as we know it today. He didn’t pick the popular. He didn’t even pick the qualified. The more and more I live this life, I realize it’s about community. Loving Jesus. Loving my family. Loving the people around me.

    Thanks again for the post bro, and I mean it when I say I love ya.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts and heart Dustin!

      To brag on Dustin for a moment. If any of you don’t know who Dustin is, he is an amazing drummer for an amazing band called ‘The Waiting Kind’ and they are on mission to bring God glory! I would definitely point to Dustin, Derek and Brittain as great examples of how to live a God glorifying life in an industry that can distract you from the very thing God created you to do.

      Continue to serve and love Jesus Dustin. You and TWK are such an inspiration and a breath of fresh air in the contemporary Christian scene!

  3. What’s a Christian to do when their own pastor family is caught up in the whole elitest scene, namedropping all over the place, and then perhaps preaching the very thing you are speaking of on any given Sunday?

    What I find even more difficult to swallow than we now have a Christian Celebrity Culture, is there are ambitious leaders speaking against desiring fame with the mouth (not you, but someone else I know) and then betraying what is said with their lifestyle and actions.

    It’s been extremely confusing and makes those of us who can’t add it all up feel like we are the crazy ones. It’s dysfunctional bad behavior to expect the congregation to live one way while the pastor lives another. What’s good for one should be good for all.

    If a person is in a dysfunctional church, it’s in his best interest to leave and give support to a church that isn’t caught up in such duality.

    Obviously you’ve hit a nerve here with me! But I agree with you about the fame thing – it’s a heart issue. We had to endure this type of thing for years – the leader speaking from both sides of the mouth and using tithe money to advance the national agenda of the pastor and I hear it’s still the same today, even worse.

    • It’s a tough issue and a hard one to address because it is such a heart issue. anyone could deny it with plausible argument and continue living the same way without changing a thing.

      one thing i had to put in place were godly men in my life that have the permission and space to speak into my words, actions and attitudes. it’s not always fun hearing what they have to say, but i am so thankful that they love me enough to hold me accountable to what the scriptures say.

      one thing you could begin doing is pray for them. I was convicted a while ago in a situation where God was showing me weaknesses in a brother and instead of praying for him, i judged him. so, as tough as it may be, it could be possible that God has exposed their weakness for you to pray for them.

      we all have weaknesses and I know how thankful I am when I hear of someone praying for me.

  4. I like this post. 🙂 I struggle all the time with the existence of a Christian industry and my participation in it.

    Personally I think the term “Christian” should not be applied to anything but a person–not music, not art, not industry. I don’t know how we can get there, but I hope one day we will.

    Thanks for writing this! Hope you and the girls are well.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts Audrey.

      Everytime I run through the list of artists doing ‘it’ well in the industry, you are very much at the top of the list. I am always encouraged in how you posture you heart towards our Savior and His will, using your gifts for His glory.

      I cherish our times leading worship in west palm and am so thankful for your graciousness in connecting me to great people there and especially Jordan! 🙂

      The girls say hello….well, Jordan said hello; Mercy gurgled and then smiled.

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