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How Christian Celebrities are Killing Christianity

June 6, 2012

I have a confession.  I have been so busy being a leader that I have forgotten to be a follower. 

Leaders constantly ask, “What can I get others to be?”  Followers ask, “What must I be?”

It’s not surprising that this would happen to me.  I live in a culture that idolizes leaders and makes them celebrities.  We have created Christian celebrities like no other generation.  They speak at conferences, write books, hob-knob with each other, and receive gasps when spotted amongst the rest of us. Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and John Piper are household names. 

Is this good for Christianity? 

I would suggest that good has come out of the Christian celebrity culture.  Through it, some of these celebs influence spheres that would be off-limits to the rest of us.  Also, it produces an incredible amount of resources for the rest of us (I can’t wait until Timothy Keller’s next book has arrived). 

However, there are also devastating ramifications to the state of modern Christianity.  Celebrity culture opposes and disintegrates the culture of Jesus.  On the cross, Jesus was a celebrity of shame.  He chose the most humiliating public space to make His fame known.

Leonard Sweet puts it succinctly when he says, “Christians are called to live by faith in a world that lives by fame” (Sweet, L. “I Am A Follower”, kindle 645).

Here are 5 ways that Christian (the culture of) celebrities are killing Christianity.

(1)  The culture of celebrity creates Christian winners and losers.  An inner circle exists and very few have cracked it.  If you are outside of it, then it is easy to assume that your life doesn’t matter.  Also, those who are in the circle might not have any idea the lust for inclusion into the inner circle that is created for those who are outside of it (1 Cor. 12).

(2)  The culture of celebrity leads many to borrow their faith.  Our churches are full of people who have a relationship with God by association.  Following Jesus becomes less necessary when we can identify with a leader who is following Jesus on our behalf (1 Cor. 1:12). 

(3)  The culture of celebrity impedes humble sacrifice and service.  It seems to me that when people in the celebrity culture want to do something great for God, it usually has power and fame included.  Rarely does someone want to serve behind the scenes and do the lowly and difficult things with their calling (Matt. 20:20-28).

(4)  The culture of celebrity makes us dull in the mind.  Celebrities can think for us.  We can listen to them instead of reading the Bible.  We can lean on their knowledge instead of seeking our own.

(5)  The culture of celebrity devalues faithful following.  I am convinced that the most faithful people amongst us are not well-known.  They want nothing more than to follow Jesus (Matt. 4:19; 1 Cor. 12:23-24).  They aren’t trying to do something great.  They are just trying to be faithful.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela Carter permalink
    June 6, 2012 4:00 pm

    Such food for thought, Nathan. Thank you!
    Angela Carter

    • June 6, 2012 4:05 pm

      Thanks, Angela. I hope you guys are doing well. Tell Joe that I really would love to have lunch with him when he is in the area.

      • Angela Carter permalink
        June 6, 2012 4:10 pm

        I will tell him. I have a story I’d love to share with you sometime. It has to do with a wonderful experience I had that relates to #3 above. Maybe I’ll hop a ride with Joe next time he heads your way. We’ve really been wanting to come visit your church. Love to all the Joyces!

  2. June 6, 2012 4:38 pm

    GREAT post!

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