Our Christian culture is obsessed with ‘Celebrity Christianity’. But with this obsession, comes ample dangers that we need to be aware of. Its not a new thing. Scripture tells us of a few “celebrities” of its own. Join Charles and Daniel as they discuss these dangers and what we should do to walk wisely…
When a celebrity speaks, we listen. There is something arresting, if not authoritative, about the voice, the opinion of one who has attained celebrity status. It does not seem to matter if the celebrity in question is trained, studied, or verifiably knowledgeable. What gives the opinion weight is that it is held and espoused by a celebrity. The subject of interest may be climate change, abortion, nuclear proliferation, or international relations. The gravity, implications, or need for expertise are all glibly and naively ignored for the sake of the apparently invaluable testimony of the celebrity: given in the audience of a House Subcommittee.
It sounds foolish, doesn’t it? We may shake our heads in disbelief and even laugh at the incredulity that our leaders and the public at large hold such opinions in high esteem. But is it possible that the those of us in the evangelical Christian community have been just as naive? Is it possible that the cult of celebrity has lured the church into its fold?
The 1980’s witnessed the proliferation of a plethora of “Christian” television ministries and personalities vying for viewers and dollars. Not all of them were bad. There were among them those who were faithful to God’s Word. But there were, and even still are, those who are as fake as a bowl of wax fruit. Scandals involving sex, money, and abuse of power and privilege rocked professing christendom with what should have been vivid warnings and undeniable object lessons on the dangers of celebrity Christianity.
To some degree, “celebrityism” is unavoidable, especially in this day of media and celebrity saturation. Even Scripture provides us examples of those who faced it. Some dealt with it Biblically, while others succumbed to its temptation. Samson lost sight of why he was here, and King Saul was deceived by an inflated view of his own importance. But in the New Testament, both Peter and Paul rejected the opportunity to benefit personally from “celebrity” status, choosing rather to defer glory to God alone.
Recent developments bring to light again the inherent dangers of celebrity Christianity and the need to rehearse them so that they may be avoided. The seduction of celebrity is strong, because the status it offers is humanly irresistible. Even the Apostle Paul confessed that his thorn in the flesh was given to him so that he would not become proud as a result of the revelations he had been privy to.
Those who attain some measure of notoriety, who live their “Christianity” in the public view can give the impression, and even believe themselves, that life before the cameras is the real thing, when in reality it is contrived, edited, and misleading. Such reality television is very often unreal and not an expression or portrayal of genuine Christianity, and often leads the celebrity and those who admire him or her to have a heart for celebrity instead of a heart receptive to Christ and His Word and genuine Christian discipleship. Lives are destroyed by such a false example and testimony, because in the midst of such a scenario the transforming power of the Gospel message is lost.
Tragically, many celebrities and their followers are satisfied with such Christianity and fall prey to the horror of Samson in Judges 16:20 who, “did not know that the Lord had left him.”
May the Lord help us never to be satisfied with what the world has to offer. May we ever run to Christ, embrace His bride the church, and find our hope in Him and His Word.
For His glory alone,
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
In early July I flew to Florida and joined 19 others, most of us meeting for the first time, to begin a journey to South America. We landed in Quito late Saturday night on the 11th and as we walked off the plane and officially into the Country of Ecuador I turned to a fellow team leader who was also returning and said, “We are back!” It is always a feeling of excitement to see friends and fellow believers we have worked with in past trips and reignite the memories and make new ones.
We spent a week in Quito doing our normal children’s program in the mornings at Iglesia Evangelica Iñaquito (the church we work with in Quito every year). In the afternoons this year we were able to visit Carapungo, a section outside Quito much like a suburb. There we worked with a new group of children and formed new friendships with the church there. Leaving the first week was tough for the team because we formed such close friendships in such a short amount of time, and for some it didn’t seem like it could get better.
Normally we would travel the second week to Esmeraldes which is on the coast. However, this year there was a change of plans. We spent the second week just a few hours away from Quito in the mountain city of Otavalo. There is a large population of indigenous people in this city, so many people couple traditional clothing with modern or wear traditional clothing.
The weather in Otavalo is much cooler in the evenings. Sweaters and jackets were handy to have. The kids here were much quieter than we had become accustomed to, so initially things seemed to get off to a slow start, but by the second and third day they warmed up to our team and there was plenty of laughter and good times. By the last day, while saying goodbye there were enough tears shed to fill our team bus to the brim.
We met many new people and created a great relationship with the believers in this city. I was blessed to get to know Pastor Roberto who spoke great English having lived in the U.S. for some time. He told me something before we left that week. He said he knew we usually go somewhere else during our second week as a team (Esmeraldas) but he knew we were meant to be there in Otavalo, because we were teaching the people there how to work with the children. He told me there were so many children as well as adults that were unreached and in need of the gospel. What a blessing it was to spend time with the believers worshipping on Sunday with them and building a bond in Christ.
Perhaps the most memorable time of the trip came when we were staying in Otavalo. We had the opportunity to take the team to an orphanage where only children infected with HIV were staying. I made the decision to only take a handful instead of all 20 plus members. The conditions at the orphanage were very sad. The children did not appear to be on any kind of medication and the place was not well kept. We told stories and tried to teach crafts, but the kids were unruly and out of control. Near the end of our time we opted to give piggy back rides and just play one on one with the kids. Those who went to the orphanage that day could tell you it is something they will never forget, and it continues to lay heavy on their hearts. The conditions the kids were in and their overall lack of any kind of respect for each other or other people was disheartening. Knowing that without medication the life expectancy of these kids is very short was beyond hard to realize. One team member said to me through tears; “It’s the faces of the children, I can’t forget the faces.”
The last week we spent at camp. It’s at a little place called Same, and it’s about a 3 minute walk from the beach. It is run just like a summer camp. We teach the kids lessons during the day and take them to the beach. The kids are divided into teams with a color for each one and they gain points by winning events together as a team. The kids love the soccer tournament and the events, and there is a lot of competitive spirit that comes out as the week progresses. I was reminded of why we are there at all through a conversation I had with Pastor Benjamin one afternoon. We had returned from the beach, always a stressful though fun time trying to keep 60 plus kids many of whom cannot swim safely in the water. I was sitting with Pastor Benjamin in front of his cabin talking about the trip and different things. We were quiet for a moment when he turned to me and said, “The kids love you, you know? They love your team.” I looked at him and said, “How do you know that?” and he said, “Because they tell me, the kids they tell me they love you” tears fill my eyes even now remembering.
Many things happen on a trip with different people, personalities, and sickness. It is easy to get distracted, especially when you have to make sure all the details happen and everyone is fed and safe. Sometimes you forget why you are there. I was brought back to reality with that little encounter. Upon returning to the States I read a quote by John Piper that stuck with me.
He says, “God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.”
We went; we go every day in life as believers to share a gospel of hope to the nations. The hope is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We saw children come to know Christ, and that only happened when the Holy Spirit worked through our team, and the kids saw the love of Christ in us.
How do you say goodbye to a country and a people that captivated your heart? You don’t. You keep them with you. The experiences and the memories that evoke emotions every time they come to mind are evidence that your purpose in this world goes so far beyond what you can imagine. God takes us places and leaves imprints of His grace on our hearts and lives so that we can see His glory and be blessed by the time we have had and perhaps someday be reunited with those we were fortunate enough to meet.
Leaving Ecuador never gets easier even though I know, God willing, I will be going back. I cannot let my love for that country, the people there, and the things we do diminish the work that God will do through me right here at home. I encourage you to not let anything diminish where God has you right now. He is the ultimate prize, and He will glorify Himself through your life as a believer. That is more than enough for me.
Featured image courtesy of Carpe Diem Photography
What has been the typical response of Christians to the sexual perversion in our society? The “Religious Right” of 20+ years ago seems to have made no head way. Does this mean that Christ’s Church is responding in the wrong way? Join Charles and Daniel for a biblical look…
I have been collecting china teacups for years. I have accumulated quite a collection; many antique, some just special because given to me by dear friends. I have had the joy of sharing these teacups in many ministry activities.
This weekend I was helping my niece put together a surprise birthday celebration for her sister. It was to be a “Downton Abbey” tea party theme. I store my teacups and saucers in a cellar under the house. I was sorting each one and placing them in a box. I guess the box was not on a secure place. I turned around, and the box, with about 20 sets of teacups, toppled over. I thought, “Oh, a few are broken!” As I started picking the pieces up, I realized nothing was salvageable. They were broken into many pieces.
I took a deep breath and decided to walk away from it. I climbed the stairs and was walking across our lawn to share with my husband what took place. All of a sudden my mind and heart started thinking about the story of a young 13 year old Nigerian boy named Danjuma. My Elder at church had preached a message and told his story.
He was attacked for his Christian faith by insurgents. They took a machete to his body and slashed his face. While his attackers stole so much from him, they could not take his joy. It is amazing grace. If you could only see the joy on his face after this ordeal… I brought a picture of him home from church that day to remind me of what serving Christ really cost. He was quoted as saying; “The joy comes from the Lord!”
Suddenly those broken teacups didn’t matter. Oh, if I could treat life situations with this kind of grace everyday! But I am grateful for how the Lord ministered to my heart that day. “The grass withers, and the flower fades away; but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
Peoples’ lives are so broken around us. We are so caught up in our own little world. We don’t stop to realize how they are hurting.
Folks: after breaking all those teacups, I am reminded that the only thing we never lose is our standing in Christ. This should impact our lives for His glory, for this will go with us to the end. “In Whom you also trusted, after you heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation; in Whom also, after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:14)
“What shall separate us from the love of Christ: shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No; in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)
My son just returned from a mission trip to Ecuador ministering to broken people: orphans with HIV who are neglected. The needs go on and on. Upon his return, he posted a quote that challenges my heart and I hope yours as well today.
I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth “home”. Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do. It is a terrible sickness, and I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a war-time mind-set.
– John Piper
The battle rages, so please Lord, never stop forcing me to always turn to You for triumphs of grace.
Value: “worth, merit, or importance; in Sociology, the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an effective regard.”
In the arena of economics, it is axiomatic that the more you have of something the more its value decreases. Thus, competition drives down prices. Farmers hope, and some pray, for good yields. But bumper crops flood the market with their product, causing prices to plummet.
Shortsighted leaders sometimes attempt to fix economic problems by printing more money. But a market flooded with currency sees the value of that currency drop and the cost of goods rise.
When it comes to values in the areas of ethics, morals, and Biblical standards of right and wrong, less is certainly not better than more. The generations since WWII have not only witnessed but also been instrumental in the devaluation of values. Values have been a major part of public discussion in recent years, but the proliferation of this discussion has done little to stem their devaluation.
Some of us are old enough to have witnessed a complete reversal of what is valued by American society. Recent revelations have highlighted the flippancy with which human life can be regarded while animal life is at the same time reverenced. Even some of the most avid abortion supporters are wincing at the cavalier way Planned Parenthood personnel discuss the harvesting and selling of fetal body parts. At the same time, there is a hue and cry for “justice” to be done to the man who killed a beloved lion. What leads a society to adopt such “values”? What leads to the devaluing of human life, the devaluing of what is holy and truly valuable?
In reality, we should not be surprised that a society which has become so comfortable with the elevation of choice and convenience over life and responsibility would find itself confronted with the moral horror of baby parts for sale. Minds and souls that find life so cheap and choice so valuable have ceased to impose the restraint that causes society and individuals to make selfless, sacrificial, and loving choices. When sex is a toy to be played with at will and babies are an interruption to the fun of the toy, any choice that preserves the toy is understandable and even preferable. One cannot help but wonder how far we are from removing the other inconvenience to our fun, comfort, and convenience: the elderly. In such an environment, who’s to say that their lives are any more valuable than those of unborn babies.
It is indeed horrific to watch “professionals” discuss the business of baby parts for sale. It is tragic and disconcerting to see leaders unmoved by such moral wickedness and depravity mixed with callous disregard for human life. But what is even more frightening is that a moral climate prevails that spawns such values and that the church has so little influence for righteousness. Can a society be moved by the display of such evil to embrace a higher view of human life? Will Christ’s church be moved to value what He values, to leave its own love of the world’s toys, and cease worshiping at the altar of comfort and convenience? May God be pleased to change the church before the eyes of a world in darkness and give us an influence for Him that has lasting fruit.