Thursday, September 01, 2011
Christian Celebrity Culture
Something has been on my mind a lot of late as I observe “Christian culture” at large, and going back even into the 1980s when we had the televangelist scandals. It's about time that I posted something, so here goes.
I really believe we have too much of a celebrity culture in the church. I say that as someone who has been in the public eye for a long time, and as someone who’s had the chance to be around people who are considered really, really “high profile.” My late stepfather told me of an incident when he was out in California working as a custodian at a popular ministry often featured on TBN — and this particular ministry is now defunct after the leader was caught up in a scandal. My stepfather personally witnessed high profile speakers coming in, and after events, briefcases with thousands of dollars would be put into the trunks of limousines when the speakers would depart. And many of these guys off camera would be some of the most arrogant people you could imagine.
I would watch the same speakers in public appearances or on television/radio, and they would typically be on the receiving end of effusive praise. “Oh, you’re such a gift from the Lord. Oh, what a powerful message from a powerful man of God. Oh, you’re so talented and gifted. Oh, you’ve changed my life . . . “ and so on. Once in a great while, someone might actually give a little credit to the Lord, for which He could have said, “Thanks for the crumbs from your table, Mrs. Dives.”
I’ve seen the same thing myself over the years up close and personal, and not just on media. I’ve seen it in churches with pastors and speakers/teachers. It really gets nauseating after a while, and all the more so because it is such a trap to the human ego. People love being stroked and praised. At first, it starts out with no doubt genuine pleasure that someone has been blessed through their ministry. But after a while, the praise and hero worship becomes like an addictive drug. And the One being robbed of His glory is God. In the end, He ends up having to kick the slats out from under the one doing the robbing, because He will not give His glory to another.
This is a serious problem to which we all can be susceptible, even if we are not in a high profile role. So much of this could be solved and resolved if we would just hold our praise and give it to Whom it really belongs. If you’ve ever been blessed by anything I’ve done, taught, written or said, wonderful. Praise God. And I do mean — PRAISE GOD. Not me. When someone begins gushing over me, the first thing I’m tempted to do is to follow the example of Barnabas and Paul in Acts 14 and “tear my robes.” Trust me, that would not be a pretty sight if I actually followed through!