Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The "Curse" of the American Church - Celebrities

All of us, I am sure, have looked back on a saying our folks had, that irritated the lights out of us. It was a mantra that was repeated, that stirred up the thought: "Why don't you just shut up?". Then one day, a situation arises when it all makes sense. Sheesh, dad was right after all. Now I understand.

My mentor, Dudley Daniel, drilled a value into our hearts and minds: "Avoid fame like the plague!" That was so irritating to a young ambitious church planter. Why would I want to do that? Surely I should use very opportunity 'for the Lord', 'share the love of Christ', 'advance the kingdom'? But Dudley would say it to us repeatedly - annoyingly so.

But he was right. My ambitious heart would have been sucked down the road of celebrity-ism, and stumbled and fallen like so many before.

The American culture is very vulnerable to the celebrity [and so are most cultures]. In fact the disciples were so too. When Jesus was 'the flavor of the month', they wanted him to work the angles, piggy back off the popularity [and they would benefit of course]. But he saw through it. He sent them ahead to Jerusalem but he quietly drifted into town unnoticed. He knew the hearts of men and was not going to submit to that.

Even when Saul was made king, God, through the prophet, tried to warn Israel that that was not his wish, will or ways. But they persisted. They wanted a king. They wanted a celebrity.

Many years ago I read a very sobering article written by Jamie Buckingham. He told of a poor inner city church in Detroit I believe. In their desire to have a king / queen, they took up an offering to buy the pastor's wife a fur coat. Buckingham said there were two tragedies in this story. Firstly in their poverty they bought the fur coat. Secondly, she accepted the gift. I know some may argue this was their effort to honor. There is such a subtle line between these two. This plumb line is only found in our hearts.

The big story in the church is the priesthood of all believers. The small story is the eunuch's that Jesus uses to prepare his bride for marriage. Paul undermines any notion of the big celebrity when he speaks of himself as being: "servants of apostles as last of all... spectacle of the world...fools for Christ...scum of the earth... refuse of all things." 1 Cor 4

John Stott says that at the cross we shrink to our true size. 

Dear friend, we must avoid fame like the plague. Honor, recognize and appreciate, sure. The text loves honor. But when the line gets crossed, especially in our hearts, the church comes out of the street fight bloodied and bruised. We were not "made again" to step into the spotlight of celebrity-ism.

Avoid fame like the plague! Especially now.

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