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My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, ‘Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!’ and either ignore the street person or say, ‘Better sit here in the back row,’ haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? ~ James 2:1-4, MSG
In the above verses, it is evident that James the brother of Jesus the Christ is warning believers about showing the shabby dressed, obscure, perhaps even indigent men and women of God less consideration than they show the well-dressed, well-polished, and well-liked wealthy Christian celebrities, or the highly visible, popular, and affluent “spiritual leaders” (some who have been elevated to celebrity status by both the “institutional” church and the world). In another scriptural passage, the Apostle Paul also warns believers against picking sides and favoring a specific minister/preacher/Bible teacher over another (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10-12).
Yet, if we have watched many of the programs on any of our 21st century’s Christian television networks, then we might have noticed a disturbing trend. For sure, the majority of today’s Christian television network owners seem to be very interested in portraying their dysfunctional need to express the jubilation they have for numerous Christian celebrities and several notable leading pastors.
As a result, we rarely see believers who are rejoicing with God’s angels over lost celebrities who have come to Jesus the Christ (cf. Luke 15:10). Then too, we rarely understand that God already has decided on the people He will use, for He foreknew who would do great works in His kingdom.
Instead, on these aforesaid Christian television networks, most children of God usually witness some believers making an ungodly comparison between “superior” Christian celebrities and “inferior” obscure believers—the unheard-of men and women of God. Furthermore, on these Christian television networks, God’s children also often witness the institutional “church” claiming credit for notable celebrities’ conversions, and/or credit for the rise of influentially powerful rich-and-famous pastors, evangelists, prophets, and so forth.
The problem that all of these images cause is that too many Christians in broadcast media, in this case, television, are violating the Word of God, which is crystal clear about not esteeming any person who is in the Lord’s service above another co-laborer! While it is true that we don’t all have the same function in the Body Christ, this Divine Truth, for example, neither means that a pastor is more important than an usher, nor does it mean that Christian celebrities are more important than the not so widely known average believers.
Now, it is understandable why many of these Christian television network owners create so much ballyhoo whenever they get the chance to have famous actors, singers, musicians, athletes, even pastors, and the like, on their programs. The sensational publicity and often pretentious observations of celebrities’ conversion, as well as the hoopla that mega-church pastors, renowned preachers, and respected Bible teachers receive often is blown so far out of proportion for one purpose—Christian television network owners know that the notable people they have on their programs either will influence countless viewers to give more money to these networks, or to give directly to those churches and ministries that air on these networks.
The ugly truth about this matter is that believers, like the world, have become so enamored with the lives of rich-and-famous actors, singers, musicians, athletes, and etcetera, that believers tend to think Christian “celebrities” will be more powerful and more influential as joint-heirs with Jesus the Christ than they were as unsaved “stars.” Believers also tend to think that converted “celebrities” will contribute more of their own money, time, talents, and so forth, to the advancement of the Kingdom of God than they gave to the advancement of worldly systems.
Likewise, where celebrated pastors, evangelists, prophets, and so forth, are concerned, the truth is that we tend to think that these notable men and women of God are contributing more to the Kingdom of God than those men and women of God who have not made a name for themselves. Indeed, we tend to rationalize that if what the less important even obscure men and women were saying was all that vital, then they would charge people to listen to them, or write best sellers for people to purchase, and etcetera. That is right! Far too many of today’s believers think that by putting a price tag on the Truth God has called apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and/or pastors to impart will make the little-known men and women of God, and what they have to share, more influential and powerful.
What really is happening throughout the global institutional “church” is that many of us who profess to be Christians either are ignorant about The Holy Bible‘s instructions, especially where partiality (favorable prejudice . . . bias) is concerned, or we just don’t care about The Holy Bible’s warnings. If we were not uninformed about or indifferent to what is in God’s Word, then we wouldn’t be so hellbent on believing what we want and/or so hellbent on doing things our way.
Moreover, because the global institutional “church’s” paradigm (the pattern or model) is now the business world, it currently is more natural for many believers to rejoice over a converted professional rocker than it is for them to rejoice over a converted typical pauper. Then too, it is now more natural for many believers to discount God’s Truth when it is coming from any not so widely known or any disliked “ordinary” men and women of God. In fact, most churchgoers often won’t even bother to listen to anyone who is not their beloved pastor or their adored television superstars—their Archbishop, Bishop, Honorable Patriarch, Reverend Doctor, and so forth—who just happen to be well educated, well liked, well polished, and well published. Yet, the Word of God says that children of God are NOT supposed to demonstrate this kind of discriminatory behavior.
Consider what James the Just is saying in the following verses:
Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name ‘Christian’—used in your baptisms? ~ James 2:5-7, MSG
Concerning the divisions in the institutional “church,” which often happen as a result of believers favoring one man or woman of God over other “spiritual” leaders, teachers, and so forth, and because these believers think that their choice is someone who is the best thing since sliced bread, Apostle Paul writes:
I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, ‘I’m on Paul’s side,’ or ‘I’m for Apollos,’ or ‘Peter is my man,’ or ‘I’m in the Messiah group.’ …Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, ‘If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.’ ~ 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 and 26-31, MSG
The latter portion of the above quotation (verses 29-31) specifically deals with those of us who tend to boast about ourselves, by claiming to be autonomous, when referring to our own lives, for we labor under the illusion that we live and are saved by our own resources. The Apostle Paul declares that instead of boasting about ourselves, we should be “boasting in the Lord.”
Similarly, none of us can say that we absolutely know why God mostly chooses “men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses” (v. 28). What we can be certain about, however, is that God is NOT racking His brain for the ways He can convince the influential and powerful, celebrated, unsaved millionaires and billionaires of this world to accept Jesus the Christ as their Lord and Savior so that God can get His CHURCH moving in the direction He has purposed that it should go. We also can be certain that God does not command us to be impressed by famous people who have become Christians, or by popular pastors who have become celebrities, nor does He want us to be jealous or envious of them to the point that we copy them.
Along those just mentioned lines, we, thus, should not allow ourselves to become so blown away by Christian celebrities that we end up doing “anything” just to get these people to speak in “our” churches, or so blown away that we will spend big bucks to be in attendance at their seminars, conferences, or retreats. Furthermore, we should not devote so much of our time, energy, or money toward putting our celebrities up on the very pedestals that, over time, they very well might fall off of the moment they fail to live a totally Christian lifestyle.
Why shouldn’t we be impressed or blown away by Christian celebrities? Well, more often than not, Christian “celebrities’” venerable worldly status will cause their Christian public to pay more attention to what these notable people have to say and/or what they do, until many “ordinary” believers begin to think that these famous people are more mature in the faith than they really are. It doesn’t help any of their Christian public, either, when Christian celebrities are expressing, for example, a belief in false biblical doctrines or New Age spiritualism. This observation, however, does not mean that there are no Christian celebrities who become mature believers in Christ, or that none of them can discern true biblical doctrines from the false, or that none of them can recognize genuine godly spirituality from New Age. The stated observation also does not mean that Christ didn’t die for Christian celebrities, too. For sure, Christ died for everyone who will believe and receive Him as Lord.
The truth is that God can and He will use anyone . . . not just the poor and obscure but also the rich and famous. However, the point here is that where Christian celebrities are concerned, their Christian public tends to praise and lift them up more than they tend to praise and lift up God. The most important point is that believers often make idols of famous people, and whomever or whatever is esteemed to be more important than a relationship with God is an idol!
Then too, the absolutely Divine Truth is that most celebrities never give up the “god” that they were serving (money, fame, celebrity status, and so forth) before they accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Word of God is very clear about this absolutely Divine Truth:
You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. (Matthew 6:24, MSG; see also Luke 16:13)
God will not share the stage with anyone—celebrity or not. Thus, the Rich Young Ruler parable (cf. Luke 18:18-27), in which the camel going through the eye of a needle hyperbole is given, teaches us that often the possession of wealth (or fame, status, material possessions, and so forth) can cause many who seek eternal life the very thing that they seek. Yes, the wealthy young ruler came to Jesus, but because the money and material things that he possessed had such a strong hold on him, he willingly walked away from an eternal life with God! This rich man’s behavior is why the Lord says that it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than it is for a wealthy person to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, the real issue with Christian celebrities, as well as with non-famous people, is whether or not they truly have been born again—whether they really were born again from above by the Grace of God and His Holy Spirit, or if they just think that they were. Moreover, to God, the persons who are called to Him for salvation and by Him to be the ones He has chosen to preach, teach, speak and/or write about, or even sing His Gospel message have to do with the Holy Spirit’s potential that is in them rather than their social position.
Additionally, where most Christian celebrities are concerned, especially those who happen to be political or evangelical leaders, many of these famous people always seem to be tempted to overlook the existing problem of sin. As a result, so many of these Christian superstars are very good at smiling at their crowds, and their smiles always seem to reassure their Christian public that their beloved superstars don’t like to talk about sin, either. In fact, it is ironic that most Christian celebrities are thought to be courageous fighters in the war between traditional/conservative and progressive/liberal values, when these celebrities intentionally refuse to address the sins that are most prevalent in the lives of the people who finance their side of the culture war.
Having said all that, the bottom line is this: Just because a Christian celebrity is in the limelight and therefore in a position to be a powerful influence doesn’t mean that he or she automatically should be considered to be a mature “spiritual leader” who can lead others to Jesus the Christ, nor a “spiritual leader” who can disciple new converts. Furthermore, no Christian celebrity should ever be considered to be more important, more powerful and/or more influential in the Kingdom of God than any not so well-known believer who doesn’t have an impressive testimony, or the money and visibility that come with a celebrity status. Without a doubt, with God, the faithfulness of believers’ witness is more important to Him than their prominence, which is why the Scriptures focus on the lifestyle of faithful and obedient saints rather than the lifestyles of rich-and-famous celebrities—whether they are Christians or non-Christians! Therefore, children of God should have the same focus, and they totally should trust that God not only will raise them up in their due season but also trust that He will provide for their every ministry need, even the often frightening financial need….