Whereas I Am Tired of Our Obsession with Christian Celebrity

The other day, I picked up some rather hilarious tweets from a Christian pastors’ conference in Jacksonville, FL. In his own rather humorous way, FBCJaxWatchdog kept the twitter comments coming as he viewed this event.


I’m sure that a lot of the conference was very good, but a lot of it seemed to be a collection of “fluffy” quotes from a variety of guest speakers.

As expected, this conference contained some big-name pastors, many of them Southern Baptist Sacred Cows. Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Johnny Hunt, Dorothy Patterson (my fave), and of course…Tim Tebow?

Yes. Tim Tebow is the keynote speaker for a pastor’s conference. A guy who has never pastored anyone or anything is going to tell us how to be better pastors for our local churches.

At least he’s not coaching anyone on how to throw the football. (Okay, speaking of snarky…it’s a trait I really need to lose).

Tebow has some terrific leadership abilities, and I have no doubt that these abilities are somewhat applicable across various fields of life. Even if you do not care for his particular “brand” of Christianity, he is committed to that brand and follows it with zeal.

But I suspect his selection had little to do with his leadership abilities or his discipleship. Tim Tebow received an invitation because of his name. He is well-known, popular and polarizing; and was probably significantly more of those things when originally scheduled as a speaker than he is now. Judging from the cost of tickets to other Tebow events, it probably cost a pretty penny to bring him.

That is the sum total of the entire story. We are so obsessed with Christian celebrity that we are willing to pay top-dollar to make sure we have someone famous at the event. It doesn’t matter if they have any expertise on the subject matter or if we have to charge $200 a pop to afford them. It’s not surprising that some of the conference quotes leaned towards the shallow, because nothing is more shallow than chasing celebrities to endorse our faith in Christ.

I have to say that I am exhausted by this. Tired of it. Why do we need someone famous to justify our commitment to Jesus Christ? Or tell us how we are supposed to live for Jesus Christ? I don’t take life advice from an NFL player or an actor or a comedian just because they are famous. I’m certainly not going to look to people with well-known names to tell me how to pastor. Or even how to be a Christian.

The more I read about leadership gatherings and Christian conferences and even Sunday morning worship services, the more it seems that we are much more concerned with production value than actual substance. We look for pithy quotes to post on Facebook as evidence of our spirituality, and we only get excited when THE biggest names are present for an event.

Such a phenomena is not limited to conservative Christian circles. So-called Progressives (or Emergents, or whatever) have their stars as well. They have often mastered the art of criticizing pastors and churches and all the things that Christianity has done wrong for the last 2000 years. Yes, it’s a pretty hefty list, but the “stars” of these groups also tend to forget the list of good things that Christians and churches (and even pastors) have done and continue to do.

Why do we become obsessed with celebrity? Christians behave like a group of teenagers chasing the latest pop sensation, when it comes to their stars. The minute someone famous says that they are a Christian, then we jump on this information and post it all over social media.

Celebrity does not equal knowledge on a subject, nor should it determine credibility on the issue. Why do we trust the voices of those that have the least amount of knowledge or experience on a subject simply because they happen to be famous? We act as if fame and fortune is somehow needed to give more credibility to Christianity.

I do not blame Tebow or any other famous person/pastor for this. I blame us. We’ve abandoned the simple search for Jesus in favor of a celebrity endorsement for what we are supposed to follow out of God-given, Spirit-driven faith.

Reality is that the seemingly insignificant or relatively unknown pastor, speaker, Sunday school teacher, deacon, servant, family member or trusted friend may well be the one that sets the strongest Christian example. Our ongoing obsession with the person who draws the biggest crowd, gets the most attention, or is able to get the most re-tweets has led us to trite spiritualisms and sharp critiques that may not draw us one inch closer to Jesus the Christ.

The pastor with the biggest congregation that draws the biggest salary must be right...right?

The pastor with the biggest congregation that draws the biggest salary must be right…right?

We have fallen into a dangerous, worldly trap of looking for famous people to agree with us, even if their greatest trait is the ability to get people to pay attention to them. We have bought into the idea that bigger is always better, and that means we faun after fame rather than Jesus.

Authentic Christianity draws us to a different kind of discipleship, one that doesn’t depend on fame and fortune and success to determine credibility. The greatest heroes of faith in my life are people that are relatively unknown by anyone outside of the sphere of influence that God has handed them. I can think of a dozen pastors that that have guided and mentored me, and not one of them has ever been a headline, keynote speaker at a national ministry conference. Much less thrown a wobbler in an NFL game. (Snarky again…)

But I would take their word over anyone at the Jacksonville Pastor’s Conference or any other pastor’s conference. In fact, there are some trusted laypeople in my churches, past and present, that I would hold in much higher esteem than any famous person that I never met. This is not to mention friends, family members, colleagues, a wife, etc. that I trust far beyond those in the spotlight.

I am hoping and praying for the day when we will not spend thousands of dollars to get the most famous speakers for conferences. Maybe we can look for the most qualified rather than the most famous?

I am hoping and praying that we can learn to look to the daily examples of wisdom and discipleship that God offers us rather than chasing after the latest Christian celebrity. Perhaps we can learn to follow in faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ, without requiring a famous endorsement before choosing to do so.

It’s not the famous people who show us the most about how to follow Christ, and certainly not the ones who show us how to pastor. The quietly faithful examples that are right at our feet are more than sufficient, if we are seeking Christ rather than seeking the spotlight.


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