Americans love celebrities, don’t we? We love people who are famous for their athletic achievements. We love people who are famous for the films that they make. We love people who are famous for the music they perform. Heck, we even love people who are famous for . . . being famous!
It is pretty easy for us to see that famous people are important to Americans because of all the ways we have to keep track of our celebrities. Next time you are at a news stand, just check out all the magazines that are organized around keeping track of our celebrities (People, Us, etc.) Then, think about the websites and television shows that are designed to do the same (TMZ and others). We love our famous people. Sadly, this celebrity obsession even finds its way into the church.
If we are not careful, Christians can find themselves worshipping celebrity as well. In Sunday nights “Skywire” event on the Discovery Channel, where a man walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, there were many shots of Pastor Joel Osteen praying for the event from the canyon’s curb. The subtle message . . . if a famous Pastor is praying for you, you have a better chance! I know, I know, that sounds harsh. By no means do I think it is bad for Pastor Osteen to pray for Nik Wallenda. If I am ever walking across the Grand Canyon on a 3 inch wide cable, I would want Joel praying for me as well (along with anyone else who would do so!). The sad reality of it all, though, is that I have heard (too many times to count) something like this: “Have the Pastor pray for you . . . he has a direct line to God!” While it is a tremendous privilege to pray for anyone, it is a theological error to believe that any human Pastor (celebrity or otherwise) has a more direct connection to God than any other believer in Jesus Christ. We ALL have access to God in Christ and Pastors (or real celebrities) do not have a hall pass to jump to the front of the line.
Think also of the way Christians react when we find a celebrity who professes faith in Christ. We freak out! We want them to come speak at our churches, share at conferences, pray before congress, etc. If we are not careful, we begin to slip into the insidious frame of mind that says, “God can use famous people more than He can use me.”
I was reflecting on this over the past few days as we studied 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 in church last Sunday. In these verses Paul surveys the church in Corinth and comes to the following conclusion:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
What these verses tell me is that the church AND people God uses in His plan are mostly common, not celebrities . . . and this is by design! God intentionally uses people in His plan that the world would otherwise write off so that it would be clear to everyone that it is God who saves, not human talent. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 Paul makes this point even more clear when he says:
And my speech my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
God uses average folks (like you and me) in His plan because the contrast of His strength shows best against the canvas of our weakness. So, if you have never been on television before (and don’t plan to). If you came from a normal family (not a famous one). If you will never write a book that someone else (not related to you) will read. If you will never win an Oscar, the Super Bowl, or a Grammy. Fear not! God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to use you as a canvas upon which to paint a picture of His brilliant grace so that one corner of this lost and dying world might see it.
NOTE: God loves famous people as well! If you are reading this and you did win the Super Bowl (or have a good friend who did), fear not! God has not rejected you because of your fame. The key idea to take away is that if you are famous and you have a relationship with God, He is using you because He is so great, not because you are. What a freeing thought for a world so fixated on our pedigree and our performance. The Person of Christ is our hope!