I’ve been wondering lately how you can know when a Christian leader, speaker, minister (whatever) is moving from being a servant to a celebrity.
When do you start to cross that line and when are you so immersed in your own image development and promotion that you forget who you actually are?
I think its’ a bit like ‘ugly’ – you can’t quite define it, but you know it when you see it. Its something that makes you go ‘ech… really?… oh dear…’ And in the midst of your cringe you wonder if you should say anything or if you are just the party pooper who ‘doesn’t get it’. Because celebrity Christians are rarely questioned (face to face) and actually don’t like being challenged. It spikes the conscience.
There are a few tell tale signs of celebritism that always set off my finely honed ‘wanker alarm’. There’s the nasty stuff like only flying business class or only staying in 5 star accommodation. If that’s your thing then I won’t ever be calling you.
Then there’s the slightly less obvious ‘speakers rooms’ at conferences where the important people get to hang together away from the plebs, a practice often justified by some curious logic. There’s reserved front row seats… the chunky ‘love offerings’ (technically not tax deductible as they are gifts), a bizarre form of hero worship that only feeds the beast, and then more recently there has been the awful and embarrassing self promotion on social media. Facebook hasn’t helped the cause by creating ‘fan’ pages, but seriously I think I’d reject those things on principle.
Yes, this could all be sour grapes because I’ve never been successful or famous enough to ever be in celebrity mode, but I have been in positions where there has been the opportunity to enter into some of that stuff. My gag reflex on Christian celebritism is pretty strong so I tend to sniff it and call it fairly quickly. But I’ve also been privileged to know some people who regularly speak to crowds of thousands, but haven’t been seduced.
A few years back when we were in full swing with Forge in Perth I invited Darryl Gardiner from New Zealand to come and join us. Daz isn’t well known in WA, but he is a brilliant, hard hitting communicator who regularly speaks to big crowds around the world. He happily spoke to a very small crew, engaged with them before and after and showed himself to be the real deal. He even returned all of his speaking fee because we were doing it tough financially at the time in Forge.
However the real test for Daz came early on Saturday morning when our son Sam – aged 3 at the time – made it to the toilet, got his business done, but couldn’t finish the job. We always laughed when Sam was on the toilet because we would hear this little voice screaming out, ‘Muuuuuuummmm…. can you come and wipe my bottom?!’ (I was always glad that my name was not ‘mum’) That Saturday morning he must have yelled and screamed for a bit, but mum never came. With the doors closed we obviously couldn’t hear him – but Daz did…
So what do you do when you’re the international guest speaker sleeping in the room next to the toilet while the 3 year old is stuck? I’m guessing if you’re full of your own importance you ignore the kid and complain about it later (to someone else), but if you’re in servant mode then you do what Darryl did.
You wipe the kid’s bum.
He told us about it later amidst some laughter. Ok so we didn’t do it on purpose (promise Daz) but in that action Daz made a huge statement. The Jesus we claim to follow wasn’t too full of himself to do the menial task of washing someone’s feet and Daz wasn’t too self important to perform one of life’s less pleasant tasks either.
While we are wiping bums we are unikely to be too concerned about whether we are flying business class or staying in the Hyatt…