THE CHURCH & THE CULT OF CELEBRITY
David W. Dillon
Superintendent, Appalachian District
Has your church or ministry been invaded by a cult? We’ve all heard of cults. They’ve been around for a long time, operating on the fringes of truth and leading many astray. Their distortion of cardinal doctrines and their heretical teachings makes them dangerous to the spiritually naïve and unsuspecting.
Sadly, a cult has moved into and seized control of a good portion of today’s western church. It’s the cult of celebrity and it’s characterized by the spread of a serious condition I’ll refer to as celebrititis (also known as celebrity-itis), a miserable malady that has infected, weakened and crippled the contemporary church.
Too many in today’s church have been infected with this fatal disease, but what are the symptoms? Folks following after the preacher or singer who will tickle their ears just the way they like. Sanctuaries where the life-changing and eternal Word was once spoken that have been turned into glorified concert halls. Little difference in the lives of those claiming to be Christians than those denying or ignoring God. These are some telltale signs of this ill.
Did Christ die so that men could build their own empires in His Name? And at the expense of building His kingdom? That’s definitely not what He had in mind when He established the Church, His body. (See Matthew 7:15, 21-23.) Tragically, today’s Americanized and western church seems to be an impotent parody of the living organism that Jesus Christ implemented through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit centuries ago.
The pendulum of relevance went too far the other way many years ago, so far in fact that many churches have become little more than religious social clubs. Ironically, this quest has led them down the path of irrelevance, confusing large crowds, big buildings, huge budgets, and multiple programs/ministries for kingdom effectiveness. They have little impact upon the world beyond their walls, providing only a “spiritual fix” to those attending their services, giving them just enough religion to make it until next week. (Never mind “getting enough” for others, I’ve got to get MY blessing!)
At the other extreme are the Bible-thumping, self-righteous, holier-than-thou groups that are so legalistic and grace deprived that they attract only the spiritually masochistic. Since truth always lies between two extremes, believers should do their best to find a church somewhere in the middle of these, regardless of size. And as a suggestion, stay away from any church that puts its pastor’s picture on a billboard or advertises its music program as its prominent feature! No matter how much they may say otherwise, churches that do these aren’t building on the person of Jesus Christ, but the personalities of men...PERIOD!
It seems that too many forget that the church experience is meant to be a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. I’m all for excellence (sloppy religion/worship drives me crazy and I think insults our Father in heaven), but when excellence and “let’s show the world that we’re just as good as they are” become our motivation, we have missed the mark.
And lest anyone read this and wonder, “Is Dave talking about me,” judge yourself. These are just thoughts and impressions I’ve had for a long time as I’ve observed churches and ministries, both big and small. And I am not demonizing churches or ministries of one size or another. I’m simply questioning the by-product of what they do when the gatherings are over, the lights go down, and the audience goes home.
What is the lasting impact on the lives of those who were present and those they will have contact with between their religious meetings? Will Christ be exalted? Will His presence be the incentive to invite others to that church or group? Or will it be “our pastor is a great speaker”or “our music program really kicks” or something else like this?
At the end of the day, only Jesus Christ can change a life for all eternity and in the here and now. He must be the one people are impressed by in our churches and ministries, and also in our individual witnesses. He’s the one who did all the work and whose praises we’re to sing, whose words we’re to declare, and who we are to represent as salt and light. It’s all about Him (Psalm 115:1).
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