I'm not proud of it, but the truth is, I’m what’s known as a ‘minor Christian celebrity’.
While I’m far from an A-lister (John Mayer isn’t going to be inviting me over to play Scrabble anytime soon), people do, unbelievably, request my autograph on a semi-regular basis. There are an unnecessarily bountiful number of awkward selfies out there that feature my bedraggled self arm-in-arm with someone who has just realised how sweaty an Irishman can get playing folk music.
It seems people come to me for these little tokens because of my perceived ability to lead worship and facilitate other people’s devotional singing. Because I’m a glorified millennial church organist. Because I’ve seemingly ‘gone pro’ as a Christian.
Does that make you as uncomfortable as it makes me? It makes me cringe because, when you think about it, attaching the word ‘celebrity’ to anyone involved in worship is basically saying they’ve fundamentally failed at their task. Celebrities, by definition, exist to be celebrated. Worshipers, by contrast, exist to honour the only one worth celebrating. I’m not sure you can do both at the same time.
John the Baptist was what you might call an ‘influencer’. He had definitely built up something of a following and had a distinctive ‘desert-chic’ aesthetic – the makings of a solid brand. I’m always challenged by his attitude: “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).
While I have met lots of famous Christians who want to make Jesus greater, I’m not sure how many want to become less in order to achieve it. Honestly, I’m not even fully sure I want to become less for the kingdom.
Christian celebrity culture would lose its power if leaders truly embraced John’s mantra...but this is only part of the issue. You see, celebrities don’t create themselves. They require a fan base of people willing to elevate them and keep them on their pedestal. Us celebs might enjoy the status but we don’t create it.
This means that you have the power to put an end to celebrity Christianity anytime you want. If you choose to forego the selfie with the preacher at the end of a high-profile conference and instead opt for a polite word of thanks; if you don’t bother with the VIP ticket to a Christian concert; if you choose to honour the servants rather than the talents in our midst.
If you do all of these things, then celebrity Christians will cease to exist, revealing a healthier, more Christ-orientated Church. That’s the dirty secret no one in ‘Christian entertainment’ wants you to realise, but honestly, I’m all for it. We need a change. We need Jesus in the spotlight again. We need the true celebrity, who “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on across!” (Philippians 2:6-8).
In the end, I think what I’m saying is: I’m a minor Christian celebrity –get me out of here!