When Christian Celebrities Crash and Burn


Tim TebowWith a recent long losing streak and a new coaching philosophy in New York, Linsanity is dead.

As of yesterday, Tim Tebow is riding the bench again and likely will be traded.

Two evangelical sports stars are now no longer lighting up the heavens. And that’s OK.

Well, it’s OK with me. Some other people may be taking Tebow’s and Lin’s descents hard. Seems we have a way of doing that when it comes to Christian celebrities. Christian sports stars are particularly ripe sources of adoration, but as the old axiom goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

There is something desperate in evangelical Christian circles to be both taken seriously and liked enormously. Whenever a Christian “comes out” in Hollywood, it gets trumpeted in every Christian media outlet that follows popular culture. Somehow, it becomes news by the sheer force of will of people who are struggling to hold onto the idea that Christians are just as cool as everyone else—and possibly cooler. Like moths to a flame, Christian media outlets stampede to dub some Christian sports, music, political, or film sensation the next Great Christian Hope and the model for us all to emulate. That many of these celebs have a Q Score in single digits and often show up in a higher number of direct-to-DVD film productions seems not to trouble the true believers.

And then there are the celebrity pastors/preachers and their all-too-visible ministries.

Aside from the B-list nature of most Christian celebrities in the entertainment industry, once in a while we get some notable Christians in sports, with Jeremy Lin of the NBA Knicks and Tim Tebow of the NFL Broncos being the latest headline grabbers. Tebow has endured a level of scrutiny I wouldn’t wish on a presidential candidate, while Lin suddenly had all of Asian sports hopes dropped on his Ivy League shoulders. We Christians only made the hype worse, finding ourselves compelled to comment and to wish the very best for these golden representatives of Our Side®.

Then comes the inevitable fall. In the case of Christian celebs, that fall comes in the form of either some sin that becomes public or a rapid descent into averageness or irrelevancy.

This troubles the true believers to their cores because, honestly, their true believerdom is much shallower than they care to admit. It is as if the success of a Christian celebrity somehow is essential to proving true our Christian beliefs. Sadly, the triumph of a Christian in the public eye is too often seen as validation not only of the existence of God, but also that He favors us Christians above all other people.

I’ve been around a while, and I can say with all assurance that more often than not, our dependence on Christian celebrities to confirm our beliefs fails. And often fails spectacularly. We may no longer trust in chariots (Psalm 20:7), but we still trust in humans to meet our need for validation. Yet there is no more fragile receptacle for faith than fame. That it gets in the way of the Gospel far more often than it boosts it should be obvious to most Christians. Yet when the latest celeb comes around, we’re hopping on the bandwagon in droves. If experience should have taught us anything, it is that such bandwagons have an affinity for cliffs.

We won’t know who the real superstars in the Faith are until we get to other other side. Curiously, the overwhelming majority will be folks we never heard of. I suspect that’s the way the Kingdom works best. God doesn’t need celebs to advance the Gospel. He needs dedicated, mostly average, anonymous people who aren’t impressed by worldly accolades. In America 2012, those folks are rare indeed.

So please, can we stop with the hero worship? Clay feet are part and parcel of this world, and too many of the modern Christian heroes of our own creation come equipped with deluxe models. No one should be surprised, yet we always are, which only makes us look silly when a Christian celebrity we hyped to the max crashes and burns.

We don’t need celebrities to prove our beliefs true. Jesus more than validated Himself. Of course, God added the “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” If we can’t trust God, then what’s the point?

Jesus had no need for a Q Score, and neither should we.

He’s So Earthly Minded…


Yeah, I bungled the beginning of the old aphorism.

It’s supposed to read like this:

He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.

I think it would be interesting to meet someone who embodies that aphorism—at least the first half of it.

If you’re a reader of Christian blogs, tweets, and Facebook postings, then you are well aware of the great theological debate that is occupying most of our attention: Kindle or iPad.

It’s an important debate, not because of which tech gizmo ultimately triumphs but because we seem to be more enamored of tech devices than we are of fulfilling the Great Commission.

What greater squandering of the Internet can there be than failing to use it to stoke conversation about fixing the Church, then using that conversation to develop a meaningful, countercultural vision for this Christian life?

Seriously, aren’t we being assaulted on all sides? Isn’t the age we’re in increasingly squeezing the life and focus out of the Church? Haven’t we become a nation of Christians more interested in raising up politicians than raising up Jesus? Aren’t we more concerned about becoming poor than meeting the needs of the poor? Yet at the same time, don’t we go spending whatever limited money we think we may have on junk that doesn’t matter?

I recently read The Survivor’s Club, which details how people should and should not act when faced with dire, dangerous situations. House afireThe author examined many disasters, large and small, and noted a major failing among those who perished. Many people who should have survived the disaster did not because they treated the situation as if it were business as usual. In other words, their sense of danger failed to kick in. They didn’t process what was happening to them as if it were extraordinary. So they fell back into patterns of normal living, blind to the depth of the threat that faced them.

Here’s the kicker: That blindness is the majority reaction. Here’s the kicker to the kicker: ANYONE is capable of experiencing that blindness, even the trained.

Even the trained.

Folks, we’re supposed to be the trained. Have we been blinded?

I want to know where the serious people are, don’t you? Because when the house is on fire, it’s not enough to be trained; we have to be serious. And debating the Kindle vs. iPad isn’t serious. It’s just another in a long line of distractions that is increasingly making us Western Christians so earthly minded that we’re no heavenly good.

Finding the Center—The Question


In the last few days, I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of centeredness in the Christian life. When churches and individual Christians talk about what they believe, inevitably a phrase ending in -centered crops up.

So readers, I ask you to fill in the following with your answers to the centeredness question. I’m not going to try to persuade people one way or the other, so despite the fact that many good answers can fill the blanks, most of us know the terms most commonly used by Christians. Please fill in these two questions:

“As a Christian, I try to live a __________-centered life.”

“My church emphasizes a __________-centered Gospel.”

Thank you for your two responses. If they differ, please share why, as that would be very helpful to the theory I’m developing.

I’ll add my thoughts on this later in the week.