Before we get into the subject, let’s set the context of what will follow. What do I mean by the term “Christian Celebrities”? It is all these Christians who are very active on social media, who are more concerned about creating their brand, getting more “followers”, and increasing their own popularity. We find amongst them mainly musicians, worship leaders and some pastors. These people are regularly posting, tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking about their actions, their status, etc. to keep their followers connected and dependent upon them. To be more precise, I am referring to those who do it ON PURPOSE to self-promote or to gain popularity and gain “followers’.
Let’s be clear that I do NOT condemn social media, nor the use of it. Stay into the context of my thoughts and do not read things that I am NOT saying. Social Media is a great tool to reach the unreachable! With COVID-19 keeping everything home, we have certainly seen the right side of social networks, and also other many modes of communications. So, the problem is not WITH social media, but with the users.
The third part of our context remains what we are called to do as Christians, more so when we are called to Pastorship or any other biblical ministries. We are to continue the work of the apostles that is to reach out, preach the gospel, make disciples of Jesus Christ and build communities of believers. All our actions are geared to make this a reality: Jesus Christ is exalted, and everyone is being directed to follow Christ. The glory and honour and praise must go to God.
These are the leading and most important context of our subject: The Danger of Christian Celebrities. Some Christian leaders are using social media to share the gospel, promote Christian Living and exalting Jesus. They are doing a great job without being carried away by “celebritism”. I’m not the only one who has been talking about it. I was surprised to watch an interview with a scholar who shared my same thoughts practically! I thought, till then, that I was too “tight” or “un-cultural” until I met, heard or read about others who shared the same views. So, lets us dig into the subject.
At the core of this touchy subject, there is the concern of the real and sound doctrine. It was entrusted to us by the apostles, through their suffering and deaths. We know that Paul requested that we live a life that brings glory to God and not to us. We are to be renewed by the Word, and not be transformed by this world (culture). We, believers, should be causing transformation and change, and not the way around. What has happened with time is the complete contrary. We have developed a cultural Christianity, which is in contrast to the biblical or apostolic Christianity.
“Celebritism”: Pastors, above all, are supposed to be servants. By adopting Social Media as a means, some of them have unfortunately been absorbed to build their brand. They become more concerned about how well they are being perceived on the social networks and less to the effectiveness of their work as a minister. It seems that when we read our Bible, it is evident that we should not be building our image but serving. We have not read about “Marc Ministries”, “Paul Ministries for the Nation” and similar in the Bible! Other servants, like Timothy, Barnabas, Clement of Rome, who were doing so much to spread the gospel to the far ends of the world, were similarly always pointing to Jesus and not to themselves. Why do we have this today? Why so many personally named “ministries”? Who does the glory go to?
Why has it become a necessity to be posting selfies, and photos of what we are doing? As we stick to biblical doctrines and examples of a fulfilled life in Christ, we may ask the following question: Would Paul be doing this? Would Jesus be doing this? What is the outcome or the effect and impact of such actions and behaviours on the many “followers”?
Are really all these posts building these people? Are these posts, tweets etc. really serving the cause of Christ? Let me again confirm that I do believe that Social Media is useful in certain activities. However, I personally think that it is ungodly to be in ministry but engaged in building our name, our fame and our image!
“Celebrity “Christian” Books authors.” I understand that some pastors write books, musicians release worship albums and that they need to sell it if they want to be able to write or publish something new. Of course, they will be using social media to get the word out there. But here, the way they use it is what will make the difference. The main focus of our posts and communication should be about the content! And not about the individual, the writer or author or singer! Will people be talking about the content or about you? If they talk about you, it is proof that you have failed and hijacked the Glory of God. Who is it about? You or Jesus? Your life or the Good news? The social media posts and communications are supposed to be about servanthood, the content of scripture, challenging the actual culture, sharing the Sound Doctrine!
So, what is causing this?
This is where “cultural Christianity” is playing a big part. People are used to be living in the social culture, to be following people, being fans, and so many other cultural lifestyles. They come to know Christ, and instead of changing to Christian lifestyle, they look for alternatives inside the Christian world to accommodate their needs! Unfortunately, many Christian leaders had the great idea to become the alternate of the “world”, by making it “Christian-Ish”. Everything that the unbeliever used to “like” before they knew Christ, mainly in terms of entertainment, they reproduce a Christian version!
These new believers remain in the same “culture” of needing to be dependent on a man (or a woman)! After all, he used to be following Guns n Roses, now he is developing a Christian band! He used to be following Robin Sharma, but now he is following “Pastor x” or “Worship leader Y” what can be wrong about this?
“Followers-counting Celebrity Worship Leaders”: The other level of damage is that some worship leaders, singers and musicians have taken a role that is not theirs, they are leading so many people out there while not commissioned to it. They are taking the focus from the work of the Church to them. What they say has more importance than what the pastors will say and even what the Bible will say. We see musicians and singers doing tours to preach or share around in churches, “pastoring” to people. That’s a new culture! We have allowed society to change the very model of how Paul and the other apostles established the ways of the Church.
“Fan-addict Cyber Pastors”: When pastors, musicians and other “leading” figures stay in public culture and try to live their Christian life culturally, they risk sooner or later to be engulfed in the same whirlwind of celebrity, if they are not careful and cautious. They start becoming the centre of attraction, instead of pointing to Jesus or the Gospel. Many of them start with excellent intention, then fall in the trap to grow more followers. They want to have more impact, be more influential and finally get absorbed in self-promotion, branding, even make use of marketing strategies to enhance or grow their number of followers. To keep up with the trend, or to attract unbelievers (that’s what they say), they start doing everything “cool” that the followers are “expecting” and get distracted from trying to share the Word to begin sharing themselves!
Today, Social Media is flooded by “what I have done” posts. It’s all about “me.” Is that not self-promoting? Why should we be posting about our actions or “services” to attract more people to follow? What’s the real intention here? As the need to keep followers is now ingrained, the “celebrity’ has to post frequently, and it is then that everything starts sliding off. There is a lot of “Christian” books and materials out there which are not at all biblical, but more socially correct. The authors, unfortunately, have become more interested in selling, that sharing the truth. Songs are also “shallower” and more “acceptable” to the general public. It is a fact that selling books and music is a very lucrative business, and it has boomed with the rise of social networks. Hence some authors and singers are concerned to get their content accepted and their followers to grow, which can lead to more sales.
So many times, these celebrities make people understand and get the impression that “without them”, whatever they are doing, will die out. They are the reason that everything is happening. They become an essential ingredient of whatever they are promoting, which was supposed to be about Jesus. They are the ministry! Sadly, Jesus is not even in the picture, they mention his name from time to time, but most often, it is about them, their lives and everything around themselves.
Is Jesus being exalted in such behaviours? Are all these actions leading people to repentance and to God? Are the posts and tweets making people wanting to change their lives and seek more of God? Or is this creating envy, wants, coveting in the Heart of these people? Are we not encouraging the followers to also try to get “famous”, “influential” and “culturally’ enslaved again?
I think that technology is an excellent tool for reaching out and sharing the gospel. Online presence is instrumental, and we can contact practically anyone who is connected to the internet. I think we should make full use of social media, but only when it is necessary. When doing so, we must not lose sight that we are servants, pointing the way to the only one who can forgive, save and give eternal life: Jesus.
Note to Christian social media users: Make sure that your online behaviours are not encouraging Christian celebrity, elevating the servant more than the master. Do not become the reasons for their pride and downfall.