The Christian celebrity movement has been around a long time, as we see today that it dates back to the early years of the church with characters like Paul and Apollos. I’m sure they were impressive in some way, being able to publicly handle the presentation of incredible truths detailing this relatively new message of the gospel.
So I guess it is not that incredible that there are still celebrities in church ministry, particularly of those who have visible successes like large congregations, media ministries and a shelf full of written materials.
One of the interesting experiences of ministry life in this generation is the opportunity to attend the vocational Christian college and seminary, both of which are a part of my background. On the whole, college and seminary were rich experiences for me, though I was pondering again just earlier today that the accompanying church experiences of that stage of my life probably marked me more and had greater educational and impactful influence.
Dallas Seminary in particular, along with my pastoral staff ministry in one of the primary churches connected to it, brought across my path some very interesting and well-known characters in the Christian movement worldwide over the past 50+ years. Some were on the faculty, while others visited as guests at our church. And now that 34 years have passed since my master’s graduation and 22 since the doctoral, some of my classmates have become well-known personages, even Christian celebrities. If you are familiar with Christian radio at all, or know of some pastors of regional multi-site churches, more than a couple of these names are guys who sat in the same classes with me.
I have not kept in touch with many of them, but here is what I can tell you about them: they are in reality nothing that special. In fact, personally, they are often rather boring people and loners away from the spotlight and podium. In reality, these guys are often introverts. They probably don’t have time for you unless you too are really important in some way. They really don’t have the time; it takes a lot of time to keep all the balls in the air of a big-time multi-faceted ministry.
What they simply have is a God-given gift to understand Scriptural truth and package it in a communicative way that is compelling and, along with the Spirit’s power, helpful to listeners and followers. But at the end of the day, it is just a gift from God. Other people have other gifts. For Apollos and Paul … for any teacher of the Scriptures … they are servants …
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Some plant, some water, but it is God who makes the seed grow. And that is the miracle – that growing in the life of the believer is the fruit of an eternal relationship with God through Christ.
So it is not about the messenger practically at all. It is about the message and what becomes of it in the life of the hearer as it takes root.
Speaking of Dallas Seminary, I remember a homiletics class (that is a class on how to teach and preach) where the rather well-known prof reminded us of the big idea about preaching. He said, “When have people really ‘got it’ when you speak … when have they actually ‘caught it?’ Is it when they can regurgitate your catchy three-point outline? Is it when they remember your stories and illustrations? Is it when they understand the full content of what you have said? No! It is when they have understood how to apply it in their lives and they go home and do it.”
That is another way of saying that people understand preaching, be it great or mediocre in terms of presentation, when it takes root in their lives through personal application and growth.
Beyond that, we are all teachers of the Word with our families and with people of whom we cross paths daily who need to know the truth of God’s Word. I love a good talker as much as anyone, but the core reality is the life-changing message of the gospel that is being preached, celebrity or not.