Infamous Christianity

I hinted at this post at the end of “famous” Christianity, but haven’t had a chance to get to it because of some changes around here. Another reason is that I’ve had so many other thoughts floating around my head that these were lost in the shuffle.

So far we’ve talked about three other pitfalls of Western Christianity: Mindless, Lonely, and Famous Christianity. You could say that the previous posts primarily affect those of us who are part of the Church, participating in Christian circles. For example, “mindlessness” hurts the individual. The desire to be famous impacts an individual church. Infamous Christianity starts within us, but its impact is felt more outside of the Church.

What is the likely result of seeking after, working for, and arranging programs and peoplse so that you can be famous? For those that do so, the hopeful result is fame. After months, years or decades of hard work and determination, the Christian world takes notice of a worship leader, a pastor, a church, etc.

The Miracle Channel (Canada) and TBN send out teams to interview, record footage, and spread the message around the world. Christianity Today, Charisma and Rev! magazines might send someone down to comment on the community impact of the ministry. And don’t forget about the major book deal for the pastor!

There are two lessons we should remember as we strike off into the land of the limelight. They are lessons known to everyone who has spent any amount of time under a set of stage lights.

  1. The lights are hot (pretty self-explanatory).
  2. The light is bright.

When you stand on stage under bright ligths, you might notice that it’s suddenly difficult to make out details in the crowd sitting in front of you. It’s sometimes difficult to pick out your friends and family members from people you don’t know as well. Some would say that the lights help you to focus on what you are saying or performing because you aren’t as worried about looking for affirmation in the faces looking at you. You get set on the taks instead of the audience. (Maybe you noticed how loaded that paragraph was? But those aren’t the points I’m after today.)

When it comes to the stage, do you know why we use such powerful lights? They increase clarity from the viewpoint of the audience. All of the shadows that might distort or cover any imperfections, sloppiness, or missing elements are dispersed by the light, making all of the above visible to all who would look for them.

When a pastor or a church enters the limelight, the lights come on at full intensity. Not only are peers and followers looking their way, the surround world takes notice. These aren’t just stage lights, they are grand opening search lights that beckon the world to “come and see.” As the scope of the pastor/church’s influence is spread through even Christian media, the spectators and inspectors come along for the ride.

Once you’ve stepped into the light, anything and everything is up for grabs. If they make use of the airwaves, every word is quoted, reviewed, analyzed and criticized. Every business decision, every appointment to the board, and even personal decisions jump from proprietary to public imformation.

Think about some of the names, “famous” Christians, known by the non-Christian world we live in:

  • Jim Bakker
  • Jimmy Swaggert
  • Pat Robertson
  • Ted Haggard

What are they known for? Who thinks it of them? What impact are they having on a world that needs to hear about Jesus?

Famous Christianity often results in Infamous Christianity. Without safeguards, vigilance and personal awareness, a famous pastor or church can quickly melt under the heat of the bright lights.

Now, does this mean that a pastor/church never stands up with what might be an unpopular message? Of course not. If God leads, to disobey is not an option. But do we have to be belligerant, picking fights with the world and the rest of Christendom? What happened to speaking the truth in love? The words we use and the tone we deliver them in can often make the difference between sounding like a crackpot, or as a person who genuinely cares.

* * *

This post has run long, so I’ll close it up here. Take the time to consider these pitfalls in Christanity. What place do they have in your heart? Where will they lead you if unattended? We bear the image of Christ. When the world and other Christians see it on you, do you do Him justice?

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