I love attending conferences and women’s events, but I hate sitting by myself. I am the ultimate extrovert so it bothers me more than you would think. As a pastor’s wife I have grown accustomed to being alone at large events. I play on my phone, sip on my coffee, read the entire program and pretend like I am perfectly fine in my little corner. I also have an annoying habit of getting everywhere early, mostly because I get lost the first time I go to a new place.
Last year, I was one of the speakers at a Christian women’s event. I didn’t know anyone at this event, except for the host who had invited me. As usual I got there early, so I asked if there was any way I could help. I was so grateful to be given the job of setting up drinks for people to grab as they arrived. This was literally the perfect station for me; I could make small talk with the other volunteers and meet the guests, all while smelling freshly brewed coffee.
My little extrovert heart was about to blow up with excitement because I would feel like I belonged in that room and didn’t simply have to sit alone. Unfortunately, the beautiful picture I had painted in my head of refreshment duty didn’t pan out. I remember seeing so many faces pass by me as they grabbed a drink from my table, but none looked up to actually see my face and only a handful even said thank you.
I sat alone and had no one to talk with other than the sweet host who checked on me.
Later that day after I spoke on stage, many women came to tell me how pretty I looked and how much my words blessed them, and some even wanted to connect with me later. I was happy and frustrated at the same time.
In both instances, I was serving the need that was placed in front of me, but we as humans tend to glorify those things that we feel are significant. We perceive the stage as significant, and not the lobby. In doing so, we have allowed celebrity culture to creep into the Church. I think we would all agree the mess Christian celebrity culture has made is devastating. Like most of you, I have played a role in this too. I have overlooked the ones pouring into my kids and honored only those with the microphone. I have craved friendships with those in positions of power and ignored the person in the parking lot standing in the heat with a huge smile, waving as I drove into the conference. I have been impressed by the pastors with large platforms and forgot the ones with smaller churches who faithfully make hospital visits and conduct weddings.
Elevating some people and exalting certain gifts within the body of Christ is not only damaging, but it is in direct opposition to the gospel message; we are responsible for demolishing that pattern of behavior before it destroys us.
I love how Apostle Paul compares the Church to the human body. In 1 Corinthians 12, he teaches that we are all part of the body and no one part is more important. We are interconnected and equally integral because we all have different functions within the body. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (I Corinthians 12:27 NIV).
Our gifts work better together than alone because their purpose isn’t solely about us but about glorifying the Father and having His kingdom reign on earth through us.
Then Paul goes on to write the famous chapter on love. I don’t think that is coincidental. I think he understood that loving well will be hard for our human nature to grasp. We would need a picture of what it looks like to live out this call to love. So he offers the metaphor of functioning as one body using our differing gifts – void of celebrity culture — and that secret sauce is LOVE.
We need only to look to Jesus who is the evidence. Love personified.
Jesus chose to be born in a barn and not in a palace — to teach us that life isn’t about the size of our house, church, or bank account.
He chose to be friends with John the Baptist, who was weird in every way — to show us we don’t need to be friends with the most celebrated or influential person in the room to impact the world.
Jesus saw the little boy with the lunch at the outdoor service. He valued the widow with the small offering at church, and He spoke with the wealthy and wise Nicodemus. In God’s eyes, we are all the same.
The only way we can get rid of celebrity culture in the Church is if we see everyone who serves as significant. I was being the hands and feet of Jesus at the refreshment table just as much as I was on that stage sharing from God’s Word. No matter what work we do, our service for the Kingdom isn’t for worldly validation, but to be an offering of worship to God. So then our job is not to rate someone’s worship or worship them; our job is to worship God.