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A couple of weeks ago I was spending time in the presence of God and I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me. He said in a strong internal voice, “there’s a bad smell in the house.” I began asking Him what He meant (hoping it wasn’t a personal word of prophecy!) He put on my mind and in my heart the oddity of the Christian celebrity culture.

His words reminded me of an incident we had in our house where one day I came home only to be greeted by the most vile smell. A few days later the smell was still there even though I’d washed and cleaned everything. Finally we’d figured it out – we had a dead mouse rotting away under our floor boards.

For anyone who’s been in the same position you will know that you have four options ahead of you:

  1. Move to another house (only for the rich and famous)
  2. Try to hide the smell (apparently microwaved lemons work)
  3. Live with the smell (no dinner parties then)
  4. Be prepared to pull up some carpet or cut through a wall to get to the source.

As I’ve been asking for revelation and understanding on this subject it’s been much like pulling up that carpet and digging around underneath the floorboards. There’s a bad smell, but where it is and what it is have been the questions on my mind.

I want to attempt to separate and identify good from bad. It’s certainly not a ‘have a go’ at well known Christians – many of them are just as opposed to this culture infiltrating the church as other people. I’m hoping instead we can get some maturity on the matter – working out what heavens culture looks like and what bits of the worlds culture we are currently mirroring that we shouldn’t be.

When I grow up daddy I wanna be a…

It used to be an astronaut, or the president of the USA, or a superhero but now thanks to a conglomeration of X factor, talent shows and reality tv the iconic status to reach for is ‘celebrity.’ Kids these days want to be famous and I don’t really blame them. If they can just manage somehow to be famous then they open a door to a life of wealth, excitement and public affirmation. We’ve picked a few things we value as a society; looks, fashion, films, sports, then we’ve given unprecedented amounts of worship to those few who walk in their corridors.

The drive to be a celebrity has never been so alive in society than now. It’s a strong part of our western culture and the church who is meant to be bringing heaven’s culture on earth has got to ask some serious questions regarding this topic.

Do we have the same drive to be celebrities in our ministries? How much of this culture are we mirroring in the church?

Is there anything wrong with famous Christians?

When most people refer to the Christian celebrity culture they are referring to the fact that we have famous Christian leaders in the sub culture of church. Worship leaders, preachers, teachers, youth leaders, pastors, prophets and evangelists are the types of people that can become very well known on a local, national and even international level.

At this stage we’ve got to ask a question. Is there anything wrong with famous Christians?

To answer this question, one of the most important things to do is to look at the bible.

My biblical understanding of the church is that it’s made up of different people with different gifts all loved by God equally. It would be unbibilical to say that we are all meant to be the same or that we are all equal in gifts and positions—there are clearly well known ‘famous’ leaders in scripture, people chosen by God to ‘stand out’ and play an important part in His unfolding plan.

Some people overreact to this topic by suggesting that there should be a church-by-committee approach in which there are no ‘up fronts’, no ‘visual leaders’. When people suggest this as a solution I feel misplaced because I am one of those in public ministry. Deep down amongst the clutter I know these gifts of leadership and communication in me are from Him and are meant to add value to the church. Disempowering those in public ministry is not the answer.

In my opinion the foul smell of christian celebrity culture does not come from the fact that some people are ‘known’ or that some people are remarkably gifted in a certain public areas—these are the things we should embrace and celebrate. Instead it comes from a distorted system of rewards that we are copying from the world’s culture.

We reward what we value

God’s system of rewards is contrary to the one we see modeled in the western world. The celebrity culture that we live in rewards people for being good looking, popular and talented in a selective few trades like acting and music, but the bible paints a different picture of a God who sees what’s done in secret and rewards according to a alternative set of values; sometimes it doesn’t make sense, at times it’s unfair, and often it’s unexpected. It’s clear that some rewards are received on earth whilst others are waiting for us in our future eternal home and Jesus doesn’t leave us in doubt what he thinks we should be storing up for ourselves.

As Christians its important we do two things regarding this matter:

  1. Understand the way God rewards us and live according to that wisdom
  2. Copy God and reward the people around us the way He does

Firstly then, the lesson of ‘how God rewards’ is vital for us to know and understand. It’s important because it shouts about what He values. There is such an insecurity and uncertainty in the body of Christ because of a lack of understanding on this very issue. Often people feel like they are in someone else’s shadow, never quite as gifted as the person they see in front of them. When we begin to unpack how God rewards we realize what He values and it brings emancipation to the masses of ordinary Christians out there. Self assured and confident Christians is what the world is waiting to see, and when we all really know our worth we begin to live that way.

It’s also important that those in public ministry get a firm grip of this reality too. For me as a prophetic leader much of what I do is public. I’m aware of how much God rewards me through this ministry: favor with people, influence, opportunities and gratitude. However I’m also aware that these are rewards that I’m receiving now – on earth. For me what’s helpful is to make sure every now and then I give myself a spiritual health check. It’s simply a series of questions:

What proportion of my spiritual life is public and what is private?

Is all my revelation from God out there on the internet/pulpit or is there some that I’m treasuring in my heart?

Are all my prayers for people done with them there or am I praying for people without them knowing?

Am I studying the bible just to get something more to say or am I genuinely excited about growing more in love with Jesus?

There is a subtle but very real danger for those in public ministry to have the majority of their rewards on earth.

Secondly, once we have a firm insight into how God rewards we then need to copy Him. We give rewards all the time to people we deem important or valuable. Our attention, our time and affection are some of the rewards we give. Who we deem important or valuable is key and is actually why God’s system of rewards is different to the world’s. If we get carried along with the tide of western culture, the people we see as important will usually be the celebrity types (in church terms, those in public ministry.) But if we allow ourselves to get swept up with Gods perspective, we begin to see value everywhere in all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.

The reality is that there are gifts/treasures in every single person in the church; young, old, rich, poor, charismatic, shy, eloquent or rough round the edges. We together are God’s children and as God’s kids we have incredible value. When you walk into a group of God’s people it’s like walking into heavenly treasure cave; prophecy, wisdom, strategy, kindness, healing, knowledge, understanding, encouragement, innovation are just some of the treasures that are in people waiting to be used and given away. When we copy the world’s celebrity value system we seriously insult what’s available in the body of Christ and often miss the gifts and answers God is longing to give us.

When we comprehend this, we have the opportunity to revolutionize culture. Can you imagine a world where God’s system of rewards was at large? The celebration of people is broadened, which in turn encourages people everywhere to walk into their true destiny.

Signing out

I’m aware of only having scratched the surface of this complex topic of humanity. To get more revelation it will take an honest bit of soul searching. There are some significant challenges for those called to public ministry which involve daily accountability of inner motives and a constant return to true servant leadership.There are also some crucial lessons for the rest of church in how to deal with ‘known’ christians; seeking to honor but not idolize.

But for now we’ve stimulated some thought about rewards. I hope it challenges us to see the things God sees and celebrate the things God celebrates. I believe we are entering one of the most epic times of history and my prayer for the church is that we shake off the corrupt things of this world and cloth ourselves in the ways of Jesus. Let’s dare to live a different way – the way of the Kingdom of Heaven.