The Christian news cycle has been dominated by the fall of many celebrity Christian leaders over the past couple of years. I have read articles talking about how this is “the end of the celebrity Christian leader.” I also recognize the incredible damage some of these stories have had in the lives of thousands (perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands) of people. But is there a way for faithful celebrity Christian leadership to happen?
Who is a celebrity Christian leader?
First, let’s dispel the notion that only the really famous Christian leaders are celebrities. Every Christian leader is a celebrity to someone. What we are talking about here is scale of celebrity. The pastor in his own local church is most likely a bit of a celebrity amongst (at least some of) his own people. While I am not known to most Christians, I am recognized by many wherever I travel in Canada. We have even had weird things happen where people have recognized me in coffee shops and car dealerships. My kids love to make fun of me in these moments.
When I first started to serve as President of Promise Keepers Canada, a well known Christian leader asked me about my “personal brand.” I was confused. He then proceeded to talk to me about doing what I can to build my brand. The temptation is strong for Christian leaders to focus on developing their own brand. It is an easy trap to fall into.
The Bible does not seem to diminish the reality of “celebrity” Christian leaders. After all, guys like Paul and Peter were pretty popular in the Christian community. I do believe the Bible gives us a picture of what faithful, celebrity Christian leadership looks like. John the Baptist was a very popular teacher, and I think we can learn some lessons from him for our own leadership.
Celebrity Leadership Lessons from John the Baptist
1. Confess who you are not
In John 1:20, John’s confession is that he is not the Messiah. People will often come looking to you for wisdom, guidance, and they can lift you up as being more important than others. It is important for every Christian leader to be bold in confessing who we are not – we are not the Messiah.
2. Proclaim who you are
In John 1:23, John publicly announces his mission – to point people to the Messiah. If you are looking to build your brand – this is it. Your brand is not you. You and I are to be known as leaders who point people to Jesus. That’s who we are, that is our purpose.
3. Lift up the name of Jesus
In John 1:27, John proclaims that the Messiah is so much greater than He is. There is a level of honesty and humility in this proclamation. People may think you and I are really great, but the reality is we are not even worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus – that’s how much greater He is than us.
4. Release your followers
Faithful Christian leadership is not about gaining followers for yourself – it is about releasing people to follow Jesus. In John 1:35-36 we read how John loses two of his disciples to follow Jesus. The way of the world is to gain as many followers for yourself as possible. The way of faithful Christian leadership is to help people follow Jesus wherever He may want to take them.
Do Faithful Celebrity Christian Leaders Exist?
Yes! I am here to tell you that while there may be some who get caught up in their own press, all around us there are godly leaders. These men and women are determined to help more people know and follow Jesus. Pray for us – pray for each other. May God protect us from the temptations of this world and help us to stay faithful to His purposes for our lives.