No gimmicks for me, please

Published 10:38 pm Friday, April 11, 2014

By Chris Surber

In the 1980s it was the guy who’d had half his face blown off in Vietnam. In the ‘90s it was the guy who “can’t even say ‘Dedus.’” Today it is Nick Vujicic — a man born without limbs who gives rousing speeches that remind audiences that God has a purpose in all of our lives in spite of our limitations.

None of these Christian celebrity speakers are without merit. In fact, Vujicic has a great message. Not to mention that by all accounts he is a solid Christian guy.

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My beef isn’t with any of these men. I’m concerned about the modern Christian culture that idolizes oddity and venerates celebrity.

It’s as though the wilder your story is, the more we want to hear it. Our concern is not essentially about how biblical it is or how much substance or weight or truth is contained in the story or one’s telling of it. We want peculiarity, and we demand celebrity.

Whatever happened to “Thus saith The Lord?” When did that lose value? Why do we need gimmicky rock star types to attract Christian audiences? And let’s be honest. Who is it that mostly comes to hear Christian speakers? Christians.

I was a prayer counselor once at a Louis Palau festival. (He is kind of the Latin-American Billy Graham.) Every person I prayed with was a Christian asking for prayer.

They reported new converts, but I didn’t see many of them. It was a free Christian concert where the highlight for me was watching fellow aging Liberty University alumni Toby Mac do a backflip off of a speaker.

What about Billy Graham? Speaking strictly from personal experience, the only person I’ve known to profess Christ at a Graham Crusade was a young girl who had converted months earlier but wanted to make it official with a trip to the altar at a Billy Graham crusade. There was nothing at all spontaneous about it.

We don’t need gimmicks; we need Christ. We don’t need celebrity; we need sacrifice.

God is not impressed with celebrity. The only thing upon this earth that ever seems to have impressed God to any degree was the death of His Son. We need to get closer to Jesus and further from the bankruptcy of celebrity culture.

I like the way 18th-century author August W. Hare put it. “Men think highly of those who rise rapidly in the world; whereas nothing rises quicker than dust, straw and feathers.”

Celebrity gives the illusion of value. The saints most celebrated in Heaven are unheard of on earth.

It is just as the Scriptures say: “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.” (1 Peter 1:24 NLT)

Mind your affections. They are easily swayed by gimmicks, far too easily attracted to celebrity.