Christian Celebrity Culture and Shot Glass Communities

A reminder that we aren’t to look to parachurch communities for discipleship or genuine community

The Top Men need to listen to the critique. They need to hear from the oppressed—and do something about it. They need to correct bad teaching and not believe their own hype. Instead of posing as social equals on social media and then amplifying the same celebrity voices over and over again, they should pepper unrecognized teachers in the mix—not merely ones they are grooming to begin headlining for the brand, but ones to offer a different perspective of their shared truths. What if Top Men were willing to learn themselves? Instead of talking about decreasing, they should actually try it sometimes.

2016 has revealed a lot of problems with the Christian celebrity culture. There have been big names that have fallen, treasured orthodox doctrines downplayed and distorted, and many people and churches terribly hurt. Those who warn about this culture, about the ignored or overlooked issues, and even the suppression of abuses within it, are often dismissed because of their tone or accused of overreacting. One popular response to the lament of celebrity culture in evangelical and Reformed communities is an acknowledgement of its prevalence, but with a “What can you do?” shrug. We’re always going to have a celebrity culture.

We are.

Others, accepting this reality, say they want to leverage celebrity culture in order to do good.  That sounds like a plausible response but can too easily become an excuse for uncritically selling-out to celebrity and it usually ends up making its advocates practically indistinguishable from those who are more obviously in it for the purpose of self-promotion.

People will always be drawn by amplified names, bloated endorsements, and charismatic personalities. Some writers, speakers, and preachers are loaded with talents and gifts that can be used in the kingdom. And then they are put in positions of influence and power that can be intoxicating. It’s difficult to have the self-awareness we are called to when so many yes men surround us. And there is of course a market driving it all.

So what do we do about it? Well, here at MoS we do try to highlight the emphasis of the local church and confessional covenant communities. This is a must. But there is good that can and will be done in the parachurch. How can we recognize this, work in it, and deal with the celebrity culture?

There needs to be accountability. And that is the trouble in parachurch organizations. They are not churches and they do not have the accountability that is available with good ecclesiology. While many parachurch organizations resemble ecclesial authority and structure, they are not the church and should not be confused as such. They have boards that can be filled with men who merely build one another’s platforms and protect the brand.

What often happens as parachurch culture inflates into popular establishments is the formation of a constructed value system that is implemented and spread through social media, big conferences, and book deals. This constructed value system augments legitimacy of Top Men while deliberately excluding those who do not conform. Because this constructed value system becomes the gateway to shared platforms, participants can use this language to slip in, or maybe just tolerate, bad theology and bad behavior. The constructed value systems usually gives the appearance of an engaging community, but participants shut out any attempts to interact with thoughts that may threaten their brand.

As one example, the value system coined “biblical womanhood” has been cheapened into a pool of resources full of empty sentimentality, fluff, token topics, and bad theology.

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