A New Kind of Seeker-Sensitive Church
In White Horse Inn’s “Top Ten Ways Not To Defend the Faith,” the sixth way is “Explain to people that your favorite celebrity or politician is a Christian so Christianity must be true.”
This way of “name-drop” witnessing might be prevalent among those who attend Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF), where so many celebrities flock on Sundays. Now, the evangelical church has found another Christian hero, Hayden Kho, who says “he met Christ and decided to commit my life to Him.” Now he attends CCF. This is good—Christ regenerates the heart of all his chosen ones, whether rich or poor, model citizen or hardened criminal, store clerk or celebrity.
So many evangelicals are hailing Kho’s conversion, who will for sure be in demand for his dramatic testimony. But are they as excited and blessed when one of their “ordinary” friends turn to Christ? I suspect that many “seekers” in these big-name megachurches where celebrities abound are seeking affirmation and identification, not with Christ, but with the “church where Celebrity X worships,” or where “Celebrity Pastor Y preaches.”
Carl Trueman laments this new “seeker-sensitive” culture, what he calls “The Celebrity Syndrome” in Chapter 2, “The Slipperiness of Secularization” of his book, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative (P&R Publishing), where he talks about celebrity pastors and conference speakers:
Cults of personality are very bad things; the role of the preacher is to point to Christ and, in that context, to be as invisible as possible—a congregation which focuses on the preacher has failed to understand the power and logic of the cross and has capitulated to a secular mindset. Yet the conservative church in America is, arguably, driven to a large extent by such cults of personality.
Then there is the proliferation of big conferences with big name speakers€¦ There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such; but it is clear from even a casual glance at the internet or even conversation after church that these things have fostered a church equivalent of stardom where it is not the gospel or even the church that provides the focal point, but Speaker X or Speaker Y. It has also fed in to a church culture where a few high-profile celebrity pastors and scholars seem to believe that no issue has been properly addressed until they have definitively spoken to it. Such power plays are profoundly secular.
So from whence does the problem come? It comes from imbibing the obsessions of the wider culture with big personalities. The world has Access Hollywood, the church has €“ well, you insert the name. But the name has to be of someone who is able to build a big church, gain a big name, and offer a sanctified equivalent of the movie star magic.
The problem with this new kind of seeker-sensitivity is the old proverb, “The bigger they come, the harder they fall.” No, I’m not referring to the celebrities in the church, or the celebrity pastor or minister. I’m talking about celebrity-seekers. When the celebrity conversion is proven false, as in Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, celebrity-seeker evangelicals are also proven false. Idolaters are what they really are.
Let’s pray that Mr. Kho’s conversion is real, so celebrity-seekers will not fall hard.