Scott is talking about the celebrity culture in the church on his weblog and he makes a good point, the church is obsessed with celebrities and superstars like the rest of the world. I don’t know if I accept his examples totally but his point is right on.
I have a similar story about being at WillowCreek. I worked at a church that used to purchase 20 tickets or so to the Leadership Summit and fly down most of its staff to hear “leaders” talk about leadership. The second time I was there, Wendy, myself and others were milling about in the lobby and people were literally lined up at the door. When the door to the lobby opened, these people ran into the auditorium so they could get to the front of the building supposedly so they could get close to Bill Hybels. I am assuming they were under the impression if Bill sweat on them or they could smell what kind of deodorant he used, they would be better leaders. It was a little odd to see and not the norm but at the same time I think it is something that permeates church culture.
The church is a lot like NASCAR, it markets and sells those that are successful. The stories of success are what is needed to sell books, book people into conferences, sell DVDs, or have people come to your church. While there is a lot of talk about faith and God’s blessing, there is an entire industry out there that is selling the opposite message, it is about speaking, leadership, vision and they have the tools to help get the church there and I think we have bought into that far more than we will ever admit. To sell those items, they need a face and a story to share and depending of the product, they partner with those that people resonate with, kind of like George Foreman and his grills.
Some people in the church seek out celebrity status while others it just happened to. Those that seek the status will quote whore themselves to irrelevance and keep releasing the same book with a different cover and a couple new stories again and again. Others will be stuck with it because at a certain point they captured the imagination of a people. I don’t blame them and I don’t even blame the industry that produces them. Their bottom line is the bottom line and for decades have been producing all sorts of crap. The people I blame are those of us who are looking for the secrets, the easy way out, the success, the glory, and will pay $295 for a one day seminar with them as they tell us what they wrote in the last three books.
It comes from a lack of leadership, a lack of confidence, a lack of trust, and a lack of faith in our ownselves and instead of admitting it, we go looking for it from someone else. This is a deep structural problem in the church, one that is reinforced by the system rather than challenged which is why I think people are often attracted to movements on the fringe of the church, it’s where they would be if they had the courage to go there. Instead we make those who are there into celebs and try to live through them.