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A few thoughts on evangelical celebrity culture

Let's be encouraged to persevere in the hard but blessed work of local ministry.

CULTURE MAKING AUTOR 144/Rene_Breuel 10 DE JULIO DE 2022 11:00 h
Photo: [link]Worshae[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

One of the most pressing topics of debate for evangelicals today is the influence of celebrity culture upon our hearts and ministry practices. In America and other parts of the world, fame, platforms, looks, and online followings have become overly important.

It’s a conversation we very much need to have. I look forward to reading Katelyn Beaty’s upcoming Celebrities for Jesus and have reflected on the lessons of podcasts on the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill or Carl Lentz’s approach to celebrity and fashion at Hillsong NYC. Kate Bowler’s The Preacher’s Wife sheds light on the additional challenges women face, too.

But we need more than bad examples, and a recent positive experience helped me discern a few good ways of using the influence we have.

Last Sunday, Christine Caine, a well-known speaker and leader of A21, an anti-trafficking organization, preached at Hopera, the church I pastor in Rome, Italy. My wife, Sarah, and I got to know Christine and her husband, Nick, one week before, at The Send conference in Norway.

The first thing that struck me was their willingness to get to know the organizing team and the people who would contribute to the conference. In large conferences, well-known speakers sometimes prefer to remain in green rooms and not mingle much, but Nick had dinner with me, while Christine wanted to “chat with the girls” and had dinner with Sarah and five other women.

When I heard they would be in Rome for a family trip, I ventured an invitation and was thrilled to hear they were willing to dedicate part of their vacation time to serve our church. Christine’s sermon exhorted our congregation to not look back and be like Lot’s wife, an encouragement that resonated with our community, after a tough pandemic season.

But what struck me most happened before and after the service. There was the same desire to get to know the congregation and speak with anyone there (and every church has its share of socially awkward folks). After the service, they came to our home, had lunch, and heard our hearts for the gospel in Europe. And Christine used her social media accounts to lift the local leaders, especially Mila Palozzi, my co-pastor at Hopera Church, as a great translator and speaker.

In other words, it wasn’t just a guest preacher who spoke and left. It felt like a visit that blessed the church on several other levels. There was a desire to get to know, listen, and lift others.

The experience got me thinking of Paul’s apostolic visits. There was a similar desire to address the challenges the congregations were facing, provide counsel, encourage the leadership, and link them with the wider body of Christ. It wasn’t about promoting Paul but helping those congregations flourish.

Christine’s visit also helped me think of the occasions when I get to speak in other places. I will be more intentional in encouraging the hard-working leaders there and serving those congregations not just by preaching.

We are still figuring out the pros and cons of modern technology and which practices to adopt and which to reject. But this visit, at least, gave me a few concepts to sift what is helpful from what isn’t, and be encouraged to persevere in the hard but blessed work of local ministry.

René Breuel, evangelical pastor in Rome (Italy).




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