A multinational church leader tackled the issue of "celebrity-ism" and its impact to the Christian faith.
Addressing the participants of Q 2021 Culture Summit last month, Rich Villodas, lead pastor of New Life Fellowship, said that celebrity culture is deceptive and "must be resisted."
"Generally speaking, celebrity and Christianity are not necessarily contradictions in terms because notions of celebrity are often projected onto people," he said, captured by The Christian Post.
He added that even Jesus, during His time, was a celebrity Himself.
"Wherever Jesus went, throngs of people followed him, Jesus of Nazareth was a household name. You can be sure that people asked Him to sign their tunics and autograph their parchment paper. Jesus was very known in those parts."
"The problem, then, is "celebrity-ism and Christianity," he pointed out.
He further stated that "Christian celebrity-ism," which destroys a person's testimony in the Lord, is "trapped in the lie," equating mass appeal with maturity, influence with integrity and charisma with character.
Moreover, he said that celebrity culture causes people to take the role of spiritual parenting, adding that it is "deceptive" and not compatible with the Christian faith.
"Celebrity-ism creates a culture in which self-proclaimed influencers assume the role of spiritual mothers and fathers. Celebrity-ism is deceptive and incompatible with Christian faith because it locates authority in the number of followers and blue checks next to our names. Celebrity-ism is not found in the crowds, but in the soul and in the environments that reinforce it. It's a sickness of the soul and a disease of the system," Villodas explained.
He also noted that in the wilderness, the devil tempted Jesus into building a ministry which is based on an ancient kind of "celebrity-ism." He added that people are tempted into "celebrity-ism" that is "marked" by entitlement, performance and power.
"Entitlement is found in the expectation that I deserve to be treated differently. Performance is oriented around the lie that my sense of self is predicated on the attention and affirmation of the crowd. This notion of power is expressed in the incessant need to advance my personal agenda, and this is a sickness of the soul," the pastor stated.
Furthermore, he said that celebrity culture develops in the church when both the pastor and members of the congregation support the celebrity atmosphere, adding that this culture takes time and usually starts when a pastor has a "driving ambition for fame, but it can't take root unless the congregation supports that ambition."
"Unfortunately, many people want their pastor to be a spiritual hero or celebrity at some level," he lamented.
The minister observed that "celebrity-ism" happens in all churches, not just in megachurches. It also occurs in small and medium-sized churches where leaders act like royals.
He suggested that to resist this culture, believers must ask themselves with the following questions:
- "Have I wrestled honestly with the entitlement I carry?"
- "Am I submitting myself to authority willingly, joyfully and transparently?"
- "Am I regularly proximate to people I'm not gaining any social capital from?"
- "Am I living from the center of God's affirming, unconditional love?"
Villodas is also an author. His book "The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us In the Way of Jesus" was released last year.