Was Jesus a celebrity in his time on earth? Although his primary relational focus was on the 12 disciples, he had the attention and following of the masses. The opportunity to start a megachurch was definitely there. However, Jesus did not need to employ illusionism for he was the miracle-worker, Jesus did not need to reinvent grace for he was the embodiment of it, and Jesus did not need to introduce “the church for people who don’t like church” for he challenged the institution of the Sabbath. In terms of being well known, Jesus definitely fit the bill for Matthew 4:24 tells us “so his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan”. Jesus had indeed achieved celebrity status.
Even in our present era, Jesus’ popularity then and now was used as a yardstick for comparison. John Lennon’s declaration that “we’re more popular than Jesus now” was a monstrous offence that resulted in press bombardments and public burnings of Beatles records. Why the bombardments and burnings? Such a declaration is considered a sacrilege because Jesus was more than just a celebrity for he was the crucified Christ. It is this imagery of truth that we must capture, the celebrity Christ and the crucified Christ. There is a time to celebrate Jesus and there is a time to connect with the Cross. It is this truth that the celebrity church must embrace. Craig Detweiler whose A Matrix of Meanings I had referenced in my previous entry tells us that, “the simple, unnerving truth that the visage of faith is not the happy face but the masks of comedy and tragedy, alternating, unpredictably between laughter and tears…crying because it’s so funny and laughing because it hurts so much”. Here lies the authenticity of our faith.
We need to draw courage to express and exemplify the truth. We need more Mel Gibsons to reveal the true story. The Singapore megachurch, a celebrity church, must reflect the true face of Christ. I often hear of remarks that spouses can grow to look like each other, though one can never be exactly like the other. Although a Christian can never be Christ, a Christian is called to be like Christ. The celebrity church must engage culture with the pursuit of Christlikeness or in the words of Tim Stevens in Pop Goes the Church, we are reminded not to “…let the culture drag you down to its level, but maintain an awareness of God in the culture and keep watching for the next step you can take toward Christ”. The celebrity church must respond by discerning its relationship with culture.
Yes, Jesus was a celebrity and he was crucified. Let us not deform that image. The church must not only be relevant, it must also be real.
[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog. It was reported by the Singapore Edition of The Christian Post: http://sg.christianpost.com/dbase/education/700/section/1.htm]