Celebrity culture makes headlines out of all kinds of unlikely bits of information. From favorite foods to pet choices, from dating to shoes, people seem obsessed with celebrities.
But as Kanye West’s public conversation on his new relationship with Jesus Christ illustrates, talking about faith has a dynamic all its own. Some people react with sarcasm or skepticism; others rush forward to make a theologian and leader out of people just finding their way. Both approaches miss the mark.
As Christians, we need to take West or anyone else who confesses faith in Christ according to the scriptures, at their word, and work to support them as they grow in their faith. Those of us who come to faith in Christ rarely share the same background, skillset, or biblical understanding. But what true believers have in common is a desire to have a growing, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ as he is revealed through scripture, and build relationships with other believers as we introduce Jesus to those outside the faith.
In a world in which we are bombarded with celebrity packaging, it’s easy to be overly cynical. But suspicion is not a biblical way of looking at things. For Christians who need to view the world and others from a biblical perspective, making a trophy of someone and forcing our expectations on him also shows our priorities are out of line.
It is Jesus Christ who is the head of the church, and the rest of us are to work together in concert to help one another grow in grace, in love and good deeds. We are one body, as the Apostle Paul writes, but many members with Christ as the head.
It’s going to be powerful to see West’s skills as a storyteller evolve as his relationship with Christ transforms his work. As NBC notes, “There’s a cheerfulness to his turn to God.”
West is not the only celebrity getting headlines for his stand. Recently, Chris Pratt and Justin Bieber have drawn a lot of attention for talking about their struggles. As Fox reported, when on Stephen Colbert’s show, Pratt was asked whether “he feels like he’s ever metaphorically in a lion’s den because of his immense fame.”
Quoting Christian leader Christine Caine, Pratt said: “If the spotlight that’s shining on you is brighter than the light that comes from within you, it’ll kill you. And you see it all the time. People in our position, people that are actors, you see it a lot. It’s a real bright spotlight.”
When Kanye takes the stage this weekend at Joel Osteen‘s Lakewood Church in Houston, a mega church featuring Osteen on television and through other social media platforms with an estimated audience of 10 million U.S. viewers weekly, his voice will be amplified. But it’s important to remember who the actual spotlight should be on when we share our faith: not on ourselves but on Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons people are drawn to West is his effervescent joy and passion of new faith. New believers often have a zeal for telling their story to everyone who will listen, unrestrained by the pushback from the culture. That’s refreshing. For those of us who have walked that path longer, we need to pray for new believers and allow their joy to inspire us.
The Apostle Paul was a celebrity convert in his day. Before his conversion, he was a great theologian who chose to persecute and arrest early follows of Jesus. After he became a Christian, he spent a few years in relative isolation, understanding and learning what it meant to follow Christ.
Paul’s example is instructive for all new believers: He was ready for public ministry only after taking some time outside of the limelight and spending quality time alone with God. Paul went on to become one of the most significant missionaries in church history who also wrote a third of the New Testament.
In Ephesians, he prays for fellow believers, writing: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
I pray that same prayer for Kanye West and all new believers, and I welcome them to the family. By faith in Jesus Christ, we can do anything, and I look forward to seeing what lies ahead for all of us.