Seems like Christian conferences are all the rage these days. One particular conference experienced quite the Twitter storm recently, while others were dogged and plagued by rivals and factions of Christianity. Leaders trumpeted their own brand of Christianity as the best and most truest form of what Jesus tried to bring us, but ultimately failed at it because he wasn’t as gifted, good looking, or white as some contemporary preachers.
And quite honestly it made me feel a bit ashamed at the celebrity culture pervasive in Christianity.
The biographies of the leaders at one conference touted their skill, charisma, and capacity to maintain large buildings and budgets. Their accomplishments were things like, “took a small group of people that met in a living room and he turned it into one of the largest churches in North America.” Really, he did?
Another one was touted as the inventor of a large church strategy that practiced on every continent in the world and across hundreds of countries.
And then I thought: I wonder what conference Jesus would speak at, or even be invited to speak at?
He’s too liberal for some and too conservative for others.
He’s too pansy for this one guy. Jesus couldn’t speak at his conference because this pastor could beat him up.
He’s not white enough for others, doesn’t have enough money and didn’t make enough disciples to be of much worth. In three years of ministry he only got twelve, and most of those betrayed him when it mattered most. Jesus’ batting average at disciple-making was around thirty percent. He might make a good baseball player, but was a lousy leader and discipler.
In yesterday’s post we began to look at celebrity church culture and the need to tell our story well. That’s why I don’t think Jesus would speak at any of our modern conferences, or even be invited to any of them.
And it’s not because conferences, speakers, and a desire to collaborate and learn from others are bad things. I think they’re good a thing, they can even be great things. I’ve been to conferences and plan on attending more in the future.
The problem is that we’ve traded in our narrative for that of the fancy, good looking pastors with talent, charisma, and the ability to create a culture of fear. We touted tough manly leadership as the preferred style for pastors, instead of people marked by the compassion and grace of the gospel. We’ve decided that it’s better to run the church like a business instead of like a family gathering. We’ve made pastors employees and CEO’s instead of servants.
So you won’t find Jesus at any conference. He’s too divisive and confrontational.
But you will find him in the slums, the back alleys, and the shelters.
He won’t be driving a nice car and wearing a name brand suit.
But he will be carrying a water jar and a basin.
He’s not going to show up with a pressed shirt, edgy graphic T, or custom trimmed pants.
Instead, he’ll have a dirty face, unkempt hair, and rags. His shoes will barely fit and he might smell a little bit.
Jesus is out there, we just need to know where to look.
So don’t expect the next Christian conference you attend to a life-altering, world shaping experience. It will have it’s great moments, and you may learn a lot. But it’s not a magic pill or quick fix. Our love with American consumerism has greatly tarnished the image and disciple-making power of the church.
Effective, incarnational and missional living isn’t easy. But it is right. It was Jesus did, and it is what he calls us to do. Find ways to tell the story of your community in light of God’s great grace.
This is effective, incarnational mission:
This is part two in a look at celebrity Christian culture. You can read part one here.