Have you read the Miley Cyrus quote in the recent Christianity Today:
“My faith is very important to me. But I don’t necessarily define my faith by going to church every Sunday. Because now when I go to church, I feel like it’s a show.”
Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “Church sure has come a long way in the past generation. In the old days we’d go to church, sit quietly in our pews, listen to the organ music, stand up for the hymns, listen to a sermon, shake some hands, and then go home. Now they have stages, bands, lights and fancy electronics. It’s just a show.” That would certainly be one possible contextualization of the quote. If we want to get young folks like Miley Cyrus in our churches, so we would then reason, we need to get rid of the show, and get back to the basics. We need simple traditional worship, instead of the Show.
But in the original context (thanks to my wife for pointing this out), immediately after the quote, she adds, “There are always cameras outside.” With this addition we see that the Show she’s speaking of is not inside the church, but outside. The problem here (might be elsewhere) is not that worship has become a show, but that her fame and the way fame works in our culture ensure that there is a show wherever she goes in public. If I were the pastor of her church I would see this is a problem also: How do we engage in worship of Jesus when someone with so much more star power, by our reckoning at least, is in our midst, someone who generates more obvious adoration?
One solution is to stop acting on the fame of the people around us. If we become hardened, apathetic or indifferent to the fame of others, we might find ourselves in a place where we can worship and adore Jesus even if Miley Cyrus (or President Obama or any other famous people) are present.
That solution, however, won’t be much help to Miley Cyrus, at least not in the short term. Some few folks might succeed in turning from the allure of fame, but surely such a move will be a stretch for the multitudes, especially for those who enjoy it so much. The other solution would be for Miley Cyrus and others to avoid the affliction of fame on their side. Given our way of doing things, sounds pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?
When we consider the benefits of fame – the adoring crowds, the plentiful money – why would anyone want to avoid fame? I can imagine that the Christian, the follower of Jesus, might want to avoid fame so she or he would not be isolated from life in the Body of Christ. If salvation is only going to heaven when we die (or, as some put it, “Pie in the Sky, by and by), then we can get by without the Body of Christ. But when we read the New Testament, we see that life together as worshipers, followers, and lovers of Jesus, able to stand each other because we’ve been reconciled through his blood, is part of salvation itself. Church – taken as the life of the saints lived together here and now – is part of what the bible means by salvation. Therefore, when we have a fame system, we not only hurt the church by the possible substitution of idols for Jesus, but we also keep people away – or build fences to keep ourselves away.