"For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober…" - 2 Timothy 4:3-5
There is, unfortunately, such a thing as Christian celebrity. There are book deals, all-star conferences, lectures and more. And, in a culture where everything is about marketing, Christians are not immune to its allure.
Don't get me wrong. We need public theologians. We need people who can translate the Christian message into language that resonates with our times. But the church does not need celebrities.
The author of the 2 Timothy tells us to stay "sober." I don't think they were talking about alcohol there. Instead, the author wants us to be sober, and use our best judgement, as we consider what we are being taught. To me, that means don't get carried away with the teachings of one pastor or writer or public thinker. Instead, test what you are hearing against what you know about Christ. Read broadly and critically. Dare to say, "I don't agree."
And above all, know this: putting your ultimate trust in any Christian public figure will inevitably lead to disappointment. They are going to mess up. They are going to get it wrong sometimes. And they are going to let you down. That's okay. They're human. That's their job.
Your job, though, is to make sure that you haven't so conflated their ideas about who Christ is with your own. That way, if you ever lose your faith in them, you won't lose it in what matters the most.
God, in a world filled with celebrities of all kinds, help us stay sober enough to put our greatest trust in you. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.