I have a confession.
I have, at some point in my ministry, publicly bashed Britney Spears.
It’s true. I have stood in front of an audience of teenagers and preached against a lifestyle of excess and pride and indulgence, and I personified that lifestyle by putting a name on it – Britney.
“Do NOT live your life like Britney Spears lives hers!”
I definitely remember saying that, and I’m telling you right now I’m not proud of it. Sometimes in ministry we find it very easy to vilify someone or something to make our point, and we do it constantly with celebrities. To the paparazzi celebrities are easy targets, fair game for the latest sordid headline or breaking story in the pages of Us Weekly. To those of us in youth ministry they can be just as easy a target – a name and a face to put on a sinful lifestyle we want to convince our kids to stay away from.
But let me ask you a question. Would you ever stand in front of your youth group and preach a message on staying sexually pure and then use the name of a young man in your ministry that you know is struggling with pornography as an example?
“Don’t be like Timmy, who looks at porn on his computer when no one is home!”
What about a message on drinking? Would you ever say something like, “Don’t do what Trisha did last weekend – she went to a party and got so drunk she threw up all over her best friend!”
No way you would ever do something like that! No youth minister in her right mind would ever call her own kids out like that, using them and their struggles just to make a point.
So why is it we feel like people we don’t know are fair game, especially celebrities? Are we that unable to illustrate the benefits of following Christ that we have to publicly humiliate people whose sin is a little more visible than ours?
I’m arguing this – do not bash celebrities in your talk, sermons, conversations, etc. Resist the urge to create a villain in the story you are trying to tell unless it is Satan or yourself – follow Paul’s example in saying that he himself was “public sinner number one.” (1 Tim. 1:15, The Message)
Could you imagine if Britney would have been there the day I had given that talk? I don’t know who would have felt more embarrassed – her or me. I’m ashamed to admit it, but they say confession is good for the soul: I was a Britney basher.
But not any more.
“God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” (John 3:17, The Message)
Let’s imitate Jesus in our ministry, not pointing fingers and accusing people (whether they’re celebrities or sophomores), but instead let’s do our best to help and put the world right again through our words and our actions. Are you with me on this one?