Back in the 70s, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber came out with a rock opera loosely based on the life of Jesus Christ. It was called JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and created quite a stir, especially among the evangelical community because of the way it portrayed Jesus and some of the key events in His life. I remember well an elder’s son in our church inviting me (a preacher’s son) to take his personal copy of the double album to our local church where we could play it on the church’s sound system. We both felt as if we were committing a capital offense. If we’d have gotten caught we probably would’ve received capital punishment or something close.
Years later, when I finally saw the movie – something I wasn’t permitted to do as a teenager – I remember thinking some of the music was alright but, at best, it was a very average movie. Several years ago, the Broadway version of the rock opera came to Fort Worth and a friend gave us tickets on the second row. More out of curiosity than anything else, we went. It had been years since I had even thought about the movie. When intermission came, I turned to my wife and said, “No wonder my parents were offended by this,” and we counted the minutes until it was over. I found a number of things to be offensive, and few that were authentic representations. Hollywood and Broadway still don’t do a very good job portraying Jesus accurately.
But what about the church? How accurate are we when it comes to portraying Jesus to a sin-centered, cynical world? Truth is, the Jesus of the Bible was no superstar. In fact, He intentionally avoided any such characterization of His life or ministry. He refused to be a superSTAR and instead wanted to be a superSERVANT. He said, “For the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Unfortunately, in the contemporary church, too many of those who claim to represent Jesus seem disinterested with the superservant idea and are instead, seeking and even pursuing superstar status in their respective church or ministry.
How do we explain televangelists/ministers with their own private jets and entourages rivaling and even exceeding the excesses of Hollywood? Or gospel music groups and individual artists who claim what they do is a ministry, yet demand 15-page contracts and 5-figure guarantees before they will even consider coming to “minister?” Or preachers renting arenas to preach and then charging money for people to come hear about God’s free gift of salvation? (Years ago, Charles Spurgeon, the famous Baptist pastor, used to hand out tickets at his church for their Sunday night services to control the crowds. He even encouraged church people to stay home, so there would be more room for the lost. By the way, his tickets were free and the impact of his ministry incalculable.)
The disappointing frequency of temper tantrums in church after church is a travesty defying explanation. How do we explain leaders/teachers who quit the church when they aren’t allowed to do things “their way,” and take their disciples with them? Or music ministry members who suddenly feel led to drop out because they weren’t allowed to use their gift or were overlooked in the selection of upcoming soloists for Sunday services? Unfortunately, the examples are so numerous you can fill in the blank. Some misguided church members apparently view hurt feelings as some kind of spiritual gift and pity parties as some kind of mature, spiritual response. (Neither are spiritual nor mature, and both certainly are not a gift, in any way, to anyone.)
The church can’t afford to excuse the lack of servant-hood and absence of submission on the part of so many who claim to follow Jesus. We should challenge it, confront it and hopefully, change it. This is a tall order given the whole superstar culture we’ve created in evangelical Christianity with both leaders and followers who, rather than viewing themselves as servants, see themselves as those who should be served.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR? Hardly. His single-minded passion was to serve and to “do the will of Him Who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) He was the One Who left the majestic magnificence of Heaven for a cattle stall filled with the unseemly smell of manure. He is the One Who exchanged the perks and privileges He rightly deserved for a towel and basin to wash the feet of those who didn’t.
He is the One Who confronted His disciples when they argued over who would get the special seats of honor and who was the greatest among them, by saying, “Not so with you!” (Matthew 20:23-27) He is also the One Who said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say. ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)
So, since Jesus wasn’t a superstar but rather a superservant ... what should you and I be?
© 2013. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.