Christian Celebrity Fan-Boy, Or Francis Chan’s Houdini Act

For all the noise we generate about being set apart from our world and our culture, Christians (as always my posts specifically refer to most American Christians) sure do mirror the very culture they despise so much.

I mean just listen to the popular music we create – it sounds exactly like music you hear on the radio – just poorer quality and 3 years late.

Similarly, these days our Christian leaders are practically celebrities. You can download every sermon someone preaches, read every blog they post or every article they publish, follow ever tweet they make and catch up on every interview they do. You can buy their merchandise, and you can even get them to sign it if you are so fortunate to catch them live! These days pastors/preachers/teachers/whatever put out a lot of material, and you don’t have to miss a beat.

You can be a fan-boy (or girl) of a pastor, a religious groupie of sorts.

In many ways, Francis Chan was on his way to being Christianity’s next big thing. I’d say he was 2009’s most talked about new pastor –  this sensation out of Cali who was bringing the heat (thankfully not the hellfire kind of heat) and laying down convicting sermons and messages, “messing up” a  lot of Christians. His book “Crazy Love” was like a revolution in the church – becoming the book to read, being the latest craze ala “Blue Like Jazz” or “The Purpose Driven Life.” Everywhere you turned you hear someone blown away by this guy.

For crying out loud he was the next person to take over doing cool videos for the same company that did Rob Bell’s Noomas. He was a big deal.

I say “was,” because in April of this year he took a step back. He left the church he began and was pastoring, and has been incredibly scarce publicly. No more interviews, tweets, podcasts, blogs, sermons, and I believe almost no conference appearances. The train came to a halt.

In a video on his website, finally explaining just a wee bit about his disappearing act (that is not a marketing ploy!),  he said one of the reasons is so he can take an honest look at his life and see how the fame, glory and veneration has messed with his head.

(I couldn’t embed the video, so here is a link, let me know if it doesn’t work)

I think it’s great that someone has finally admitted there is a downside to this whole thing – that we can lift up our leaders and idolize them. And I think its equally as bold for him to step down. I’m not a Francis Chan “fan,” I didn’t particularly enjoy “Crazy Love,” or think of him as the next Martin Luther as some may have, but I can admire this.

I think we can easily substitute anything or anyone for God. His vagueness, invisibility, other-worldlyness lends itself to this, and so we can latch onto something else. And in our Western culture, we grasp the wrist of whatever hot new celebrity we can. So let’s take a step back from this beast and realize our relationship is with God, not only our fancy teachers.

Are you a fanboy for anyone (I’ll admit I have been, maybe still am for one or two)? What are your thoughts on this trend? What else can we learn from Francis? (See, even in his absence we are still getting material from him!)

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16 Responses to Christian Celebrity Fan-Boy, Or Francis Chan’s Houdini Act

  1. jay @ bethegospel says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if him stepping out of the light makes him even more elevated because of why he was doing it. “Someone finally being humble!?” Let’s write an article and interview him about that!

    I’m a fan boy of David Platt (Church at Brook Hills) for sure.

  2. David says:

    Good post and a sobering message. I think that folks either idolize others (People Magazine), or they say they don’t and pretend to hate celebrities because of some secret jealousy – or I suppose, like me, I don’t give a rat about what the commercial heroes of the faith do.

    I am friends on Facebook with some of the big guys because I know them. It’s too bad, but their FB posts seem to be more advertising for the next big conference than substance. There is one guy who tweets from him mission trips, and I enjoy hearing about what God is doing, not the theory thereof.

    It has taken many years for me to come to the place where I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about Christianity. Sure, I read a few blogs because it makes me think. I don’t listen to anyone else’s sermons or Christian radio – I am hard pressed to follow on Sunday morning. I read the Word a little each day, pray a lot, love others as best I can, and listen for the Holy Spirit in prayer and for words of encouragement.

    Interestingly I have 3 books in the works, and honestly, now that I spent all that time on them, it is better that I live it than share it.

    What matters to others is that God is real, not how many books one publishes. Even your rant about Christian music – if God inspires <someone to write something that makes a difference, awesome. If He doesn't, then shut up. But it seems we are quick to label things Christian that are not. And interestingly, there are some things that are truly Jesus the folks call Satan. IE: The gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    I recently read a couple of Christian books, but was only impressed by one. The other one was great at dismantling the myth of the corporate religious church, but didn’t really offer solutions. It basically repackaged church in a smaller version.

    This book called for a change in the way we actually do things. It's a free PDF.
    Continuing the Reformation

    It addresses some many issues in a thoughtful “let God do it” way, while inspiring believers to participate in what God is actually doing.

  3. Jane Reneau says:

    When I was a lot younger than I am now, I used to be sort of like the “fan-girl” you describe, but I think I was more in love with the things promoted rather than the people promoting them (Max Lucado, etc.). I’ve never been overly impressed with people especially not when I’m told I should be or when they seem overly impressed with themselves.

    I know very little about Francis Chan and this surge of popularity for his book, etc. last year – I don’t really pay attention to all the newest Christian hype (and I think it is really funny what you said about the music – I have thought that for a long time while still enjoying much of it anyway). For some reason it started cheese-ing me out so I have not gone back to see what is what and who is who. However, my small group just started reading Crazy Love and I am in the first chapter (just blogged about it yesterday in fact). I’m interested simply because despite all the hullabaloo that accompanies books and men of this sort, I do want my life to mirror what he talks about in his book (or what he claims to talk about – I’ve just started so I don’t yet really know much).

    Anyway, great post.

    • I imagine some of the fan-girl/boyness disappears with years, it may be more a young phenomenon – especially in today’s culture. Enjoy Crazy Love, it is indeed a challenging book – my only issue with it is something I wrote about recently on here – that with books like that its trying to inspire people to get off their butts and do something, which isn’t a bad thing. But ultimately lists of “you should do this ____” or “Christians should care for the poor” don’t actually cause us to care about those things – only God moving in our heart will truly get us to care and therefore act.

  4. Hey Charlie (if that is your name). Came by way of jay’s blog. Thanks for writing this. I applaud Francis if for nothing else than to get off the train. I “admire” someone who is willing to be honest and say, “Whoa, back this train up boys. Something is happening to me that I don’t like.” As for being a fan-boy I can say that in the past Chuck Swindoll and some others really excited me. I do like Ed Underwood these days and Tullian Tchvidjan’s work. But I try to keep in mind they put their pants on the same way as I do. As for music; I got disillusioned long time ago. I would just as soon listen to some 70s & 80s rock music than some hyped up copy cat. Just my .02 worth.

    • Hey Bill welcome! My name is indeed Charlie, I know my blog name probably sounds crazy, and I truly did try out “Chris’ Church of Christ” or “Carl’s Church of Christ” in my head, but they didn’t sound as good.

      Ed actually mentors a big-name pastor up here in my town (Bend, Oregon), and comes up to speak a few times a year. I only go to that church now when my daughter needs a nap and my home church doesn’t start for another half hour. Sounds like I finally should check out his book, and resist fanboyhood.

      • I’m in Bend and I attend “that church”. My experience there has changed my life. After being a pastor’s wife in a leading denomination for 15 years, I was ready to abandon church altogether.
        I’m so interested in these conversations. I’m not quite sure where I will finally land on the issue of “Church”.

      • well welcome Shawnee – to this “church.” Though it’s not a church like we think of them, we’ve got more than three people gathered so its something like one (albeit digital).

        I attended “that” church for the first 2 something years I was in Bend (yeah, I go back to the movie theater days) and I even met my wife there, but we decided to go to a different church for a variety of reasons.

  5. Su says:

    I was about to say “I did that when I was a teenager” and then realised that that’s pretty much what I put in all my comments. Geez, I must have stopped breathing when I turned 20, or something.

    So, to answer your question: Not really. Sometimes I’ll go to the websites for the churches I used to attend, and I’ll listen to a sermon if I am so moved, but that’s more of a “reconnecting” kind of thing for me than a fangirl thing.

  6. Angela says:

    That’s a pretty brave move. I can imagine how difficult it would be to step down from the spotlight. Especially when you’re in the spotlight for being so “godly”. I bet it’s easy to convince yourself that your heart is in fine condition when everyone is telling you how much you’ve helped them spiritually or how insightful you are. Props to him. Maybe I should read his book.

    • oh yeah the classic “God is on my side” move – 60% of the time it gets people every time. (I don’t even know what movie thats from). Anyway I think anytime someone’s ministry is successful they take it to mean they are on the right track and they are doing fine – because otherwise God wouldn’t grow their ministry. I smell a future post!

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