Tim Tebow, maybe the most famous Christian in America, made news again this week as the featured speaker at an Easter service in Austin, Texas. A crowd of 15,000 people turned out to hear the NFL quarterback share his testimony with the Celebration Church, with some driving from as far as 100 miles away.
Tebow spoke of his faith and the need for professional athletes to take more seriously their place as role models in today’s culture. He had a special word for those athletes who say they’re not a role model: “Yes you are. You’re just not a good one.”
Tebow’s a very good role model. Admired by Christians and non-Christians alike he’s one of a rare breed: a celebrity who’s managed to live out his faith with unquestioned authenticity under the glare of the public spotlight.
We loved his Easter message. We loved it because he spoke clearly about Jesus’ resurrection. We loved it that so many people turned out to hear him and that the national media gave him such wide coverage. We loved it because he represents the Christian message so clearly and compellingly.
We loved it also because Tebow’s a fervent believer in Jesus who’s tall, strong, rich, handsome, humble and a professional athlete. We loved his Easter message because Tebow’s a celebrity. And that’s where we run into a problem.
I’m not at all criticizing Tim Tebow. I believe him to be as genuine a person as he comes across in all his interviews and public appearances. I wish there were more like him! But I’m wondering about, especially, the evangelical church’s fascination with all things Tebow. Our preoccupation with, not him per se but with his celebrity status, says something about us.
What’s going on with us? Why do we love Christian celebrities like we do? More to the point, why do we evaluate our own success as followers of Jesus with that of famous Christians in the public eye?
Voyeurism, whether by a believer or non-believer, amounts to the same thing. We look at someone on the public stage and at some level adopt their lives as our own. We observe how they’re richer, prettier, smarter, more spiritual, more athletic or more successful than we are and so vicariously live through them.
I’m just wondering if we love Tebow because in some way his success validates our own longings for acceptance into the culture around us. And if that’s the case, what does that say about our own degree of spiritual maturity?
A successful follower of Jesus pays attention to his or her own path more than someone else’s. Our churches can’t be evaluated by comparison to celebrities but by our fidelity to Jesus. Maybe it’s time for us to focus less on celebrities and more on the quiet, authentic workings of grace in our own lives.
There was another Easter message I heard of in my own church this past Sunday. One of our Sunday School classes had only one person present beside the teacher, a young adult woman. The teacher could have simply cancelled the class, but she didn’t. Instead, she faithfully taught the day’s lesson on Jesus’ resurrection.
At the end of the lesson, the class member was obviously moved and asked if she could hear more about Jesus. And there with just the two of them in the classroom, the teacher told her how Jesus’ love and grace can change our lives. The two of them then prayed together and she asked Jesus into her heart as Savior and Lord.
No celebrities were present in that Sunday School classroom. No national media. No large crowds. No spotlight’s glare. Instead, just two people seeking the Lord together. I believe that’s an Easter message that really matters.