Every once in a while a church will bring in a guest preacher to fill in for the pastor or have a special service in celebration of some holiday. In most churches, this is not uncommon. In some churches, they will even invite a famous Christian. By famous I mean an actor, an athlete, or a politician.
Recently, one church in our city invited an Olympic athlete that won gold medals in the recent Olympic games in Brazil. The church advertised from the past couple of months since the games ended. I did not take part of the service (I was at my church), but I did watch the video. The pastor introduced the athlete and proceeded to do an interview style "message" for the service. What I did not mention is this happened on a Sunday morning. Yes, instead of the pastor preaching the word of God to equip the saints, he interview the athlete about her accomplishments and faith. This went for over 20 minutes before the pastor gave an opportunity for people to respond to an invitation, which is another topic for another post.
You might be saying, what is wrong with what that church did or we need to hear celebrities that are believers to share their story with the people of God. So I am going to answer the question, should a church allow a Christian celebrity to speak in their service? The answer is yes and no. I think there is a right way and a wrong way for a church to have an athlete or any other celebrity come and give their testimony to the congregation. How should a church conduct itself when they have a Christian celebrity speak to their congregation?
First, if a church wants to have a Christian celebrity give their testimony, it needs to be during another time instead of Sunday morning. Yes, Sunday morning is where a majority of the congregation attends, but the purpose of a Sunday morning is for the worship of God and the preaching of His word. If a church wants to have a Christian celebrity come for a special Saturday service, that would be fine or even Sunday night. The church I attended did that a few times where an athlete came and gave his testimony on Sunday evening. Sunday morning is where the largest crowd will be, which is an opportunity for the gospel to be preached. Not to mention, it might be tempting for Christians in other church to not attend their church's worship service for the sake of hearing and seeing a famous person.
Second, the pastor needs to step aside. People are coming to hear the celebrities story of faith not the pastor. If you want to have an opportunity for him/her to answer questions, get them from the congregation. Let the celebrity share how he/she met Jesus and what God has done in their life. In this case with an athlete, let him/her have a little freedom to share what God has done instead of being interviewed. They get interviewed enough from ESPN and any other sports network.
Finally, make much of Jesus, not the celebrity. During the introduction to the athlete, the pastor of the church I mentioned said she was at their church because she is an Olympic champion. He went on and on about her accomplishments without saying she is a dedicated follower of Jesus. Yes, her faith was mentioned in various times, but she was more spoken of than Jesus. This sets up idolatry where we see how great this athlete is rather than God.
Our culture loves celebrities. We love to gossip about them, whether we speak or read about them. There is nothing wrong for a church to invite a Christian celebrity to come, but I think there are ways that can be done to honor God without compromising what the church's mission is suppose to be.