Idolatry of Christian influencers is becoming more apparent in the Church. It is a culture that did not just begin recently but has already been occurring since biblical times. Christian influencers are people called by God for a designated public role such as teaching or shepherding, introducing biblical influence into the world. However, nowadays, popular Christian influencers are sometimes held to unrealistic standards, almost as if they were on par with the Creator. Therefore how can we have a healthier view of influencers?
The main problems
The idolatry of Christian influencers poses two main problems:
- When influencers fall, it may cause others to question the validity of the bible and the power of the saving Gospel. Imagine you have been walking with a man, trusting him and his teaching wholeheartedly and all of a sudden, he falls. You begin to question the validity of his morals and values. This problem arises when we form a relationship with man but not the Author who created man.
- It lessens the work of lesser known influencers. The culture currently growing elevates influencers who have a bigger church, a larger following or perhaps, more views on platforms such as Youtube. Bigger influencers are thus stereotyped to always speak the truth in contrast to smaller influencers. However, it is important for us to remember that the Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It is easier to misconstrue the word of God to entice the public than it is to speak the true Word of God and be hated.
Idolatry of man
Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?1 Corinthians 1:13
Although it is highlighted that we should honour those who work for the Lord (1 Thes 5:12), it is also equally highlighted that no-one must be exalted above God because all have fallen short (Rom 3:23). We can see this in the book of Corinthians where the people of Corinth were quarreling over who to follow. Paul’s reply highlights the idea that man is not perfect, and a mere man cannot offer salvation. It is important to understand that despite how good a Christian influencer is; we shouldn’t exalt them above the One who gave His life for us. This is not to say we shouldn’t acknowledge their work for the Lord, but we should be careful not to idolise them or elevate them above Christ.
Check with the original source
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.Matthew 7:15
It is important to check every influencer’s word you look up to with that of Scripture. All Scripture is “inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true” (2 Timothy 3:16). Furthermore, Jesus said that “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The Scriptures are affirmed many times to be the only authoritative word, second to none. Therefore, every word spoken by an influencer of Christ should be tested against the blueprint and not blindly followed. This is not a call to criticise influencers as everyone is prone to make mistakes, however it is a call to prevent young Christians from following what sounds biblical, but to be biblical in their lives.
An example of this includes Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the wilderness. Satan twisted scripture to entice Jesus, however because Jesus knew the true Word, Satan was unsuccessful. This is how important it is for us to check everything with the Word. Anything can sound ‘biblical,’ anything can sound sweet to the ears, but not everything is biblical.
Mistake or Heresy?
As aforementioned, everyone may make a mistake from time to time, perhaps in the wording of Scripture or a confusing explanation. It is important for us to understand that a mistake doesn’t necessarily warrant the title of a ‘false preacher’ or ‘heretic’. We should therefore be careful with the words we use to label people, especially those who work for the Lord.
Those in the public eye, although it may not be apparent, are under pressure to deliver the message of the Lord to the public. Inevitably, any call to strike them down in the process may affect them in the long run. A similar story occurs in 1 Kings 19, where Elijah flees from his town due to fear, pleading for death from the Lord. Although the reason for this example may be more extreme, the concept still remains. At the end of the day, even influencers are human and we should be careful in the way we treat them.
The Word of God should be like the air that we breathe, something we cannot live without. We need to understand that someone called to influence the public has been specifically chosen by God. This shouldn’t take away from the fact that we should read our bibles, develop our relationships with the Lord and spread the Gospel to whom we can spread to. The presence of an influencer should not diminish the work that Jesus gave to all who believe.