Maybe you saw Kris Allen win this year's American Idol title this week. What you may or may not know is that Kris is a real-deal Christian and leads worship at New Life Church in Maumelle, Arkansas.
Does this mean anything, though?
Often we hear of "Christians" in the spotlight, who for a brief moment get a spotlight from the church until something awkward comes out of their lives. For instance, Jessica Simpson originally toured as a Christian singer and talked about the virtue of virginity. Then in 2001 she appeared in some sexually-themed photos for a men's magazine, causing quite a stir because of the divisive message. There was also that Katy Perry song "I Kissed A Girl" that raised eyebrows, for Katy used to tour as Katy Hudson in the Christian circles as well.
Then there's the spotlight on Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean who attracted nationwide attention when asked about same-sex marriage during the 2009 Miss USA pageant. Much has been said on this topic, and if you have the time I'd suggest watching this video: http://www.therocksandiego.org/stories/misscalifornia/
Who else can we throw into the spotlight? Ted Haggard - the ex-pastor who was caught soliciting a male prostitute? How about Jon and Kate Gosselin who are talked about more these days for their marital issues than their faith?
How about me?
(cue record scratch sound)
Yeah, I said it. How about me?
To even have this blog, using my real name, is a risk. It exposes my thoughts on good days and bad days, from 3pm to 3am. I've had people read things I write here as a person on a spiritual journey and presume I speak in an official, definitive manner for my church. In fact, there are posts I have in a draft form that I keep pondering and praying if I should ever put up because while many could receive them in context, others couldn't. Maybe one day I will.
And that's my point - I am aware that my life is most turned up when I think it's turned down. The time on a Sunday morning that I teach is meant to be a challenge to my church, but it is also an invitation for them to watch my life and see if I live like I lead (which is the only place you truly ever lead anyway).
So when I walk in the video store, I feel the eyes of people on me, wondering where I'll stop and what I'll look at. If I am wearing a t-shirt from our church and have an issue with someone in public - like a rude employee or waiter somewhere I'm at - I second-guess if I can confront them. When I purchase a movie ticket, I'm green-lighting others to go see it, too. Maybe you get what I mean here... as a Christian and pastor, people look at my life with interest.
Just the other day I stepped on a bug in front of my driveway. One of my neighbors ribbed me about it, challenging me on if I should as a Christian/pastor take the life of one of God's creatures. It was all in humor, and I took no offense. But the awareness is there in him for a reason... I ask for it by calling myself a Christ-follower.
And then there is the issue of hot topics that many people inside and outside the church think about. If I am for or against something and publicly say so, I run the risk of alienating others who have a softer or harder view on the topic. Using the Miss USA example again, the young woman didn't say anything different than President Obama said regarding his stance on marriage... only he was voted in, and she lost her contest. I believe in the next 20 years churches who choose conservative stances on controversial matters will suffer in similar fashion as well, while other churches spring up around the corner with softer, more inclusive stances on such matters.
That spotlight is on me, too. When a hot topic comes up, I feel as if everyone waits for my answer so they can either throw a kiss or throw a rock. People interested in visiting our church ask me all the time through my church email "What kind of church are you when it comes to homosexuality?" I always wonder on what side of the fence they ask that question, because the truth is that heterosexual sin angers God as does homosexual sin... but He loves the people who struggle with either, and both do and must have a place in the Church.
(In fact, even as I write this post I am watching in the background a public service ad on TV warning teenagers to not use the word "gay" loosely. I agree... and yet I find myself wondering if/when we'll ever see an ad that attempts to say anything critical on the topic of homosexuality and gay marriage... and if so, would it last longer than a week... and might that obvious imbalance of perspective impact the clarity of how the next generation sees the topic?)
My point in writing what I have is to simply say that the spotlight is a powerful thing. We may fear it and run from it, or we may abuse it to make a buck from every angle we can. Or maybe... just maybe... we can forget about it and live as consistent a life we can in it, hoping that our occasional hypocrisy helps people see the need for a Savior and His very real presence in us.
Oh yeah, I am a hypocrite. Not on purpose, but because God's not done with me yet.
How do you handle the spotlight? Do you make your faith a "private" matter because you're afraid of what standards you'd be challenged with if it was public? Or do you abuse the spotlight and put on a happy face that kills any authenticity in you?
Maybe there is something to Kris Allen winning American Idol. Maybe his missionary work around the world - from Burma, Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa, Spain and Thailand - will allow his music to have a certain kind of seasoned authenticity to it. Maybe His relationship with Jesus Christ will be more than a religious thing we clap for at a concert or when he says something nice about God at the Grammys, but it is something that inspires fans in a true "inspirational" way.
Maybe you will see what I mean in this video of Kris leading worship of the only One we are meant to idolize in the first place.