I come from a world of fashion and celebrities.

That statement probably seems a little far-fetched if you know me well. After all, a girl from a little town in south Texas [and when I say 'little', I am referring to a grand metropolis composed of exactly one gas station, one blinking light, and lots of pasture land] doesn't exactly run across movie stars at the 7-11. Apparently, cow pies and cactus are not desirable mood setters in a celebrity environment.

But it's true. There is a select group of people in the church organization I grew up in that can only be considered bonafide celebrities. Even though the majority of Christians - and non-Christians - wouldn't recognize them, in this church culture, they ARE the VIP list, darlin'. They're the trendsetters, too - their conference outfits will be copied by every fashion-forward churchgoer in the group, however tragic those fashion choices may be.

Trust me when I say tragic, y'all. The 'poof' was never, EVER a good idea.

And yet, that's how we rolled.

For a really fancy church event? You have to get someone, as one pastor told me, that 'will draw a crowd'. Lucky members of the aforementioned crowd will be subjected to enjoy warbling renditions of contemporary Christian songs, overblown, memorized prayers to The God Of Abraham, Isaac, And Jacob, and fill-in-the-blank exhortations from celebrity visitors.

It's an HONOR AND JOY, I tell you.

But it's also wrong, not only in the sense that it is often truly a travesty to witness, but also because God doesn't have grandchildren.

In fact, His Word is pretty clear on the whole celebrity thing. He says things like this:

"You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Luke 16:15

And this:

"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. " Romans 1:25

I'm not a fan of the church celebrity culture, and thankfully, my current church is far removed from that lifestyle. But the subject popped up in my radar again recently. Due to an upcoming church event, there has been a 500% increase in the posting of youtube videos of worship songs on Facebook. [500% may be a 400% exaggeration, but who keeps track of those things, anyway?] In these videos, church veeps, many whom I have known [and by 'have known', I mean 'also wouldn't speak to me on the street today'] sing and worship and exhort. Church veeps who will, no doubt, be center stage at all important junctures during the event.

Will [name] sing the most solos because her dad is [name], even though her voice is shrill and pitchy, her manner is affected and showy, and her attitude elitist and arrogant? Will [name] have the best clothes because they're a [name] and therefore, will be lifted high as the embodiment of all things fashion? Will [names] be there, crowded into an impenetrable human fortress of a clique, refusing to acknowledge anyone with less than a 3-generation pedigree?

As much as I am excited about the things God is doing for His children, and as deeply thankful as I am for pioneers in the church, it saddens me that I already know the answers. See, I've been in the room when event planners crossed out the names of truly talented singers and musicians with no glory among men [and women] in favor of church veeps with a fraction of their musical blessings. I've seen people with God-given talents for the arts ridiculed, to the point of emotional pain and severe self-esteem issues, for a fashion statement or creation that would be applauded as Just The Thing on a church veep. And I've heard the callous, arrogant jokes of church veeps, taking lightly the precious things of God that they so devoutly proclaim on platforms all around America.

See, skill and merit have no bearing in the world of celebrity. A veep's poularity is based entirely upon who that person is, rather than what that person does. But here's the deal - Jesus is more interested in integrity than celebrity.

It breaks my heart that so many well-meaning church members have allowed celebrity to replace integrity in their leaders. It saddens me that this year alone there will be hundreds, even thousands of people who will go through the pain of being overlooked, forgotten, or misused because of a hero worship mentality that leaves no room for those that God has blessed with gifts that could very well revolutionize the church.

The church was never designed to be an exclusive club. Jesus never called His servants to crown themselves. He never gave permission to church leaders to set themselves up as royalty. In fact, we are commanded to nurture the gifts of those who come in to the kingdom after us. And He tells us to work out our own salvation, on a personal level [Phil. 2:12b-13]. On His terms. As equals in the kingdom.

And most importantly, He calls each of us, regardless of pedigree [1 Peter 2:9-10]. His grace is not exclusive to a certain family or social circle. You are His. You are every bit as loved and cherished by God as any Christian on the planet.

And that?

That's just how He rolls.

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