Friday, August 12, 2011

The idol of acceptance and popularity

Way too many Christians put popularity ahead of their obedience to Christ. This is absolutely evident in the number of youth who walk away from their faith when they no longer fit in a youth group. It is equally evident in the fact that youth groups are often, maybe even in my church, a place that youth feel more popular. I know this is often the goal of church leaders and parents. They hope that youth group is a place where the young Christians can find acceptance with their peers.

That doesn't seem too wrong. We want our children to be accepted by Christian peers rather than be lost in the wrong crowd. The problem is that when that is the goal of youth group, the real purpose of the church is lost. The only valid purpose of the church is to hold one another up as we glorify God and spread his light to the world.

Glorifying God is not popular.

I have a challenge that hit me this week. Name one person in the Bible that God told to become popular and through politics of the day quietly bit by bit, with great sensitivity to the will of others develop a popular and comfortable community that glorifies God.

I can't think of one. The closest I can come up with is Esther. Her challenge from Mordecia was to gain political power to save the people of Israel. While this could be seen as a move to become political for a godly goal, the fact is that Esther didn't do what was popular. She stuck her neck out in great risk of becoming unpopular with the king. The fact that it worked was a blessing from God because of her obedience.

Of course in 1 Kings 12, the elders of Israel advised Rehoboam to lighten the tax load on the people after Solomon's expensive reign. One might interpret this as a step to make him more popular, but you'll see as that text progresses that the issue of seeking popularity is the downfall of Rehoboam. He was seeking to be popular among his peers. The elder's goal was less about popularity and more about wisdom of the moment.

As a follower of Christ and leader in a church, my goal cannot be about popularity. My goal is about obedience. Both my personal obedience to Christ and teaching others to be obedient. Church growth should be a natural outcome as more people obey Christ, but I cannot confuse the idol of acceptance with obedience in faith.