Statue of the Rev. Billy Graham in Nashville, Tenn.

Statue of the Rev. Billy Graham in Nashville, Tenn.

My wife, Barb, recently brought home a Christian magazine. Is there really such a thing? Well, this one has Christian stuff in it – articles, pictures, ads … a whole bunch of ads.

The cover had some pictures of women on it. Christian women, I guess, and then the headline, “Fifty Women to Watch.”

So … my first thought is, Barb won’t like that! Then I got my thoughts back on track and I looked for my wife’s picture. Surely she was on the cover. Nope.

Then I looked for some of my friends and colleagues, surely one or two of them will be there. Nope. Surely my daughter was there. Great worship leader … mom … teacher … wife … NO!

What is up?? Then I realized this was a list of our celebrity ladies. I won’t give names, but you know the kind with large ministries. They sell books … dvd’s … popular … important … politician… actually saw a couple of bloggers … imagine that, important bloggers.

Now I’m being a bit facetious, of course, but I am so fascinated by our need to have celebrities to watch and cheer on.

I was reminded of another deal this magazine had a few years back — who is America’s best preacher? The sum of the search was since Billy Graham was getting older, who was next?

I have to sheepishly admit, this is pretty embarrassing really … well, here goes … I submitted my own name. Yes I did!

I thought, “Why not, let’s see if they want to interview me or listen to a couple of my greatest-hits sermons.” Nothing. I wasn’t surprised. But why not? What would it have been like if they had listed all the names submitted and there I was, number 89,558 in the country. In the top 90,000 preachers in America! Sweet!

No list.

I don’t remember how it all went down but I do remember T.D. Jakes was picked … no honorable mention for me. But really, who is the greatest preacher in America? Have they heard Pastor Tony Scott or Pastor Robert Culp? Those Toledo pastors bring it pretty well.

I think sometimes we are so taken in by what drives the culture around us that we are not influencing culture ourselves. It seems to me we have an “American Idol” or “The Voice” mindset looking for our own stars.

Whose church is the biggest or who sells the most books? Who can fill a convention center or draw crowds to a stadium?

The Church Has Talent. It has even taken hold in the worship segment of church. We now have worship leader celebrities. No kidding.

You think not? Try this: Suppose that I advertise that our worship team — and we have a great one — is leading worship at a huge convention center, singing all the new and best worship songs. Then I will advertise David Crowder or Chris Tomlin is going to be in another place nearby — same songs, same instrumentation. Who do you think will get the bigger crowd? Get the point? Celebrity driven.

Reminds me of a story in the Bible. It is recorded a couple of times. In Mark 9:33-34, Jesus confronts the guys over a heated discussion they had been having while they were walking. The topic of the discussion was, which one of them was the greatest?

Have you ever read the Gospels? Have you ever looked closely at the 12 disciples Jesus had following him around? And they had the audacity to argue among themselves which one was the best one of the bunch.

Kind of reminds of me of the political arena right now, each guy telling us why he is so much better than the other and my thought is: This is the best we got? Really? Peter and the guys arguing over which one of them was the greatest?

So really, we have 50 women to keep our eyes on? And we now know who America’s best preacher is. Won’t you sleep better tonight knowing T.D. Jakes is America’s greatest preacher? Or that this woman leads a denomination. Or blogs, or teaches, or politics, or runs? Isn’t it cool to have our own celebrities in the church world?

I don’t get it, personally, and maybe it is because I will never be one of the elite. I especially do not want to make the Top 50 Women To Watch list, but other lists also.

Maybe it is jealousy or envy, although I don’t think so. I wish I could introduce you to my top 50 list of people to watch. You’d meet a single mom adopting children because God told her to, or the couple who has adopted six. Couple of ladies I know who go out on weekends looking for the homeless to give food and blankets to. A young lady who is a wonderful worship leader — actually I know a couple of them who are sensitive to God’s leading and also are wonderful moms and wives.

How about preachers like Pastor Culp of First Church of God, who stayed in downtown Toledo when everyone else was running for the burbs?

Young preachers like Christopher Rowell of Joshua Generation or Josh Hester of Vision Ministries. I don’t know how well they preach but I can see their hearts for the lost and undone.

I know a guy who got fired from his job unfairly, has been sued by the owners unfairly, and you know he “gets even”? He collects used furniture to give to families in need. He practically adopts a young dysfunctional family trying to keep the guy out of jail so he can raise his kids, trying to teach him some life skills that will help him stop stealing and keep a job. He serves at a food bank helping to give groceries to the needy. He gives and gives.

I have my own “American Idols” and, like me, they will never make one of these magazine lists as the top 50 this or the best that. Simon or Randy will never have the chance to judge one of them, but everywhere they go the kingdom of God goes. Life happens and lives are changed.

I must admit I long for the day when those of us who call Jesus Lord would stop running after the next biggest and best thing to come down the pike and realize it is all about Jesus. He is center. We would quit polling to see who is the best preacher or teacher, singer or author, or who are 50 women to watch.

What happened to, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)?

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