Recent conversations on social media and elsewhere have been sounding alarms on the toxicity of celebrity culture within the body of Christ. I was asked to chime in on the subject by sharing several ways that I practice personal accountability and attempt to protect myself from getting sucked into the celebrity quicksand.
Most of what I’ve learned in this area (and every other) I’ve learned the hard way, and I don’t pretend to have this one mastered. I so badly want to walk the remainder of my journey without detouring into a deep ditch but, if I’m able to do so, it will be by God’s grace.
These are the particular graces he’s given me that help me along my way:
1. I don’t trust myself.
The upside of a downward spiral into despair and defeat in young adulthood is that pretty early on, I was forced to face not only the foolish things I had done but also the stark realization that there was likely no end to what I was capable of doing. The parts of my past that I loathe most are those God most uses for my present protection. God forgives our sins and casts them into the depths of the sea—a comfort and relief beyond words—but nonetheless, he does not mind me remembering those sins well. I never walk in front of a group without recalling the pit from which I was rescued and the rock from which I was hewn.
As a safeguard to my listeners, I also practice personal transparency in my teaching by being open about my present flaws and past failures. I spare them the graphics but try to make sure every audience knows the truth: that God has delivered me from serious strongholds of sin and, if I stand, I stand by grace alone.
2. I don’t particularly trust other people.
I don’t entrust myself to audiences or followers or approval ratings. And I trust no one less than a Christian celebrity-lover. I’ve learned that anyone capable of adoring you is equally capable of abhorring you. I love and appreciate every individual and group I have the privilege to serve, face-to-face or online, and do so wholeheartedly, but I have been around this block enough times to know how fickle the human heart is.
The same fickle heart beats in my own chest. You have not quite lived in this ridiculously silly celebrity culture until you’ve been told one day how loved you are and the next day how hated you are—and sometimes by the same individual. At any given time I scroll through my Twitter feed, no sooner has someone claimed I’m a fine teacher than another claims I’m a false teacher.
In that context, Christ’s words in John 2:24–25 come to me often: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (ESV). I’m not him. I don’t know what is “in man,” but I’ll take his word for it.
The other titanic caution for me is that the higher the elevation, the further an individual has to fall. 2 Samuel 1:19 reads, “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” (ESV). There is a nosebleed section where a person’s integrity is vulnerable to a massive hemorrhage. No one is beyond falling, unfortunately not even the sincerest servant of God. There is a real live devil who has a method to his madness. He is cold, calculating, and disturbingly patient. The higher we are elevated, the more he has to gain by our public toppling.
That doesn’t mean we are bound to fall. It just means we will never keep our integrity unintentionally. Show me a godly servant who has made it over a long haul and I’ll show you a servant who pursued godliness and kept her fear of the Lord.
3. I have a fierce family.
My husband has zero tolerance for pretense, self-righteousness, or self-promotion. In the early days of our marriage, he called out every hint he saw with complete disgust. He’d do the same today, I just try not to give him the opportunity. God alone knows what I owe Keith Moore for any shred of authenticity and believability I possess.
Over time, my daughters Amanda and Melissa, my son-in-law Curtis [Jones], and I all took up Keith’s lack of tolerance for inauthenticity. It’s been a good way for us to live—not failsafe, but good. We Moores and Joneses are a close-knit group. We don’t mind getting into one another’s business.
I also have a fierce church family. I have no idea where on earth I’d be if I’d detached from a local body of believers. One reason why losing a large-group ministry (Living Proof) doesn’t hang as a huge threat over my head is that I genuinely like serving the local church. As long as I can serve somebody, I can be happy.
4. We try to keep the ground level at Living Proof.
We are a small in-house staff, maxed out at about 16 employees. I don’t like schmoozing, and they don’t schmooze. We are good friends who share a great deal of transparency with one another. We pray together, often eat lunch together, and serve together. I don’t have gatekeepers who forbid employees direct access to me, whether to question something I’m doing or something other staff members are doing. Though we naturally have supervisors and support staff, no one is esteemed above anyone else. We’re a long shot from the ideal staff, but we continually pursue a healthy environment.
We also subject Living Proof Ministries to an annual financial audit so that we can maintain our ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) seal. I have godly board members who can and do question anything that is unclear or of concern to them. I also have an accountability group made up of five people who know the hard details of my life and all my current personal challenges. Their purpose, along with praying for me, is to hold me accountable to godliness in matters beyond the public eye. I can contact them day or night and they, me. We have been through a lot of crises together.
5. I try not to quench the Holy Spirit.
The first reason why: I love Jesus. He’s all that has ever really worked for me. I want his presence. I want Scripture to be animated by his Spirit and alive in my bones. I want to sense him. Hear him. Be led by him. Used by him. I want to experience him. His presence is not always discernable to me; nevertheless, those are the things I live and long for.
The second reason: The Holy Spirit is really all that makes this Bible teaching ministry work. If I quench him often enough or long enough, this ministry will wither and die. (The scariest part is that I may be the last to know.) Instead, I want my life to bear supernatural fruit that lasts through eternity and glorifies God, and when I die, I want there to be no explanation for my life but Jesus.
Any of us in the public eye must remember: Never, ever believe your own press, and pray to develop a hypersensitive gag reflex regarding your own importance. The celebrity culture we navigate is terrifying. Only the foolish have no fear of it. There is a trapdoor at the foot of every podium, and pastors, teachers, and speakers can get swallowed whole. The addictions and distractions (including social media) are endless and, if God has given us a platform, it requires deep trust and comes with furious tests. In the hair-raising words of Daniel 4:37, “those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
Most of the time, I feel like I’m skating on thin ice. If that ice should break and send me flailing into those frigid waters, I have to trust that Jesus will come and rescue me. He’s done it before. Thank God for the Cross.
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