Americans love celebrities. And Christians are no different.
So we are smitten when a secular celebrity says they have been saved. We jostle
to be the first in line to herald their salvation, have them on Christian talk
shows, offer them book deals, let them lead worship, invite them to preach.

But what’s the rush? Should we put newly converted celebrities in the spotlight so fast?

Kanye West has professed faith in Christ, and his acclaimed Sunday Services are a hit. I want nothing more than to know that his profession of faith is genuine and authentic, to see the fruit of his changed life and to see him influence others for Christ. Kanye’s testimony indeed sounds solid and his new album, Jesus is King, is being talked about by everyone from Jimmy Kimmel to Greg Laurie. His witness to Christ is explicit and inspiring.

But caution is healthy. And
biblical. Do you recall when Bob Dylan professed faith in Christ and sang songs
about his faith? Probably not. Now critics call that his “Christian phase.” Over
and done. And Christians who jumped on that bandwagon were embarrassed, and
rightly so.

Why are Christians so quick to promote the salvation of celebrities? Well, obviously, we want it to be true. And we thrive on dramatic testimonies. But the Bible teaches us to be more circumspect before we push young believers into leadership. And, frankly, we are doing no one any favors when we treat celebrities as if their salvation is somehow exceptional or they don’t need to be discipled like everyone else.

So how should we respond when celebrities get saved?

Consider Saul, the persecutor of Christians who was confronted by Christ and then born again. He was well-known before he came to Christ, even something of a celebrity in his own community. And the name of “Saul” (Paul’s Jewish name) terrified Christians. Based only on his fame as a Pharisee he was provided the authority and the forces necessary to arrest, jail, and extradite Christians for punishment.

And then he was dramatically saved.
Changed forever. And later, in his letter to the Galatians, he described what
happened next.

When it comes to how we should
respond when celebrities get saved, we can learn a few things from history’s
most famous conversion. Here are five things to keep in mind:

  1. Being
    born again in Christ not the same thing as going to church (Gal 1:9-12).
    We
    tend to get excited when celebrities suddenly start talking about going to
    church or they thank God at award shows. But Paul put it this way—there is only
    one gospel and one definition of being a Christian. Being a Christian is being
    born again in Christ (John 3:3, Eph. 2:8, 9). Recently an article circulated on
    social media quoting Brad Pitt who says he was once an atheist but has moved
    back to the Christianity of his roots. The article was titled “Atheist Brad
    Pitt Becomes a Christian,” and it was widely shared by Christians. But the
    title was misleading. Pitt never said he had trusted Christ as Savior, or that
    he had chosen to follow Christ, or that he had been born again in Christ. I’m
    glad he left atheism. But choosing Christianity is not the same thing as following
    Christ.
  2. What
    are their motives (Gal. 1:10)?
    Before he was a Christian, Paul’s motives
    were self-serving. But once he was in Christ, he was motivated by what God
    wanted. It may take time, but a person’s motives are revealed in their actions.
    This is a problem for celebrities. A celebrity’s high-profile talent can make
    them a great witness for Christ. But they built that profile by pursuing fame.
    How quickly can a celebrity change that motivation? Do they stick to their new
    life in Christ even if old revenue streams dry up?
  3. Humility
    should accompany a true conversion (Gal. 1:16b-22).
    Before coming to
    Christ, Paul was prideful and sought prestige and power. But once he was saved,
    rather than jump on the teaching circuit right away, or leverage his fame for
    the cause of Christ, Paul took time out. Three years, in fact! That shows
    humility. If a celebrity has truly trusted Christ, the ego must be surrendered.
    The secular celebrity culture is nearly diametrically opposed to a selfless
    faith in Christ. And then our Christian culture rushes celebrities to the
    platform, but that’s the worst thing we can do. Instead, perhaps the best thing
    that could happen to a newly converted celebrity is to step away from the
    spotlight for a while.
  4. Outward
    behavior should noticeably change (Gal. 1:22-24).
    As a high-profile person,
    Paul knew that his public reputation spoke volumes about his inner life. A changed
    life bolsters a Christian’s verbal testimony. Celebrities thrive by their
    reputation, so when a celebrity gets saved the reputation for their change will
    also spread.
  5. New
    Christians should be teachable (Gal. 1:18-19).
    Like all Christians, celebrities
    should be mentored, and they need accountability. We tend to immediately thrust
    celebrities into the spotlight for our Christian causes. That’s a bad idea.
    Paul was mentored and established an accountability network before he ever
    began his public ministry. Like Paul, all celebrities need a solid, core group
    of mentors that can vouch for their faith, guide their decisions, and direct
    their growth in Christ (Acts 9:10-22).

So when a celebrity professes faith in Christ, before we put them on stage or circulate their new Christian songs, books, or tee-shirts, let’s pause. It’s for their own good, and for ours as well.