Nearly forty-two years ago to the day, July 29th, 1966, the teeny bop magazine DATEbook published the excerpt of an earlier John Lennon interview where he stated that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Although the remarks were really on the subject of Christianity and taken somewhat out of context, the outcry and response from the United States was loud and clear. “How dare you say something as bold as that.” It was as though Lennon made those statements of our country instead of Jesus. People flooded to the streets in protest by piling Beatles records up and burning them. Television stations broadcast public smashing of Beatles records. To this day it remains as one of the biggest pop music scandals in history.
Reading about this event in history prompted me to consider the question. Should Jesus be popular? In the context of the whole world I would not affirm this. There are passages in the bible that state otherwise concerning the popularity of Jesus. In Isaiah 53:2,3 of the Old Testament we read of Christ:
2 For He grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
In 1 Corinthians of the New Testament Paul wrote that the “cross of Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing” and “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.” He also writes later in verse 28:
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
In the American church today we are trying our best to make Christianity popular. We are are watering down the gospel of Christ to make it more palatable and attractive. In doing so the true gospel is not being preached. For if it were, it would not be attractive and popular in the world’s eyes.
So in one sense an enthusiastic YES, Jesus Christ should be the most popular thing in the life of the believer. We should be living and breathing the gospel of Christ. Our whole being should point the lost to Jesus Christ. In another sense, it is a fool’s road you travel if your intention in ministry is to make Jesus popular in the eyes of the world.
For further reading please check out the reading links below.
A huge Hat Tip goes to Jason J. Stellman and his article “Where Is Grace Found” in Modern Reformation. I especially like the section entitled “What Hath Saddleback To Do with Geneva?