I guess you could say that I have a special connection with celebrities. Our paths always seem to cross.
Like when I was a kid in the pet store at Southlake Mall. There, at the end of the aisle holding a puppy, was wrestling legend Tommy Wildfire Rich. My sister dared me to go up and say something to him but I never did. He never came up to me either. I guess we were both a little intimidated by each other.
A few years later, I was in that same mall. But this time I was a teenager working at Chick-fil-a when Chili, one of the girls from TLC, came in for a delicious chicken sandwich. I was in the middle of taking a guy’s order when someone told me that Chili was in the store. I abandoned my customer in the middle of his order and got Chili to sign a Chick-fil-a wrapper for me. I’m sure that Truett Cathy would have been proud.
After I graduated from college I was on an airplane flying from Houston, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee. Someone told me that country singer Mark Chestnutt was sitting up in first class. If you’re keeping score at home, he sang Bubba Shot the Jukebox. Mr. Chestnutt was in disguise. He was wearing jeans, a tank top and some flowery hat that looked like the ones they used to give you at Wendy’s when your order was over ten dollars. I made up a song and sang it to Mr. Chestnutt. He didn’t like it, or me, so I went back to my seat at the back of the airplane.
I haven’t heard from Mark Chestnutt since. Or Chili. Or Tommy Rich.
One time I was telling a friend about all of the celebrities I’ve met and he told me that I had a very loose understanding of the term celebrity.
All three of these people, at one time at least, were really big in their respective fields. But outside of each circle, nobody really cares about them. Fans of Chili typically don’t care much for the guy that sang Bubba Shot the Jukebox. And nobody cares about Tommy Wildfire Rich.
You can spend your whole life climbing to the top of your particular hill of choice. And you may even make it. But it only takes a few steps back to realize that that hill is pretty small.
Philip had a different approach to life.
We’re introduced to him in Acts 6 when the church selects seven men to serve poor widows (Acts 6:5). But of those seven men, Stephen seems to be the star. He’s the one with an epic speech that takes up almost two chapters in Acts. He’s the one that saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the father. And he’s the one that we remember as the young church’s first martyr.
Philip reenters the narrative in Acts 8 when we see him sharing the gospel with a shady Samaritan magician. The magician and many of the rest of the people in that town listened to what Philip was saying. Many were baptized. But yet again Philip was overshadowed when Peter and John came down to verify what was going on. The story then shifts to Peter’s rebuke of the shady magician.
Finally, God tells Philip to go to the desert (Acts 8:26). You don’t really build a name for yourself in the desert. Well, unless you’re Jim Morrison and you like to go there to write songs and talk to lizards. Different story.
Philip eagerly obeys and shares the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch. Philip baptizes the eunuch and a strange thing happens. Philip disappears. The Bible says that the eunuch “saw him no more” (Acts 8:39). Philip was transplanted to a place called Azotus where he continued to preach the gospel. And that’s about it for Philip as far as the Bible is concerned.
We do hear from him again in Acts 21 where Luke documents that Paul stayed at Philip’s house. Philip lived there with his four daughters who gave prophecies.
Philip seemed to live his life just on the outside of celebrity. There are no bestselling books devoted to Philip. This Sunday I will preach about him but I may go another five years without mentioning him again.
In a culture where everyone, even a church leader, wants to be a world-shaker or headline-grabber it’s important to remember that Jesus doesn’t need celebrities to change the world. And while there is nothing wrong with being famous, the praise that comes with that lifestyle is no match for pleasing our Master. So we would do well to follow the example of Philip.
Love and obey Jesus.
Lead and love your family.
Well done, good and faithful servant.