A blog by Josh Humbert
What do you do when a great sermon comes from the unlikeliest of places?
I love Biblical, engaging, Gospel-centered, expositional preaching. If there was a Netflix of great preaching videos (BUSINESS IDEA, lol!), I would subscribe and use that on the regular. As someone who preaches and travels often, I need to hear and be fed by the preaching of God’s Word, just like every Christian should.
But there are times when a sermon comes…..in disguise.
Maybe it’s not a full-blown Sunday message delivered by a faithful pastor to a church community. Instead, perhaps it’s just a little nugget of truth that shines so brightly surrounded by the great darkness of this world.
Have you been surprised like that before?
“When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do”
Scooter Braun is one of the most powerful and influential men in the music business across the entire globe. The dude is a shot-caller.
He began as a college student just organizing parties but soon found himself planning events for major musical artists in hip-hop. His career continued to rise as he soon established his own marketing business for various musical artists with great success.
Then he discovered a young man named Justin Bieber on youtube. Perhaps you’ve heard of Mr. Bieber since then. Braun was the one who saw the potential and hatched the plan to take Beibs to the masses.
Braun has additionally signed and promoted artists like Ariana Grande and others. Recently, even Kanye personally requested Braun to become one of his managers.
If there’s ever a person who has found and experienced success at the highest level of an industry, Scooter Braun is that guy.
What is doing to him, though?
“And the problem it seems
Is with you and me
Not the Love who came
To repair everything”
In the film Nacho Libre, the villain is the powerful, famous, and greatly admired wrestler named Ramses. The humble hero, Nacho, is conflicted with wanting to become like Ramses (“Don’t you want a little taste of the glorrrrry? See what it tastes like??”) or beating him.
Ramses seems to have it all.
What is it doing to him, though?
Nacho Libre, yes even a film like that, can contain a nugget of truth and wisdom. So it is with Ramses. The film shows him to be an awful person who has been hollowed out and ruined by the enormous success he has experienced.
One time, Nacho and his orphans come across Ramses in the streets. Nacho politely asks for an autograph for the orphans. Ramses is irritated and refuses – he reacts as I do when I actually answer a call with an unknown number and it ends up being a random sales call. How DARE they!
Another time, even when Nacho is “singing at the paaaaaaaarrtyyyyyy” all about how great Ramses is….Ramses douses him with wine and kicks him out.
Think about how messed up Ramses is at that point. A man is LITERALLY singing “his praises,” and it’s not enough.
Finally, we see the full price Ramses has paid for his “glory” in the moments before his big fight at the end with Nacho. The camera takes us to Ramses in his locker room with his crew. As his trainers rub down his body with oil, Ramses has a man who’s whole job it seems is to sit and tell Ramses how great he is like this:
“Ramses is the number one.
His legs are the number one.
His eyes are the number one.
His muscles are the number one.
Ramses is number one.”
What is all the success and and glory doing to Ramses? It is destroying him. It is dissolving him. He is becoming less and less human. He is incapable of joy; only consumed by a rage.
The film pulls no punches (boxing and wrestling? mixed-metaphor-police come and get me!) on showing the truth of human glory. Man was never designed to bear the weight of glory, praise, and adoration. It cannot center on us. This is wisdom…Biblical wisdom, wrapped in Hollywood cinema. This is a deep truth in the camouflage of a silly comedy.
A sermon in disguise.
Maybe Ramses needs a new manager?
“Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
For those afraid
Help them be brave
Where there is misery
I have no clue on Scooter Braun’s spiritual condition or his personal beliefs about Jesus Christ and the Gospel. I can’t speak to those.
But as I was traveling recently, I heard him interviewed. The discussion went to a much deeper level when the topic turned to Beiber’s meltdown a few years prior. Braun describes a couple years when he feared the worst because Beiber “had 100 million in the bank and could just go off and hide.” Scooter said in those years when Beiber really struggled that he constantly feared a phone call in the middle of the night with tragic news.
Eventually, Beiber turned some things around and made positive changes in his life. Braun went on to highlight some of the insights that HE himself gained while dealing with the Beiber-saga and with Kayne’s own struggles with money/fame.
The sermon in disguise came as Braun spoke of his own conviction about how humans should live.
“I don’t think human beings were made to be worshipped. We were made to serve. I think we worship something upstairs, whatever that may be…..There’s something bigger than us; THAT can be worshipped. Human beings…we are here to serve each other and that’s the only way we can keep our sanity. People who serve don’t go crazy. People who give back don’t go crazy. People who just take and take and take and are worshipped – they lose their mind…..I know from my own experience from dealing with celebrity at the highest level….the only way you survive is you have an outlet to give. The only way.”
Though there was no one in the car with me, I talked out loud to myself (happens quite often when I travel around). “WOW!! This guy! Dropping some heat!!” I said. Forget a single fire emoji….it was like…..
There is profound wisdom and theology in what he said. Humans aren’t made to be worshipped – that’s incredibly true, right, and wise! We were made to serve – the Bible says YES! There’s something bigger than us and that is what can be worshipped – Scooter, you on the doorstep of it all, bro!
He never made the final and most important connection or said explicitly that Jesus Christ IS that One who is greater than us and worthy of worship. My hope is that he complete his theology and comes to a deep grasp of the Gospel.
But there, in those words, you see what all his success and glory has done to him. From the heights of his own career to navigating the personal drama of some of the most successful musical artists of this generation has come hard-won wisdom.
Ramses ISN’T the number one. Neither is Beiber or Kanye.
We AREN’T made to be worshipped.
We are made to serve and give (even chips to orphans).
There is ONE and only One who is worthy of all the glory – Jesus Christ.
“And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Oh surely we can change…
You may never have $100 million in the bank and all the turmoil Beiber faced. You may not go through Kanye’s personal drama. You may not (probably won’t) become a famous luchador in Mexico who’s impossible to be around.
But we tend to forget, don’t we?
We have our own Ramses-moments. We think we are “the number one.” We think our plans are the number one. We think our convenience is the number one. We forget we were made to serve. We forget to GIVE glory to God instead of trying to gather it for ourselves.
We were made to love and serve the One who has first loved and served us in the greatest way possible. Braun said there is “something upstairs” that can be worshipped. Well, the Gospel is that it’s not a “something,” it’s a Someone. And He didn’t stay “upstairs,” He actually did the very opposite. Our Savior gave up all His glory willingly to demonstrate to us all what true love really is. He went to the ultimate “downstairs” so that we could rise up with Him. Only Jesus is worthy!
We need the truth of God to come and remind us of the reality of this life. But our God is merciful – He doesn’t splash wine on us and throw us out of the party…He instead lets His light shine in even the unlikeliest of places. He of course speaks mainly and powerfully in His Word – there is no doubt about that. He of course can use brothers and sisters in our Christian community to reach us. But He can also reach me and you in the unexpected places too.
A powerful music mogul who’s seen it all? Yep.
A silly movie about a wrestler who only wins one match? Sure.
We serve a God who is an Artist. His beauty can find us even through unexpected means.
This gives us hope as well. For if we are made to serve and if God can use the unlikeliest….then surely He can use me. And you.
May our lives, our service, and our love for others become that great sermon from the unlikeliest of places.
Here is a song by the David Crowder Band that captures the heartbeat of this piece. The lyrics woven throughout this post are from this song.
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.
****Additionally**** We cover Nacho Libre in much more depth (stop laughing!) on our podcast. Go get the episode and listen!