[This message was written in November 2002. But despite where Britney’s life and career has gone since, I believe a lot of this message is still relevant. Stats may be updated at Wikipedia.com]
Britney Spears was born on December 2, 1981 to proud parents Jamie and Lynn Spears.
Growing up, she appeared at local dance venues and church choirs. She knew from the beginning that she wanted to perform. At the ripe old age of 8, she auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club, but was turned down because she was too you. So off to New York young Britney went to study performing arts and star in the lead role in the off-Broadway production, Ruthless.
She eventually re-auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club at the age of 11 and was accepted, appearing on the show for two years. After leaving the show, she began to pursue her solo music career. At the age of 15 she was invited to performed in front of 10 representatives from Jive Records and was signed immediately.
Her first album “Baby One More Time” was released on January 12, 1999 just after her 17th Birthday, and debuted at the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. It never left the top ten for a full year, selling over 11 million copies in that year. The album contained not just one but four hit singles. The album went platinum 12 times over, making Britney the youngest artist ever to achieve this.
Her second album was released in May of 2000 entitled, “Oops!... I Did It Again”. And oops, she did it again. It had more sales in the first week than any other female artist in history – over 1.3 million copies. Her third album simply titled “Britney” was released about a year ago in November of 2001 and didn’t sell quite as well as her first two albums. But it was still good enough to shoot it straight to the top of the charts.
Even if you don’t follow music and never turn on the TV, you have probably heard of Britney Spears. And if you don’t recognize her name, then you’d recognize her music. You can’t go anyplace without hearing it playing in the background. In fact, while we were bowling last night I noticed one of her songs come on.
Her songs have included such hits as:
Baby, One More Time
(You Drive Me) Crazy
Oops!... I Did It Again
Don’t Let Me Be the Last To Know
I’m A Slave For You
I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman
She has won almost every award she could be eligible for, including:
Best Female Solo Artist
Best Female Video
Viewers’ Choice Video Award
Album Artist of the Year
She has performed at:
the 2001 Superbowl
The 1999, 2000 and 2001 Video Music Awards
The 2001 and 2002 American Music Awards
The 1999 MTV Video Music awards
The 2001 Billboard Music Awards
And everyplace else, it would appear.
She even sang with Michael Jackson at the Michael Jackson Tribute Concert this past year.
She hosted the 2001 American Music Awards, has had several TV specials of her own, has written two books, and this year starred in her first movie Crossroads.
In 2001 she signed an endorsement deal to do commercials with Pepsi, with the first one debuting during the Academy Awards. The deal will net her upwards of 10 millions dollars US.
She has appeared on the cover of:
and many, many more…
She’s been named by…
Teen People as one of the 21 hottest starts under 21
E! as one of the top 20 entertainers
People Magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful People
and this year by Forbes as the number 1 most powerful celebrity in the world
Not bad for someone who celebrates her 21st birthday next month.
So the question is, what would Jesus say to someone like Britney? What I want to do over the next few minutes is share with you five things that I think Jesus would say to Britney Spears, and see how they apply to us, too. You can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along.
What Would Jesus Say to Britney Spears?
1. Britney, I made you special.
You’re unique. You have talents. You have charisma. You have abilities and a persona that nobody else has. I made you special. In fact, I made you in my image.
Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.
Britney, God made you. He loves you. You are his masterpiece.
What does it mean to be created in the image of God? It means a lot of things, but let me highlight three of them this morning.
You have the ability to choose. (free will)
Britney has a song out called “I’m a Slave 4 U”. I think Jesus might say, “Britney, you don’t have to be a slave to anyone or anything. You don’t have to conform yourself to the pressures and expectations of the music industry. You don’t have to fit into a mold to be a marketable commodity. You are made in the image of God. You can think and reason for yourself. You can be your own person. You are special, you are made in the image of God.”
You crave relationships.
Right now, Britney is supposedly taking a six-month break. She’s still doing a few things here and there, but she’s trying to limit the things she’s involved in for a while. In the current issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, this is what she says about things that might be encouraging her to take this break. She says:
“It’s really weird, because you’re a star, and everything is about you all the time – and I’m tired of that. I want to have a different perspective. And not have all my family and all the people I know working for me. I want to hang out with my friends and be a nobody. Because that’s how you become re-inspired. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
~ Britney Spears
God Himself craves relationships. I don’t want to get into this too much this morning, but we know God as the triune God, the Trinity. There is only one God, but He exists as three persons: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So God Himself lives within relationship. And he created us to live within a relationship with Him and with each other. So it’s natural for us to want to know God. And it’s natural for us to want to have friends that we can just hang out with and be ourselves around. That’s the way God designed it. We’re created in His image.
You are creative.
Genesis 1:1 (NLT)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1-3 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make.
God Himself is creative. And Britney, since she is created in the image of God, is creative in her music, in her dance moves, in her concerts. Whether you enjoy what she does or not, she is creative. Now, I’m not saying that Jesus would claim original artist status for songs on Britney’s albums. How Britney uses her creativity is part of her ability to choose. It’s her free will.
But I think Jesus would claim credit for giving Britney the desire and ability to creatively express herself. Britney claims that she knew at an early age that she needed to make music. And I think that desire and whatever gifts and abilities she has came from God.
You know what? God made you special, too. He made you in His image. That’s why you can choose your own priorities and make your own decisions. That’s why you crave to know God. And that’s why you express yourself in a way that is unique to you. God made you, and He’s pleased with you.
2. Britney, I admire some of the standards you set early in your career.
When Britney first exploded on the scene, a big part of her fan-base was with pre-teen girls. And for a while there Britney maintained a pretty wholesome image. She recognized that there are worse things than being seen as an innocent girl next door.
In fact, the whole Christian community applauded her when she publicly stated that she was a virgin and intended to remain so until she was married. I think that was a terrific standard and a great example to set for others. I don’t know if she’s been able to stick to that or not, and she’s chosen not to talk about it anymore. But I hope she’s been successful at keeping that standard.
Another singer who held to the same standard was Jessica Simpson. She grew up in a Christian home with Christian standards. And she it made no secret that she intended to remain a virgin until she got married. Three months ago she reaffirmed that on Entertainment Tonight and as far as I know she stuck to it until she got married last weekend.
Another standard Britney set dealt with the lyrics of her songs. When Britney decided to record the song “Born to Make You Happy” she requested that the writers change the lyrics. The original version contained sexually explicit lyrics, and Britney felt she was too young to be singing it. So at least for her first couple CDs you can read the lyrics and not find anything too offensive, and parents applauded her for that.
Britney has also set high standards of excellence for herself. She has a great work ethic. She wants to do the best she can do. And I think we can learn something from that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do things with excellence.
I think Jesus would be pleased with these standards.
But these standards can be hard to maintain, especially in the high pressure entertainment industry. It can be hard for all of us. What are some standards that you may have set for yourself? What values have you decided are important to you? How are you doing?
3. Britney, when you falter, you can always come back again.
Throughout her career, Britney has often referred to her faith in God. She comes from a Southern Baptist background and got her start singing in church.
In the message this morning, this is probably the point I had the biggest struggle with. Why? Because I don’t know Britney Spears. I’ve never met her, probably never will. So I’m not really in a position to judge whether she’s fallen away from her faith in God or not. From what I see and hear, it appears that she has at least faltered in her convictions or lowered her standards.
It’s no secret that she’s trying to shake the good girl image she had when she started. And to do that, she’s recording some pretty racy songs and shooting some revealing and provocative videos. Her photo-shoots with magazines deal more and more with her sexuality. In fact, when putting together PowerPoint for this message I had a hard time finding pictures that I thought would be appropriate. Plus, the language she’s using in interviews and in conversations is becoming offensive.
According to YM Magazine, she has a fake ID so she can drink and get into bars. And last year she was caught giving some of the paparazzi the finger. Knowing the paparazzi, they probably deserved something, but giving someone the finger is a crude and obscene thing in our culture.
Let me ask you something. How many of you know at least one person named Peter? Put up your hand. One of my best friends is named Peter.
In fact, let me give you 10 seconds to think of as many Peter’s as you can. Just to yourself, think about how many Peter’s you know.
How many thought of at least 2 Peters? 3? 4...
In the Bible, Peter was a disciple who followed Jesus. When Jesus was arrested and was taken away to be tried and eventually executed on a cross, Peter followed at a distance. He loved Jesus, and didn’t want to let the people take Jesus away. But he was also scared of what might happen to him if people found out he was a friend of Jesus’. In fact, when confronted by someone who thought they recognized Peter as one of the disciples, Peter denied he even knew Jesus and then ran away and cried because he had denied even knowing the most important person in his life.
After the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times Jesus asked this, and all three times Peter assured Jesus that he did. And Jesus forgave him, and trusted him to be a leader in the early church.
Let me ask you another question. How many of you know at least one person named Judas?
Not as popular a name, is it? Why? Both Peter and Judas betrayed Jesus. Both of them betrayed their relationship with Him. What’s the difference? After Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to be arrested and eventually killed, Judas was overcome with guilt and went out and committed suicide. Peter was also overcome with guilt, but he came back to Jesus and was forgiven.
No matter what Britney may do, and no matter what you and I may do, we can always come back to God and receive His forgiveness. Now, that doesn’t mean we have free license to do whatever we want because Jesus will forgive us anyway. But it does mean that when we mess up, when we make mistakes, when we do things that hurt and betray Jesus, He’s not going to give up on us. And if we’ll return to Him, he wants to offer us forgiveness and restore our relationship with Him.
It would have been easy this morning to talk only about the things that Britney has done that are questionable. It would have been easy for us to jump on the bandwagon and condemn Britney for some of her apparent conduct. But I think Jesus would rather encourage her and remind her of the incredible opportunity she has to influence an entire generation. I think He would say…
4. Britney, remember to set an example.
Through her music and now through her movies and interviews, Britney has an indescribable opportunity to influence lives and make an impact. And it’s up to her what kind of impact she’ll make.
In her first starring role in film, Britney’s character was supposed to swear. Britney ordered that the curse words be taken out so not to tarnish her image for the younger pre-teen viewers of her movie. That was a good thing. Now, Britney has been know to swear and has been caught on tape using curse words. When I was preparing this message I read a number of article and interviews, and was surprised by the language she uses at times. But at least in this instance she recognized her responsibility as a role model and honoured it.
Three years ago Britney decided to use her fame and influence for something good… the Britney Spears Foundation. This foundation has one goal… to help children. They do this through a variety of methods, including the annual Britney Spears Camp for the Performing Arts and fun-filled Playrooms they create for sick kids on extended hospital stays..
Those are good things Britney Spears is doing, and a great example for people to follow.
But, she doesn’t always set a good example. One of the criticisms Britney faces is that she lip-syncs a lot of her songs. In other words, in her concerts her singing is not always live. Often a recording of her singing is played and she just dances around the stage mimicking the words.
I think that is an analogy for the dangers that Britney faces and the dangers we all face. How often do we “lip-sync” our faith? Britney has often talked about her faith in God. She even thanks God in the jackets of her CDs. She has publicly stated that she and the band pray before their concerts. But how often does it seem that what we see doesn’t line up with those values?
In Matthew 15 Jesus described the Pharisees this way:
Matthew 15:8-9 (NLT)
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.”
These Pharisees, these religious leaders, honoured God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. They lip-synced their faith.
It’s easy for us to point fingers at the Pharisees and at Britney and accuse them of lip-syncing their faith, but how often do we fall into the same traps? How hard is it to live for God when it might cost us a business deal? How hard is it to live by the standards we’ve set for ourselves when “all our friends are doing this or doing that”? How hard is it to be faithful in our relationship with Jesus when it might hurt our relationship with someone else?
We need to remember that we all set an example. I heard once that even the most introverted of us will impact 10,000 people in the run of a lifetime. So let’s be careful not to lip-sync. We all have a responsibility to live what we say we believe. Otherwise, we’re just hypocrites. And there are enough of those around already.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT);
You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Let your light shine.
5. Britney, you need to perform for an audience of One.
I read one place that the goal Britney set for herself was to have successful albums, tour the world, and become a legend like Madonna.
I read quotes from Britney where she said;
“It’s retarded, but I’m a people pleaser.”
“I’ll always care what people think about me.”
I think Jesus might say, “Britney, I know you idolize Madonna. I know you want to be like her and have a legendary career like she has had. I know you want to be famous and perform for huge crowds of people and have your name in lights. I know you want to be a household name. And I know you want this to last over your whole career and not just be a passing fad. But when it comes right down to it, you need to perform for an audience of One… for Me.”
There’s a saying that goes something like this:
Thoroughbreds run their own race. They don’t look at anyone else or what anyone else is doing. They run their own race.
What matters most is not how popular we are. What matters most is not how many people sing our praises. What matters most is not even what kind of reputation we have. What matters most is how close we are to God.
One of our Core Values here at Sunrise is Intimacy with God. We’re not here to perform for each other and show each other how good we are. We are here to connect with God. When compared to that, nothing else matters. Britney needs to connect with God, you need to connect with God, I need to connect with God. We all need to keep it in perspective that when it comes right down to it, we all perform for an audience of One.
Some of you may have faltered in your relationship with God and want to be restored...