Chuck Colson has penned a piece about ‘celebrity pastors’. Here’s part of his article:
The cult of celebrity has seeped into our sanctuaries. Like the culture around us, churches too often reward the sizzle and not the steak. Too many people in the pews would rather have a celebrity in the pulpit instead of a good shepherd of souls, a good servant leader.
Not surprisingly, some pastors, certainly not the majority, become addicted to all the adulation and then try to live up to the idol we have made of them. Or worse, all the celebrity worship can make pastors feel they are above criticism and accountability. Their work for the Lord turns toxic. Like many pop celebrities, they can focus ultimately on self-aggrandizement, not on serving others.
According to theologian Os Guiness, we expect the pastor to be a shrink in the pulpit, a CEO in the office, and flawless in his family life. Heap on top of all that our desire that the pastor be a spiritual rock star, and these expectations can lead to pastoral frustration, burnout, and even financial and sexual immorality.
Is it any surprise, then, that the Church has been rocked over the last few decades by clerical scandals?
Friends, celebrity worship – in my book Being the Body I call it the Pedestal Complex – has no place in the Church. Let’s honor and care for our spiritual leaders, of course. But let’s be sure to keep them off our pedestals – for their sake and for ours.
I like Chuck and all… but he seems to put anyone who is popular in the same box.
Popularity does not automatically mean that that everyone who is well-known is bound to fall, haunted by ego, or self-aggrandizement.
Comparing well known ‘celebrity’ pastors to each other, is it itself dangerous. I don’t think there’s much comparison between Paula White and Andy Stanley; or between Billy Graham and Ted Haggard. I wouldn’t at all compare the two.
The church has been rocked by scandal for years. Scandals happen not just with TV evangelists and pastors of large churches, although those are the ones that get the most media attention. In fact, scandals happen in all sizes of churches, from 10 to 10,000. And with 300,000 churches in America, scandal happens every week, everywhere.
In my job, I get to work with some of these ‘celebs’. Do I worry about them falling? Of course. Do I see godly men, some of who have been faithful for years in the midst of their celebrity? Absolutely.
Megachurch and celebrity pastors do have to keep themselves in check, particularly egos… but so does the pastor of a church of 50. The adulation of 50 people left unchecked is just as bad as the adulation of a few hundreds or thousands.
And Chuck should know. After all, he’s a celebrity. How’s he been able to stay on the right track for all these years? And if he can, why can’t pastors. In fact, it was his CELEBRITY that helped him grow Prison Fellowship into a multi-million dollar para-church ministry.
What do you think? Is this ‘cult of celebrity’ in the sanctuary a new thing? Will it ever go away? And is it all bad?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.