Celebrity Pastors

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.

More here.


  • Dave January 5, 2012 Reply

    I didn’t read the original article but I did NOT read Colson to say that popular=large=celebrity. “Celebrity” can happen in a church of 50 if the congregation doesn’t realize the pastor has feet of clay and celebrity can be avoided in the church of 5,000 as long as the congregation remembers that the pastor is a fallen man redeemed by God’s grace.

  • sam January 5, 2012 Reply

    Of course you defend the celebrity pastor because your income depends on the culture of the idol making conference circuit.

    The church needs to drive money changers like you and your company away.

    • Todd Rhoades January 5, 2012 Reply

      Whatever, Sam. How do I say this nicely… you have no clue.



      • Peter January 5, 2012 Reply


        • sam January 5, 2012 Reply


          you are just a fanboy trying to make up for your awkward high school days when you werent popular. You want to now drop names and rub elbows with the cult of celebrity pastors and make your money from stealing it from local church congregations.

          How sad it is that you feed the idol making celebrity church conference circuit.

          You are the one with zero clue of how your work and company is hurting the church more than helping it.

          • Peter January 5, 2012

            Sam, Sam, Sam…

            Keep on truckin’, Todd…

          • Keith January 6, 2012

            Umm, Sam, do you have personal knowledge of Todd’s growing up years? I don’t. If you don’t also, are you a psychiatrist who can accurately assess someone’s background based upon your years of research and experience? No? Then perhaps in an attempt to make your point you’re engaging in personal insult and attack, yes?

        • Todd Rhoades January 5, 2012 Reply

          Love you, Sam… I’m going for the same reward you are, brother… “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


          • sam January 5, 2012

            yes…keep being an apologist for so called pastors like gary lamb and michael Lukaszewski and look like a fool as they lead many astray

            great work you are doing!!!

  • Brian Harrell January 5, 2012 Reply

    Yes, I agree, we can tend to lump all the “celebrities” into the same mold. I believe that Colson is making a valid point (and yes it can happen to anyone) that there is a tendency for celebrity Pastors to get an “above it all” or “too big to fall” kind of ego. Any pastor who has an unchecked ego and makes himself/herself unaccountable to anyone is in the danger zone. Super stardom has its own temptations that the average pastor doesn’t face. When talent is bigger than character a fall is coming.

  • Peter January 5, 2012 Reply

    I don’t think he’s talking about size, either. Celebrity pastors happen in churches of 50, 100, 1,000, and 10,000… And fwiw, I agree with him. When we as Christians make these people into celebrities, we should perhaps take part of the blame when they fail.

    • Dave January 5, 2012 Reply


    • Keith January 6, 2012 Reply


      • John January 7, 2012 Reply


  • Donald January 5, 2012 Reply

    I also think that part of the problem is the consumer mentality that has crept into the church. Many modern church attendees (even at churches under 500, like the one I go to) tend to view church like they do the movie theater – something to watch and listen to.

    I think this helps feed into the “celebrity pastor” because who wouldn’t rather listen to the most dynamic speaker, with the “wowee” graphics and the stage play?

    If we were more content driven, instead of surface driven, then pastors would be criticized for not bringing enough of God’s word to bear, regardless of whether they are too old fashioned or too contemporary.

  • John January 7, 2012 Reply

    Todd, you are reading too much into the article. Chuck Colson is on target with his assessment. Though our pastor is probably a nobody in the ‘celebrity’ realm, he thinks he is and he behaves as if he is. Chuck Colson hit the nail on the head with this one. When the ‘celebrity’ bug hits the pastor (real or imagined), yes, it is wrong. Few and far between are the humble shepherds–doing the job of shepherding their flock–all of them–the young and the old. All of them. Always. Pastor, you were called to pastor; i.e., shepherd. Remember???

  • Fred January 8, 2012 Reply

    I won’t comment on this too much because the celebrity pastor has been my experience. Ir is especially bad when you combine that with a church that is “independent.” When you have a pastor who is the celebrity and he has no real oversight or control, it makes for a terrible situation.

  • John January 9, 2012 Reply

    Heres the problem with all this, pastors are no more or no less human than anyone else, therefore, some will fall to celebrity and fail, just like Chuck said, but most are hard working folks who love Jesus, His church, and His people, just like Todd said. It’s like bad cops, 99% are good and decent men and women who do their best to enforce the law, then theres the 1% that make the news that tend to taint the rest. Pastors have been falling since the beginning of time, and will sadly continue to, because we live in a broken world where theres an enemy who spends every waking moment trying to find a way to help one fall. If pastoral celebrity is always wrong, then everything Billy Graham ever did is a miserable failure, which anyone with half a brain knows couldn’t be further from the truth. He was a biggest celebrity the modern church has ever seen, but he was one with immense character and integrity, as with many pastors I personally know all over this country who lead large growing churches.

    Sam, what Gary and Michael did, is their own failure, and has nothing to do with all pastors, their mistakes were their personal choices and both are accountable to God for those choices, but to paint all of God’s called leaders who have grown churches with that kind of broad brush, doesn’t honor God in any way. To criticize those who God has anointed, with zero personal knowledge about anything other than what you perceive from afar, is to fight against God. Read Acts 5:38-39

    Here’s what I can personally speak to, Todd is none of the things you said about him, I know this because I PERSONALLY know him! I also know most everyone else at Leadership Network too. The LN staff is a group of Godly men and women who love God and love His Church. Everything they do, they do to strengthen leaders so they can be better equipped to go out and be used by God to reach His lost children. How do I know this, I know this because me and my team have been recipients of the care, love, and training done by LN, and I can tell you personally, what they are doing honors God in ever single way, and I’m thankful they are doing it! To say that Todd, or anyone else at LN is just collecting a check at the expense of churches! Again, I say this because I’ve spent years building relationships with them!

  • Ray January 12, 2012 Reply

    I think we’re all missing the bigger picture… I personally know a fellow pastor who in the last two years left his wife and church and has descended into the life of a drug addict. It’s a grievous tragedy that breaks my heart as it does God’s. But the impact of his fall is limited. “Celebrity pastors” have so much more opportunity to damage the witness of the Church at large. When they fall, it makes the news. Therein lies the danger, in my opinion.

  • John January 14, 2012 Reply

    Again I’ll say, and very respectfully because I’ve seen the hurt caused when it does happen, and yes the bigger the celebrity the more damage is done, but 99.9% of “celebrity”, or non celebrity pastors, don’t fail in a way that damages the church!

  • Stephen February 5, 2012 Reply

    I don’t see Colson doing unnecessary popularity lumping. He just seems to be admonishing the church body to avoid putting the pastor in that position. Think he’s on Target because it guards the pastor and the people from possible trouble only amplified by the popularity. Good post, Todd.

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