We live in an era where pastors have become celebrities. Several make more money on the speaking circuit and from writing books than any church could ever have afforded to pay them. I have nothing against these people earning more money, and certainly nothing against more people hearing the truth of Jesus. The problem I do have is our tendency to idolize these men and women.
We’ve stolen the celebrity culture of Hollywood and applied it to ministry. I am guilty of feeding this machine. I love reading books and attending seminars, always looking for new insights by which I can draw nearer to God. Still, there’s a fine line between earnest student and borderline groupie.
There are two sides to this coin. The flip side is those who become celebrities begin believing the hype, or at best are swept away by it. I have often seen Pastors put out a wonderful book full of great teaching, but then fall into a formulaic and less than helpful rut with their subsequent books. Instead of allowing God to infuse and direct their writing, they (consciously or not) write instead to appeal to the widest audience. The feel and aroma of God-inspired wisdom is replaced by marketplace demands and publisher pressures. Somewhere along the way of serving God they instead begin serving the culture.
One of my favorite pastors of all time is A.W, Tozer. Here is a man who never attended college and never pastored a megachurch, but His words and wisdom are still widely referenced today some fifty years after his death. I wonder how many of the “superstars” in the pulpits of today will leave a similar legacy. The point of this post is not to bash or diminish the work done by popular preachers. What I have observed is a great tendency to start with the best of intentions, only to become seduced by the siren calls of the celebrity culture so prevalent in our times.
Whenever Jesus did something noteworthy, He often would say to those watching, “Don’t tell anyone what you’ve seen or what I did for you.” (Mark 8:29-30, Matthew 8:3-4) He did about everything a person could do to not become a celebrity. Instead of seeking to elevate Himself, He always pointed to the Father and endeavored to live a simple and quiet life. As His disciples, that is the model true Christ-followers should pursue.
It’s true there are times when a Christian gains a significant amount of notoriety without intending to do so. A book takes off, a video or tweet goes viral, and suddenly they have a whirlwind of attention directed at them. The key is not to give into the pull of the celebrity culture. Follow the example of Jesus. Point everyone to God and take no credit for yourself. Recognize the opportunity to share the love of Christ and the truth of God’s character with a suddenly wider audience, and be humbled and thankful for the opportunity. Always resist the celebrity culture, whether it is happening to you or you find yourself building up a brother or sister in that way. We should live humbly, aware of our faults, and always seeking to serve others before ourselves.