Celebrity Pastors: Top of the Heap or Overexposed?

In the talk about “celebrity pastors,” some have attached the phrase to both shallow, attention-seeking televangelists and also stalwart preachers and scholars with international audiences. It’s a sort of polemic, a subtle insult to the pastors in question. Some suggest that the two words are mutually exclusive: a good pastor won’t be a celebrity, and a celebrity won’t be a good pastor.

But celebrity comes for a variety of reasons. It’s worth differentiating between the kinds of celebrities generally, and between celebrity pastors in particular. You can see most celebrities in one of two categories:

  • The top of the heap
  • The overexposed

Top of the Heap

Recently, a new show premiered on CBS called “Once Upon a Time,” starring (among others) Josh Dallas. Though I never knew Josh well, we attended the same schools from fourth grade through high school. We knew many of the same friends and had classes together. Seeing a familiar face on primetime TV is odd, but in Josh’s case, it’s not the least bit surprising.

Josh was always a star. I can still remember his friends’ rabid campaigning when he ran for class president . . . in the sixth grade. Even then he had a persuasive and attractive presence. In high school, he was the star of our theater program. Believe it or not, the small town of New Albany, Indiana, has a fantastic theater program that regularly competes and performs at international festivals. Beginning as a sophomore, Josh won the handsome male lead in every show. There was never any controversy over this selection. Not only did he always look the part, he also performed better than anyone else. He was a classic triple-threat: singing, dancing, and acting. He commanded the stage and set the pace for other actors with his exemplary work ethic.

No one was surprised when he earned a full scholarship to one of England’s elite acting academies, nor when we heard he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. Likewise, his role in the major motion picture Thor came as no surprise, and now his role as Prince Charming seems perfectly appropriate.

Josh, and many celebrities like him, got where they are for three reasons: talent, hard work, and opportunity. It takes all three to succeed, and it’s a mistake to think that success in show business (or in any business) is made of anything less than all three. I know many talented artists and musicians who don’t work hard, and their skill develops slowly, or stagnates. No musician or actor (or preacher) simply explodes into the limelight based purely on talent. It takes hard work and skill development to take someone from talented to truly excellent. Similarly, I’ve seen many who work hard gain all kinds of opportunities, but these expose a lack of talent, and they don’t advance beyond a certain level.

When those elements come together, the result is success, and for people whose work gathers crowds, the result is celebrity. This is true in politics, art, and in some ways, religion. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that crowd-gathering or celebrity is the intended goal. Many artists work hard at their craft because they love it. The same can be said for pastors who pour countless hours into developing their preaching and communication skills, who study the scriptures and people around them intensely, seeking to make a connection between the gospel and the world we inhabit. Their goal is to be good shepherds, to pastor and lead well, to see the mission of God move forward. Some of these pastors will gather crowds. They become celebrities. In these cases, celebrity status is a byproduct of other, more important goals.


There is another kind of celebrity. Where someone like Josh spent much of his life developing his acting skills, others pursue an end goal that has very little to do with refining a skill or loving the arts. These celebrities fill our gossip magazines. They are famous for being famous. And their patron saint is Kim Kardashian.

Kardashian followed the trail to celebrity blazed by her friend Paris Hilton. It didn’t take long for a career to materialize out of nothing. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is one of cable-television’s hottest reality series, and her fame has led to a string of guest appearances on other shows and movies and endorsements for everything from cosmetics to cookie diets. Her wedding was big news in September. So was her divorce a few weeks later.

What’s the difference between Kardashian and Dallas? The answer, I hope, is obvious by now. Where celebrity is the byproduct of talent, hard work, and opportunity for Dallas, it is Kardashian’s goal. In the first case, all the hard work goes to refining the art of acting, music, or politicking. At the other extreme, all the effort goes towards gathering the crowd, getting recognition, and finding new outlets for exposure.

Foolish Ends

There’s plenty of middle ground between these poles of celebrity. Pastors, too, are sinner-saints. Pastors whose work results in celebrity must wrestle with strong pressure to feed the ego and conform to the world of shameless self-promotion.

Notoriety and celebrity are not in themselves an evil thing (Jesus and Paul, for instance, were celebrities), but they’re foolish ends. So how should pastors (and other Christians) think about celebrity? Here are a few principles:

  1. Celebrity should be a secondary goal. Becoming a celebrity isn’t a sin, but living life for the acclaim and praise of others is. Instead, we should focus on doing our work (whatever that may be) with excellence and integrity. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Should that result in “celebrity” status, so be it, and God have mercy.
  2. Be self-aware and say no to opportunities you’re not ready for. I’m amazed sometimes at how easy it is to be invited to speak on panels and teach workshops at conferences. I know that I was doing so before I was ready. I often meet young, dynamic leaders who are only a few months into planting their churches or working in ministry, and they’re already serving on panels, advisory boards, and speaking at conferences regularly, flying away every few weeks. These men lack the self-awareness to see the absurdity of their situation and the distraction it creates for the primary task of caring for their flock. Opportunities that “widen your audience” or “create exposure” should be taken seriously, reluctantly, and with affirmation from wise counsel.
  3. Count the cost. Traveling the celebrity pastor’s conference circuit (and even to attend it) comes at a price. It means less energy devoted to your local congregation, and less energy given to your family. Be honest about whether or not your family or church is ready to pay that price in order to make you available to travel and speak. Side note: I’m thankful that many churches like Redeemer, Bethlehem, and The Village Church empower their pastors to use their gifts in this way. Such churches can do this because they have a size culture where it makes sense. Many churches couldn’t afford to empower their pastors in this way.
  4. Focus on the main thing. Paul’s admonitions to Timothy to guard his life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16) and Peter’s admonition to guard the flock of Jesus’ church (1 Pet. 5:2) make for good mission statements. Focus on growing in grace and leading your congregations to do likewise. It’s a high but unglamorous calling. Contrasted with the conference world, it’s downright grim. Instead of thousands of adoring fans hanging on your every word, this world is full of conflict, church discipline cases, deadbeat husbands, and slow-to-learn leaders. But it’s profoundly important work to care for the people Jesus died for.

Something to Say

Dallas Willard often recounts how, as a young man, he struggled with wanting to gain a larger audience for his ministry. He recalls how, in prayer, he had a sense that the Lord was telling him, “Instead of focusing on gathering a crowd, focus on having something to say. If you have something to say, the crowd will take care of itself.”

This example gets at the heart of the distinction between two kinds of celebrities. The work and effort that goes into successful ministry (study, prayer, and digging into the life of our communities in evangelism and disciple-making) may result in gathering a crowd, or even a national audience, but that shouldn’t be the primary goal. Likewise, we shouldn’t blur the lines between the kinds of celebrity pastors who are focused on the main thing and the ones who are focused on shameless self-promotion. The gap is wide.

May the Lord give us more who are celebrities for the right reasons—their focus, character, and hard work—and fewer pastoral Kardashians.

  • Cynthia

    Dear Mike,

    Thank you for the thought provoking article. I can see that you’ve been thinking a lot about this issue. There is a few things that I disagree with you, however, I think the main issue here is not what kinds of celebrities we should be in the Christian circle, but the heart in which we serve the Almighty and Sovereign God. I don’t think being a celebrity should be a part of our goal at all if we truly desire for the Gospel to be preached for that our call is so that all may be subjected to the King- “forgetting the channel, seeing only Him”

    I remember a preacher one said that the preaching job is the most humbling jobs of all, because you’re constantly directing the glory to God and admitting that He is greater than you.

    In many ways our ministry is an honour already given to us by God. It is a privilege to begin with and that should be the motivation in which we begin and continue our ministry.

    Please forgive me if I’m just repeating what you were trying to say in the article :)

    your siC

    • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

      Agreed, being well known shouldn’t be a goal for anyone.

      I would add that no matter what job a person has he/she should be constantly directing the glory to God.

      • David LaChance

        I was going to post a link to a blog post I wrote containing a prayer against selfish ambition as a minister but the irony was too overwhelming. This is a good example of good intention/content with no way around the perception of self-promotion. I had something to say… to myself. :)

    • David LaChance

      Luther said it best… if you’re called to be a minister of the gospel why “stoop to be a King”? We are a culture that has been trained to “think we are something” when we are nothing. Our Westernized entitlement has seeped into our spiritual election. Talent and hard work, if one is being sanctified, is no guarantee of any worldly success whatsoever. The Christian life is a call to suffering, we rejoice later.

      There is no requirement to receive what men give us in response to our gifts. Jesus ran away from being King in John 6, no doubt because of temptation but primarily because it was not the Father’s will; although Christ would have done great things with a “larger” ministry. Many of our spiritual forefathers would never have believed how God has used them after their ministries were long gone. This is just the point… one plants, another waters but GOD gives the increase.

      C.S. Lewis refused to travel all over the world for speaking engagements, preferring rather to “stay in his cottage and smoke his pipe”. It had no effect on his efficiency or stewardship. As we are being sanctified we are called where we don’t want to go (Peter) and where we don’t know (Abraham) and it is far too easy to baptize our selfish ambition in ministry work.

      Mike is correct that if we are blessed with such ministerial success we should pray for mercy and see it as a burden, yet on the other hand I don’t think it’s a burden we NEED to place on ourselves nor should if we have been put in charge over a flock. Leaving the flock to save the one stray sheep is not the same as leaving the flock for bigger pastures. We need to fight to be small-minded and trust God to take care of the rest.

      • joe stowell jr

        Thanks for your thoughtful post David, I appreciated it. Good stuff.

    • rod van solkema

      Celebrity pastors = cringe factor (of seismic proportions).

      It’s only the celebrity, blinded by the lights, who cannot see this. In the end, the joke is on them (and sadly the church). The celebrity is quickly becoming a joke, especially to the generation coming of age.

  • Curt Whalen

    Hard work and honing the craft of speaking and teaching are things every Christian should applaud. The important question is this. How does the Pastor and his staff react as their church grows? Does the church retain a culture of humility recognizing that while extremely gifted (through his hard work), the Pastor is still a man who must guard his heart against pride and arrogance? Or does the staff and elders (if they exist) encourage the “celebrity” culture within the church, treating the head Pastor as a special anointed man of God with special status within the church? (Standing and cheering when he enters a room, keeping him isolated from the people of the church, not allowing staff members to approach him, forcing the use of special titles, etc.). Does this Pastor recognize the danger of “hero worship” or does he welcome it?

    I think Jesus himself has a clear word to say about this subject in Matthew 23. He understands how easily a celebrity Pastor can become like the teachers of the law and the Pharisees of his day. The command Jesus gave in verse 8 is clear. Jesus would say that today’s Pastors, ministry leaders, and teachers of the Gospel are to reject celebrity status and attempts their congregation (or staff leaders) make to exalt them. Celebrity worship leads to pride and arrogance. Jesus calls for humility and a servants heart.

    Any church or Pastor who gets this wrong is a dangerous place indeed. Christian leaders who witness this celebrity worship but who fail to speak up are damaging not only the body of Christ, but the very man they claim to love.

  • http://www.rathiulungelias.wordpress.com Rathiulung Elias Khangchien

    This is such a good article and timely. I had been having this debate with myself on how to handle fame and popularity as a prospect pastor- whether we should welcome and even work towards it, or we should avoid the limelight and stay pseudo-humble in every single ministry and emphasize on staying ghetto.
    Thanks for that!

  • Erik L

    Thanks for the article, it’s a good one. I would agree with Cynthia on one point of difference however; why should celebrity be a goal at all for a pastor?

  • http://www.andysstudy.org Andrew Evans

    The problem with Mike’s article is the largely unquestioned assumption that talent and hard work are major factors in people rising to the top. But as the existence of the overexposed demonstrates – and as the colossal disaster of banking has shown us in recent years – in many areas of life, including ministry, those who rise to the “top” are no brighter and no better than the average.

    In fact one of the problems is that articles like this one suggest that the celebrities are at the top – and often lead to Christians being discontented with anything that’s not like the celebrity’s style (it’s why there are so many people who try to preach like Driscoll and Keller when they ought to preach like themselves!).

    The problem with ANY sort of celebrity pastor (no matter how godly and gifted) is that in an internet age they, and their ministries, tend to “scoop the pool” of resources. This leaves other churches in their areas struggling and other people never getting “on the bill” at conferences and symposia, thus impoverishing the Church. The pastor of one mega-church told me that in his US city there are no other evangelical churches of more than 150 people. But it never seemed to have occurred to him that his celebrity status rather than anything those other churches are failing to do may be the cause of those churches being small.

    Clearly it’s impossible to avoid some pastors being famous. But deliberately avoiding the cult of the celebrity pastor – perhaps by the Gospel Coalition conference following the excellent lead of the Banner of Truth and not advertising their conference with named speakers – would be a great improvement on what we have now!

    • Lynn Dunston

      I agree with Andrew Evans’ comments. First of all, describing pastors as “Top of the Heap” is problematic. Implied in this heading is the idea that being at the “Top of the Heap” is what it means to be successful. This is not the case. Being successful in ministry means to be faithful. There are many faithful (“successful”) pastors who will never make it to what you call “Top of the Heap.”

      Finally, the idea that success comes solely from “talent, hard work, and opportunity” is mistaken. What is problematic with this thinking is that it is a complete conflation of Christianity with the American Dream. This is not new, but rather Christians such as Russell Conwell and H. W. Beecher did this at the end of the 19th century (it still happens today with prosperity preachers). Unfortunately, talent, hard work, and opportunity do not always result in egalitarian success. There are many oppressed people who possess all three of these, but still get overlooked by others. You are right to point out that celebrity should not be a goal, but the running thesis–that subscribing to the tenets of the American Dream will result in a pastor’s “success”–is troubling.

  • http://huiothesian.wordpress.com Matt Tully

    Great article. Let’s assume this is true:

    “Their goal is to be good shepherds, to pastor and lead well, to see the mission of God move forward. Some of these pastors will gather crowds. They become celebrities. In these cases, celebrity status is a byproduct of other, more important goals.”

    Now my question becomes, “What responsibility do these famous-for-all-the-right-reasons pastors have in discouraging unhealthy idolatry and/or slavish adherence to everything they say? Obviously, they are not totally responsible for everyone else’s responses to them. However, what role should they play in regulating their “celebrity status” (either by refraining from doing certain things, or through direct teaching on the topic), for the sake of their own souls and the souls of those who listen to them? For example, consider the practice of book signing – does that truly build up the church or merely feed/encourage an ungodly fascination with finite men?

    Just my questions…

    – Matt

    • Josh Dear

      Book signing should not be instantly identified with “an ungodly fascination with finite men”. As a pastor myself, I have great respect for the other Christian leaders that teach good, biblical doctrine – and who make consistently wise and God-honoring decisions in their leadership of their particular church / ministry. So, naturally, I will enjoy reading the things that they write, and will see that as a form of my own continuing Christian growth – as both a Christian and as a leader of other Christians.

      At the same time, when I actually have an opportunity to meet some of these ministers whom I respect – and whose books help feed my soul with biblical truth – I also enjoy asking them to sign their books for me….not because I “idolize” them, or want to feed their ego in any unhealthy way…but because I have been significantly inspired and challenged by the work that they have put into their writing, because the signatures in my books helps remind me (and the family members who will get my books after me) of these special visits with some of my pastoral mentors, and also – in a very practical sense – as a sincere compliment to the pastors who write them. Can you imagine spending many months working on a very thorough, biblical study of an important subject, having it published and circulated all over the country, and then never having anybody tell you that they appreciated what you wrote – or that you helped encourage their walk with Christ in any way? That’s where I come in….I am an encourager. I encourage my family and friends – I encourage the pastor that I serve under – and I encourage the Christian leaders whom I respect tremendously. Not because they’re better than me – or anybody else, for that matter – but because we all need sincere encouragement to motivate us in the work that we do…especially in this world that is so hostile to the things of God.

      The simple truth is we CAN’T be Christians – much less Christian LEADERS – alone. The Bible is very clear on this, and it reminds us to be looking ultimately to Christ as our example (of course), but also to be looking at other earthly leaders who are older, wiser, and have a proven track record of fruitful Christian leadership (“Follow me, as I follow Christ…”). So, I make sure to do this. We will all be influenced by people throughout our lives – I just make sure that I’m being influenced by the RIGHT people – the people who truly submit their lives to the authoritative teaching of God’s Word. And, from time to time, I have the wonderful opportunity to meet and interact with some of my favorite Christian leaders. When this happens, I certainly don’t mind telling them how much I appreciate their example and their teaching….or asking for them to sign a book for me. :O)

      • http://huiothesian.wordpress.com Matt Tully


        I actually agree with everything you say. I don’t necessarily think that book signing is wrong. I’m just concerned that it may do more harm than good (or at least contribute to harmful tendencies). And I totally agree with you that the Bible is not shy in calling us to watch and imitate godly men and women around us. I certainly wouldn’t want to do away with that gracious provision for our sanctification!

        However, I think that we easily fall into idolatry, especially in this age of ubiquitous “content” streaming over the internet to our laptops, iPads, and iPhones. The biblical exhortations to watch and imitate our leaders were set in the context of the local church, a context in which people were actually able to see how their leaders lived. I don’t think I really have that perspective on someone like John Piper…

        How would you answer my question regarding whether/how pastors should regulate their fame?

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  • http://www.TheSmokeFilledRoom.com OFelixCulpa

    The recent discussions of celebrity pastors seem to have started with the sudden and alarming recognition that the criticisms they have been directing toward others might actually apply to their favorite pastors as well as to the heroes of other groups. I am glad for the recognition, though it is long-overdue.

    The obvious options for dealing with this are 1) Drop all criticisms of the celebrity pastor culture, 2) Start criticizing our own celebrity pastors and our own group for judging all pastors by the criterion of celebrity, or 3) Find a way to distinguish between the celebrity of our guys and that of all the others. Yours is the latest (and best-written) of several attempts at #3 which I have read.

    The difficulty I have with all of those attempts to distinguish “our kind of celebrity” from “everyone else’s kind of celebrity” is that they require us to believe that, for people like MacArthur, Piper, Dever, Sproul, Mohler, Mahaney, etc., celebrity just happened for reasons entirely outside of their control and despite their zealous efforts to prevent it. For the other guys, however, we are required to believe just the opposite—that they are possessed of a desire for fame which overcomes any impulse to self-sacrificing ministry. That seems like a sophisticated way of saying nothing more than “We’re right because we’re ‘us’, they’re wrong because their ‘them.”

    Clearly you have thought about this very carefully. You are right that there is a correlation; the well-known reformed pastors are all really good preachers, and they say many good, edifying, and encouraging things. God has blessed many many people with their teaching. Excellent service in one area does not, however, preclude the possibility of a problem somewhere else. We should not close ourselves off to the idea that there is a problem in a group which so persistently turns pastoral ministry into a celebrity status as well as with the pastors rise to the top in such an environment.

    • http://www.thewayeverlasting.com JS Park

      I absolutely agree here with your subtle distinction on “us” versus “them.” I have never believed that any celebrity pastor has accidentally found celebrity and zealously avoids it. A certain amount of self-promotion, marketing, and closed-doors deals must occur to be in the spotlight. This is not necessarily a bad thing — some pastors preach and teach too well to be kept hidden — but it is a far cry from the caricature of an innocent, wide-eyed pastor who gets big in the city.

  • Jay Beerley

    I think the place to start as a pastor is to serve as a “country parson” as Tim Keller puts it. Small churches in small rural areas don’t care/aren’t tuned in AT ALL to “celebrity” church culture. Instead of a young man getting on a giant staff somewhere, he should head to places that are unaware. Then it’s just the Lord, his Word, and his people.

  • Lonnie S.

    I have a hard time making this idea of celebrity pastors, even those with godly motives, match up with the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2. Jesus was a well known pastor who came to die for others. Because of our sinful nature no pastor has that same attitude of Jesus or we would not have any need for Jesus to die for us. We could save ourselves by our own righteousness. When I was starting out preaching 25 years ago, I remember the words of an old preacher who said, “We have this whole career thing backwards. Young pastors should start at the top at big churches where they can mature and mature pastors should be working there way down to the unchurched areas where they are needed most in small, struggling churches. Instead of trying to justify celebrity pastors perhaps our “pastor career model” needs to be inverted to fit Jesus’ pastor career model. One goes up by going down.

  • Aaron Britton

    It’s so hard for (us) musicians to deal with the fact that it’s not always those who are most talented, or who work the hardest that get to the “top”. We have such trouble dealing with the sovereignty of God in these matters and resting in the fact that the Lord raises up whom He will raise up, and sometimes it makes no sense.

    This was hinted at in the article, . . . but we still long so much for determinism in these things, that it’s hard to let go of wanting to control the outcomes of our art, work, celebrity, etc. . .

    I agree with the rest of this, and agree with the prescriptions against seeking celebrity for those in ministry.

    But, if we’re being honest, . . often these things “happen” without alot of work by the one being lifted up, and sometimes to someone with inferior “talent” and “work ethic” to others.

    It is, sometimes, about who you know, and the match striking at the right time (thanks Malcolm Gladwell).

    I know this is a bit off-topic for the reason behind this post, but I think it’s important for Christians especially to appreciate and celebrate that these things don’t always make sense as the World would want them to make sense.

  • Matthew Linder

    Interesting that this article came out today after the recent announcement about Joel Osteen’s reality show. I am pretty sure he would fall into the latter category of pastors who are seeking celebrity. It is rather sad that he of all people is going to represent Christians to the mainstream American public.

    • http://awildernesslife.wordpress.com Laura

      “Joel Osteen’s reality show.”

      Come, Lord Jesus.

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  • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

    Celebrity as a second goal? I don’t think it should be a goal at all. If that’s the outcome of your work so be it, but wanting to be well known seems to me to be a very selfish desire.

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  • James

    There are a lot of people writing about celebrity ministers. A related topic that nobody seems to be talking about is the rising fees/honorariums that many of these ministers are requesting.

    It would be interesting to see some numbers of what national conferences are paying their speakers. In my limited experience it is not unusual for ministers to request $2500 per day (and up) plus expenses. It has been perhaps the most disheartening revelation of my brief ministry. These are men who generally have full-time jobs already and usually a best-selling book or two.

    There are of course some great examples of well-known preachers who accept speaking requests regardless of the payment. I wish more followed their example.

  • Matt Beatty

    I wonder how many of Keller’s fanboys would pastor a no-name congregation in the middle of the sticks.. for 10 years!… and then, when given the big shot at Manhattan, would work in relative obscurity for another 15 or so. Keller’s only recently become a “celebrity”… there were many, many funerals, weddings, crappy sermons, late night counseling sessions, disciplinary hearings, etc. before he became “Keller” or was invited to Google.

    There’s always a percentage of pastors (teachers, executives, singers, quarterbacks) that will rise to the top and get lots of press. The problem comes when young/inexperienced guys think that this is NORMAL or NATURAL… or even an appropriate “secondary goal” as Cosper said. Perhaps Rev. Cosper could support the idea that celebrity status is EVER to be a goal from Scripture?

    • http://www.thewayeverlasting.com JS Park

      Interesting about Tim Keller. Sounds a bit like Francis Chan — who left the megachurch scene partly because they were saying his name more than the name of Jesus. Now he’s doing an urban prayer/provision ministry that is all kinds of downscaling from his “celebrity” pastor-author status, plus the occasional speaking gig.

      While I don’t think every celebrity pastor should simply leave their church once it gets to mega-size, I do sense that Pastor Francis was Spirit-led in his decision (there was plenty of criticism). You almost never see a celebrity pastor move from larger to smaller; it’s been called “bad stewardship.”

      I also remember reading that Lincoln Brewster — monster guitar talent, probably the best in the Christian music world — was an A/V guy for his church and refused to lead worship for a long period. This was after his tour with Journey so he was at least well known. Guys like Keller, Chan, and Brewster regardless of their human flaws do well to downplay the celebrity, no matter how much they deserve that status. Maybe they learned from Jesus.

  • GN

    Why not just come out and say this article is directed at (and written because of) Osteen’s pending reality show? This veiled critique should explicitly state it’s example instead of subtly pointing towards it.

    • http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org Collin Hansen

      This article was written, edited, and scheduled for publication weeks before the announcement of Osteen’s reality show.

      • GN

        Good to know! Please disregard my previous comment.

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  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com John Thomson

    Is the problem not so much the pastor as the pastorate? Is not he clergy/laity distinction the difficulty?

  • Jonathan

    Hey Mike,

    Overall, I think the thrust of your article is helpful. I may want to add something to the discussion, though. I’m not necessarily sure if the only two reasons for celebrity pastor status is 1) exceptional work, and 2) proud desire for popularity. I know you said those were opposite ends and there are spaces in between, but I think there is another element all-together: the personality cult.

    To be perfectly honest, guys like Driscoll, McDonald, Chandler, Grear, and Tchividjian (with the exception of Keller, Carson, Piper, and Dever) don’t have all that exceptional of “work” compared to many biblical scholars and teachers out there today. Their theology, sermon content, and books are all pretty generic; kind of the same, really. I think people are drawn to their personalities. And this is not the fault of the pastors, necessarily. They can’t stop being themselves. However, the church has not thought about how the culture has shaped her view of reality. We are, for the most part, concerned more about the form than we are about the content, regardless of whether or not the two even match up. We like the edgy, the pseudo-profound, the winsome, sarcastic, and all around feel of the personality in front of us. So we flock to them. And that creates homogeneity, because certain people are drawn to certain personalities.

    I’ll be interested to see what the fame of certain churches looks like once their public personality has passed from the lime-light.

  • http://psalm8611.blogspot.com Matt Fletcher

    A very well written article, showing the human element (motives, hard work, etc.) that comes into play within the framework of God’s sovereignty. Neither can be discounted, and we must prize God’s glory above all else. Prizing it includes pursuing a spirit of excellence in all things.

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress. Mike Gantt

    “Instead of focusing on gathering a crowd, focus on having something to say. If you have something to say, the crowd will take care of itself.” – Dallas Willard

    This is a good quote…if our goal is to gather a crowd to ourselves. However, our goal should be to gather a crowd to the Lord. That requires a completely different mindset.

    There is only One who deserves to be pastor. And those of us who speak in His name should be pointing to Him, and not drawing crowds to ourselves.

    Pastors of small churches often complain about the celebrity pastors of mega-churches – but the only difference is the size of the church. All these pastors are doing the same thing: drawing a crowd to themselves, the only difference being the size of the crowds.

    Onan didn’t want to raise up offspring that would not be his own. Preachers today need to know that they can preach the kingdom of God instead of church and thereby raise up offspring to their fallen brother: Jesus Christ our Lord. I was a pastor who came to this awareness.

  • Johan Verster

    To be honest guys, as a non-American outsider…I fear that the “celebrity pastor” issue is way more prevalent than most would concede. It seems that even when it comes to many of the “good”, Bible-believing evangelical guys, there is so much ‘Hollywood’ in the way that we preach, dress and do church…that even the idea of ‘normal’ has shifted.

    I say this simply because I see the seductive power of the celebrity culture in my own country (South Africa) and sadly, also in my own ministry. It seems that we have moved miles away from Paul’s description of his ministry in 2 Cor 6.

  • Joe

    A celeb-pastor is an intrinsically flawed position. Lack of responsibility for words that are said. No real way for someone who is really struggling with that teaching to connect with the celeb. Marc Driscoll with his “God hates you personally” comes to mind. Irresponsible at best. It’s a flawed one way relationship that feeds the ego of the celeb and defies spiritual community for the consumer.

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  • Wayne

    Nice work on this. And so true. Appreciate your insight

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  • suzanne


    It really all comes down to pride doesn’t it. The devil has used that one from the beginning, and you’d think that followers would be able to recognize it. What have we to be proud of? It all comes from the Lord.