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1. The term “celebrity pastor” is decidedly pejorative. I don’t know anyone who would be happy to own the phrase. That doesn’t mean we can’t use it. But it means we should not attach it to pastors in a knee jerk way. A Christian with some combination of influence, social media followers, books, a large church, and speaking engagements may be a public Christian or a well known individual, but let’s not use “celebrity pastor” unless we mean to say he relishes the spotlight, has schemed his way into the spotlight, and carries himself as being above mere mortals. Does this fit some popular preachers? Probably. Does it fit all of them? By no means.

2. Having said that, let us beware of the many devilish dangers that can beset us in this internet age. Have there always been Christians mired in controversy? Have there always been popular preachers? Have there always been charlatans in the church? Yes, yes, and yes. These things are not new. What is new is the myriad of ways we can channel our pride, feed our pride, and keep numerical count of our pride. I don’t think I’ve read a negative post on celebrity pastors or the evangelical industrial complex that doesn’t touch on legitimate issues and very real dangers. This is not a throwaway point. We need warnings. I need them too.

3. Let us also acknowledge that one can become something of a “celebrity” critiquing celebrity pastors. This doesn’t make the critiques wrong or inappropriate. But it does mean we aren’t out of the Woods of Pride just because we’ve aligned ourselves against the proud. Besides, are pastors the only Christians susceptible to these pitfalls? What about celebrity professors or celebrity pollsters or celebrity social justice advocates?

4. The reach of our repentance should match the reach of our sin. Private sins demand private repentance. Sins that can be seen by many necessitate a repentance that can be seen by many. And while we ought to forgive each other seven times, and seventy times, and even seven times seventy times, looking for the fruit of repentance is not the same as being unforgiving. Ronald Reagan was right: trust, but verify.

5. When we criticize others for their faults (real or perceived) let us broadcast the news just as widely when they repent of their faults and correct them. The same is even more true when it turns out we were wrong in our information or accusations. Of all people, Christians should not put the bad news in bold face and the good news in a footnote.

6. Discernment is hard work. On the one hand, journalists or bloggers have every right to dig into the facts of some brewing controversy. When the smoke leads you to a fire, let’s not be afraid to sound the alarm. Done in the right spirit, public accountability for public figures is good and right. On the other hand, let’s not fall foul of 1 Corinthians 13 by believing nothing, overlooking nothing, bearing nothing, and hoping for nothing except to find more dirt. How sad it is when a love for the truth becomes a love for exposing thy neighbor.

7. Associations are tricky. It does matter with whom you share a platform. Convictions and courage are often compromised by a casual approach to movement building. If you were big buddies with Arius in the fourth century and blurbed all his books, people would be right to ask a few questions. And yet, to throw a movement under the bus for a couple bad bus drivers is not right. The logic which says “John Piper is the father of the New Calvinism, and John Piper did conferences with Mark Driscoll several years ago, and Mark Driscoll is friends with Steven Furtick, therefore the New Calvinism and everyone and everything associated with it is complicit in the worst of evangelical megachurchdom” is reasoning equal parts fallacious and lazy.

8. There are many possible reasons for silence in the midst of controversy. Some of them are cowardly. Some are wise. It’s not always easy to know when to speak and when to shut your mouth, especially when the former can get you accused of acting too churchly and the latter can land you in hot water for enabling the problem. Along these lines, it may be worth pointing out that TGC blogs commented on the Elephant Room here, here, here, and here; on plagiarism, ghost writing, and buying your way on to the best sellers list here, here, here, and here. And this is simply what I found after searching for 15 minutes, and excluding articles linked to on twitter and commentary from other TGC council members (e.g., Piper’s strong denunciations of ghostwriting here and here).

9. Is the New Calvinism dead or dying? In a couple ways yes. In most ways no. “Yes” in so far as we are seeing that some of the networks in the movement probably don’t actually belong in the same movement and some of the popular voices in the movement may not really be singing from the same sheet of music. But a resounding “no” in so far as the commitment to and interest in these twelve features seems to me to be growing rather than receding. Where the New Calvinism is about propping up our puny empires and making pastors rich and famous let it die a thousand deaths and die quickly. Where the New Calvinism leads people to the Bible, points to good books, produces good resources, promotes a winsome evangelical Calvinism, strengthens the local church, exults in Christ, proclaims the gospel, and  magnifies the glory of God, let it grow ten thousand fold. And if it grows and in some quarters becomes potent and popular, let us not have a whiff of triumphalism for its success, nor a hint of rooting for its demise.


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116 thoughts on “9 Thoughts on Celebrity Pastors, Controversy, the New Calvinism, Etc.”

  1. David L says:

    Rick,
    I have never attended any of the conferences. I do own MacArthur books, but do not intend to buy any in the future. MacArthur received a $400,000 salary from Grace to You alone in 2012 according to charity navigator. I also live less than 30 minutes from a Reformed celebrity pastor’s church, which I do not attend.

    Joel Osteen does not preach the Gospel or sound doctrine. However, if for some strange reason he were to read from the Word, is God capable of using that? I think so. Now, obviously, that person, in a genuine reaction to the Word, would run as far away as he or she could from Osteen. Perhaps, I am wrong.

    Has Piper or MacArthur or DeYoung or Sproul preached the Gospel? Yes! Has God used some of these men in my life? Yes! Do I endorse their practices necessarily? No. I merely rejoice if Christ is preached. I am poorly trying to emulate the attitude of Paul. Please do not mistake my rejoicing in Christ being preached with endorsement of celebrity pastors or submission to their “ministries.” I am trying to think about this biblically not pragmatically.

  2. A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm? “Celebrity Pastors?”

    Seems most who take the “Title/Position” pastor/leader/reverend are desiring “Celebrity.”
    That seemingly innocent “Title” comes with something – “A Little Bit Extra.”
    Power – Profit – Prestige – Honor – Glory – Recognition – Reputation – Celebrity – etc…
    ALL those things that become “Idols” of the heart. All those things Jesus spoke against.
    ALL things “highly esteemed among men – But, is abomination in the sight of God..” Luke 16:15 KJV

    And, In The Bible, NOT one of His Disciples had the “Title/Position” – pastor/leader/reverend.
    In The Bible, NOT one of His Disciples was, Hired or Fired, as a – pastor/leader/reverend.

    BUT – I cudda missed that – Being eggnorant, unlearned, unedjumacated… ;-)

    Can anyone name one of His Disciples who called them self – pastor-shepherd/leader/reverend?

    Seems the only one I can find in the Bible referred to as – pastor-shepherd/leader/reverend – IS…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  3. A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm? “Celebrity Pastors?”

    Doesn’t the Bible warns us to “hew down “the graven images” of their gods?” Deut 4:14 KJV.
    But, instead, they make the “Title“ pastor/leader/reverend a “graven image.” An “Idol.” A god.
    “A Graven Image” on Diploma’s and Denominational licenses, placed on office walls.
    “A Graven Image” on business cards handed out, web-sites, books, Conference Ads, tracts.
    “A Graven Image” on office doors, secretarys desks, church letterhead,
    on Sunday morning bulletins, church street signs, , etc, etc…

    And those who read them knows who “the Pastor” is. Yes? – Why? – Celebrity? – To be well known?
    Isn’t that – “He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory?” John 7:18 KJV.
    Isn’t that – “If I honor myself my honor is northing?” John 8:54 KJV
    Isn’t that – Marketing self? Desiring “Celebrity?” Desiring “to be known?”

    It does NOT sound like “ALL of you be subject one to another, be clothed with humility” 1Pet 5:5 KJV
    (Humility – dictionary – a modest or low view of one’s own importance.)

    Anyone know any of today’s – pastor/leader/revereds – clothed with humility?
    Who enjoys being subject one to another? Who enjoys submitting one to another?

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **THEIR shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    I’m Blest… I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  4. A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm? “Celebrity Pastors?”

    In my experience – With having been ordained, in leadership…
    With the “Title/Postion” – pastor/leader/reverend – for quite a few years…

    “Titles” become “Idols” ………………… (“Idols” of the heart – Ezek14:1-11 KJV)
    “Pastors” become “Masters”…………. ( A big No, No. Mat 23:10 KJV)
    “Leaders” become “Deceivers”…….. (Isa 3:12 KJV, Isa 9:16 KJV, Mat 15:14 KJV)

    And these “Idols,” carried in the Pastors heart, are unseen to the natural eye, extremely difficult to lay down an walk away from. They become an addiction. And like most addictions – you never have enough – you need more Power – Profit – Prestige – you always need more and more to satisfy the addiction. You think you’re in control, tell others you’re in control but the addiction controls you. You’re in bondage to an addiction – and a lie – and you don’t know it.

    Power corrupts – and absolute power – corrupts absolutely.

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  5. A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm? “Celebrity Pastors?”

    And in my experience with “Todays Abusive Religious System.” This “power” CORRUPTS ALL who attempt to wield this “power.” This “power” they think they have – to rule over others – to be obeyed – to be someone special – to be someone important – to be a leader – is leading them to – Burnout – Depression – Hopelessness – Discouragement – Failure. This addiction to – Power – Profit – Prestige – is like other addictions – it destroys those who believe they can handle it. These addictions NOT only destroy the Pastor – They also destroy the Pastors family.

    The statistics – for burned out pastors – are horrendous…
    80% of pastors’ spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    80% of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    77% of pastors say they do NOT have a good marriage.
    70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
    70% of pastors report NOT having a close fried.

    And how good are today’s Seminaries, and professors doing? – Or should I say Cemeterys?
    50% of pastors do NOT last five years. —- And – of those who remain….
    57% of pastors said they would leave if they had a better place to go. Including secular work.

    Just look around, half, 1 out of 2, of pastors want out… Oy Vey!!!

    Seem with these statistics most of today’s pastor/leader/reverends – Were NEVER really called… ;-)

    Jer 50:38 KJV
    A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up:
    for it is the land of “graven images,” and they are mad upon their “idols.”

    A land of “Titles and idols” in the heart. Senior Pastors, Lead Pastors, Executive Pastors,
    Youth Pastors, Singles Pastors, Reverends, Right Reverends, Most Right Reverends, Popes,
    Cardinals, Clergy, Vicars, Rectors, Doctors, M Div’s, and the list goes on… And on… And…

    Are any of these “Titles/Idols” in the Bible?

    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give *Flattering Titles* unto man.
    For I know not to give *Flattering Titles;*
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
    Job 32:21-22 KJV

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  11. Joseph Bredesen says:

    His critiques surrounding the celebrity pastor are true, but overall he is dodging the serious problem in evangelicalism that he set out to address in this article.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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