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Increasingly we’re seeing the terms “rock star pastor” and “celebrity pastor” tossed about. Even though most people acceptably follow and patronize their favorite celebrity actors and performers, and a good number of us grew up idolizing “rock stars” (although, for me, it would have been rap–not rock), the terms in an Evangelical context are pejoratives, derogatory terms of abuse, expressions of contempt. In fact, there’s a good case to be made that most uses of the terms “celebrity pastors” or “rock star pastor” amount to uncharitable slurs.

I hate the terms.  I really do.  They tar and feather good men.

The increasing use of the terms does suggest a need to address an increasing problem.  Now, please don’t rush in judgment to conclude that the problem is the “celebrification” of pastors.  That’s only one potential problem.  The other potential problems have to do with the hearts of those who would use expressions of contempt and uncharitable slurs in the first place–particularly without knowledge of the person they’re so labeling.

So, it seems a good review of these terms is in order.  I’m feeling particularly interested in taking up this issue because in the last week the terms have come home to roost.  Following my post on multi-site churches, a couple dear brothers wrote to me privately to push back on the rhetoric, tone, and substance of the post.  Those were wounds of friends.  Both brothers in some way intimated that I might be a “celebrity pastor,” or at least face some of the same challenges as those I criticized in the post.  That was alarming, and the suggestion has by God’s grace been working good fruit of reflection in my own soul.  It immediately revealed that my own sinful pride came to the foreground in that post.  At the very least, I should have confessed more fully that everything in the post regarding pride and the temptation to idolizing self or others is true of my own heart.  I don’t need to leave the bed in the morning before I’m confronted with the corruptions of my own heart.  While I do think there’s a difference of degree created by some forms of the multi-site strategy, I should have made it more clearly known in the post itself (not just in the comments) that there is no difference in kindall of our hearts are idol factories–beginning with my own heart.

But there’s a second way the terms have come home to roost following the multi-site post.  Some people read the post and instantly concluded that I would happily use those pejorative terms or accept without critique the very concept itself.  Some even assumed I was taking aim at a particular “celebrity pastor.”  They were wrong on both counts.

I did not even use the terms in the post, and I was not attempting to tag anyone with the labels.  I hate the labels.  The one name appearing in the post is that of James MacDonald.  I named him, not to label him, but as I say in the opening sentence to pay “homage” in borrowing a similar title from an earlier post of his.  Lest there be further misunderstanding, “homage” is a show of respect and admiration or dedication by a remark or gesture.  By borrowing the title, I was paying tribute to James’ way with words and use of provocation in service to good causes.  There was no attack of MacDonald in that post.  That the critique of his invitation of Jakes to the ER followed a day of so later was simply the providence of God, for that’s when I learned of the invitation, read the series of remarks being made elsewhere, and decided to share a perspective I thought missing in the discussion.  So, I want to allay concerns and quiet Evangelical conspiracy theorists trying to connect the dots between posts and read any animosity between the lines.  Those who know me tend to think I try to say what I mean and mean what I say.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s no personal animosity to observe in any of this–even where I seriously disagree with the ER decisions.  I’ve never intentionally slandered MacDonald with either of these labels.

Apart from possibly unthinkingly using the term during a recent panel discussion, I don’t think I’ve ever used the term to describe anyone.  And even during that panel, when a couple brothers objected to the use of the term, I immediately asked if I were the one who introduced the term because I was mortified with such a potential slip and ready to instantly apologize.  I was told during the panel discussion that I had not been the one who introduced the term.  But, after the panel, still feeling uneasy in spirit with the discussion, I approached two brothers to offer apologies for any offensive thing I said.  Again, after the panel I was told no offense had occurred.

But there seems to be some continuing misunderstanding about both what happened on the panel and what or who I criticized in the multi-site post.  When we come to interpreting someone’s writing–whether the Bible or blog posts–one controlling issue is “authorial intent.”  What did the author mean when they wrote the document?  We can’t understand any writing properly until we understand something about authorial intent.  Nonetheless, it’s incumbent upon the author to make their writing clear.  I think it was C.S. Lewis who counseled writers to be sure to choose words and write in such a way that the reader’s understanding and conclusion can only be what the author meant.  That’s a tall order, but it’s necessary.  My failure to write with that kind of specificity and clarity has left some people with the wrong conclusions and impressions, including some people who thought the post was “a personal attack” or “about them” when it was not.  That’s my fault.  So even though the post was not intended as a personal attack against anyone, I offer my apologies to everyone who felt in some measure–great or small–as if they were being personally and inappropriately assailed or labeled “celebrity pastor” or “rock star pastor” by what I’ve written.  I sincerely regret my lack of clarity and our misunderstanding.

So, if I can, I’d like to try in a series of posts to clarify a few things regarding what I think (as if anyone needs to care) about the use and abuse of the terms “rock star” and “celebrity” pastor.  As I said earlier, I hate the terms.  I look forward to explaining–hopefully with clarity–why.

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45 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about “Celebrity” and “Rock Star” Pastors”

  1. Olive says:

    Thanks for your humility in sharing as you have. ‘Nuff said. Good luck with an attempt at clarity. Someone will ALWAYS misunderstand or misinterpret. It’s a whole new day with internet.

  2. Tom says:

    Dr. Anyabwile,

    I appreciate your sensitivity in this matter. However, I believe there are many “celebrity pastors” who frequent the various conferences that take place every year. Their celebrity status may be due to either their prideful motives or the impure motives of their “fans,” but regardless, something is not right.

    I remember attending T4G in 2010, and after the plenary speakers were finished there was a mass rush to the stage (or at least to the VIP section, which was separated from the rest of the audience by stanchions) by many at the conference.

    The fact that there is a VIP section itself is troubling, I think. The fact that people are clamoring to shake a hands, talk to, get autographs from, etc. the VIPs is also troubling. There were some things even said from the stage by CJ in adoration to one of the speakers that were troubling.

    Certainly, there must be a better way. Perhaps if these “celebrity pastors” would spend more time in their own churches preaching and shepherding their own people, that would help. I don’t know…

    I remember reading Begg and Prime’s book on pastoring. The one thing that I remembered (because it was oft repeated) was that Begg no longer did a lot of the hands-on pastoring / shepherding / counseling that Prime would discuss and advocate. I don’t say this to dog Begg, but I think that is problematic.

    Anyway, I look forward to your next couple of post regarding this…



    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your comments. Lord willing, I’ll address some of them as we go along. By the way, I’m just plain ol’ “Thabiti.” No “Dr.”


  3. Regarding the very important issue of authorial intent, I’d encourage both you as the writer, and us as the readers, that it goes both ways. It’s up to the writer to serve his/her audience through being as clear as possible. But it’s up to us as readers (especially Christian readers), to apply a 1 Cor. 13 mindset in what we read. Specifically, charity means always believing the best of the other person, and the worst of ourselves, and if we suspect otherwise, asking clarifying questions, rather than jumping to conclusions about motives or intent!!

    I look forward to this series. I’ll confess to using the term “celebpreacher” a time or two, but without thinking of it as anything other than shorthand for “a preacher who doesn’t have any sermons on TGC or YouTube”. I repent in advance of being convicted to do so…. :)

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Point well made, Rachael.

  4. Mark says:

    I think there is a problem with “celebrity” pastors. I’ve written on it a few times. I’ve written about their vindication which includes how their defenders act, but more importantly I’ve pondered the question – Should “Celebrity” Pastors Offer Disclaimers?

    It seems that many want the world to be their pulpit, but never want to hear any constructive feedback from those who sit in that large congregation. Nor do I get the feeling that some who may be deemed a “celebrity” take into consideration that they are influencing those of a flock whom God has given charge over to other shepherds.

  5. gv720/ JUsher says:

    Pastor Anyabwile
    1) I detected no pride in the posts. As an aside I’m not at all sure that introspection, on its own, is a very reliable guide to our motives. We need to consult those who know us best. We need to compare our behaviour with times when we unambiguously acted out of pride (or whatever). There is a great deal more to wisdom than introspection.
    2) We must always be wary of popular culture’s influence on the Church. I think that the “celebrity Pastor”, if defined carefully, is an undeniable feature of the modern, evangelical Reformed Church. A celebrity is an individual with a prominent media profile, which they have gained by measured success in some project, and by managing their public image. Now some good men and women might be celebrities; William Lane Craig is a minor celebrity, as he would be foolish not to worry about his media image, and is a successful academic. But being a celebrity is always a hindrance and never a help to the work of the Church.
    3) As my previous point indicates, the rise of evangelical celebrity culture might not be the fault of the “celebrities”. It might be the outcome of “market forces”. 3a) One reason for the rise is the “Shark Tank” approach in publishing; publishers mainly wish to invest in author’s with established readerships (ie. markets). So we have many books by prominent Pastors saying – well, nothing new really. 3b) The “new media” allows a readership/market to be built up rapidly. More offensive material produces a wider market. 3c) Those who can communicate to the YouTube audience receive a larger “market share”.
    4) Anyone who attempts to create a “connection” with an audience via electronic media (say, by attempting to Pastor that audience) is behaving like a modern celebrity, and needs to be warned of the dangers.
    5) Anyone who models their preaching on stand-up comedians, who preaches in digestible chunks that can be posted on you-tube, who makes shocking statements that light up the blog-o-sphere, who seems to have a wardrobe that has been chosen for a particular audience – is behaving like a modern celebrity, and needs to be warned of the dangers.
    6) Anyone who is attracted to this type of preacher is attracted to celebrity culture, and needs to be warned of the dangers.
    7) “Legalist” and “antinomian” can be used in an unkind and cruel manner; but they remain useful terms. “Celebrity Pastor” can be used unkindly; but it reminds us that pop-culture more often shapes evangelicalism than it is shaped by evangelicalism. It remains a useful term.
    8) Finally, couldn’t you now be accused of offending some of the bloggers on Ref 21? I don’t mean that as a serious criticism. My point is – we’ll never be able to offer any critique of the evangelical world if we’re continually checking that no-one has been offended.

    If all I have to do to halt a criticism is to say “I’m hurt” all critique and correction stops. And that leaves the evangelical Church in chaos.

    Grace and Peace

  6. gv720/ JUsher says:

    By the way – I thought your exchange with Carl Trueman on celebrity Pastors was very, very funny. And on point – this isn’t an American problem. It’s a problem created by technology.

    So my last point really was rhetorical. I don’t think that a reasonable person should, or could, be offended at anything that you have said over the last week.

  7. Dwight McKissic says:

    Pastor T.

    I asked this question on the comment section of the post that addressed the question regarding Bishop T. D. Jakes apperance at The Elephant Room, perhaps you didn’t see my question so I will reask it here: Based on your definition of “Christian” and your understanding of Bishop Jakes beliefs, do you believe that Bishop Jakes is a Christian?

    The reason I ask this question is because the answer to this question provides the answer to the question as to whether or not Bishop Jakes should be invited to appear at The Elephant Room.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Dwight,

      Thanks for your question, brother. I’m sorry I failed to comment previously. I would say that a person that self-consciously rejects the Trinity is not a Christian in any historic or theological or experiential sense.

      Justin Taylor included a helpful post here: Here’s part of the explanation Justin quotes from Michael Wittmer on this issue:

      According to the Athanasian Creed, whoever does not believe in the Trinity and the two natures of Jesus is damned. However, since it seems possible for a child to come to faith without knowing much about the Trinity or the hypostatic union (this is likely not the place where most parents begin), I take the Creed’s warning in a more benign way—that we do not need to know and believe in the Trinity and two natures of Christ to be saved, but that anyone who knowingly rejects them cannot be saved.

      I would view the question the same way. I hope that helps.

      1. Dwight McKissic says:


        Thanks. I appreciate your response. I plan to read Taylor.

        I think it’s a stretch to argue that Bishop Jakes has self-consciously rejected the Trinity.

        May the Lord continue to smile upon you, your family and ministry.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Dwight,

          Why do you “think it’s a stretch to argue Bishop Jakes has self-consciously rejected the Trinity?”


          1. Dwight McKissic says:

            First of all I need to express admiration and appreciation to you as I have watched your ministry for several years and actually read one of your books. Although, I’m not a calvinist, I appreciated learning from you that there were prominent Black preachers in yesteryears who were calvinist.
            Vacationing in Grand Caymens is on my wife’s and I bucket list and I told her if we were there on a Sunday we would visit your church.BTW, I’ve become aware and thus interested in two of your other books while perusing your sight and I plan to order those soon.

            Now to your question:I simply stumbled upon The Elephant Room controversy browsing the internet and found the discussion/debate interesting. Vernon Johns said,”if you see a good fight,get in it.” I’m afraid I saw this as a good fight so I decided to get in it. Now I’m asking myself the question is this a distraction even a Satanic distraction–because it’s really none of my business– or I’m I coming to a defense of a Christian brother that I earnestly believe is being unfairly attacked.

            Am going to make this a matter of prayer and if I don’t
            sense the Lord leading me,I’m going to soon only observe and wait and see the outcome like others. However, as my pastor would say, if I get a “green light ” from God I am going to address your question and your belief that the African American church is a “apostate” in a full blown post.

            The short answer to your question is, I believe it’s a stretch to argue that Bishop Jakes has self-consciously
            rejected the trinity because no one that I’ve read has presented what I consider credible evidence to make such a claim. And in the absence of credible evidense for such a claim, I find this a very serious accusation that needs to be addressed if this brother is being falsely accused.

            May’be you’ll be kind enough by email or over the phone(as I recall you several years ago took a phone call from me and kindly answered a question from your book) share with your concerns about the “apostasty” of the Black Church or if you choose not to dialogue, I’ll respond to what you”ve written on your blog concerning these matters.

            Thanks for the dialogue. Again, I deeply respect, value and appreciate what I know about you and your ministry. We share a passion to see the church grow toward maturity and purity.
            I hope in all my rambling I addressed your question.

            1. Dwight McKissic says:

              I’m very new at typing. I usually address these matters at my office so my assistant can type my words correctly. Please forgive the typo’s.


            2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:


              Great to hear from you! I’m just now connecting the name with the person! How have you been? We do need to connect again some time soon.

              As for typos, don’t worry about those brother. The typo quotient goes way up just with my name!! ;-)

              As for Jakes, there’ve been a long line of folks who have confronted or attempted to confront him re: the Trinity. The language in his statement of faith, and in the Oneness demonination of which he is a part, is quite clearly modalist. And his evasions are indications.

              Let me put it this way: If someone were to accuse you of holding a serious heresy that you did not hold, what would you do? I know your stance on an issue like tongues, so I’ll hazard a guess based on that. You would state publicly, unhesitatingly, and unequivocally your true belief so that it couldn’t be questioned again. Am I right or wrong? I know that’s what I would do! If I held the truth and others didn’t know it or misrepresented me, I would go through interview after interview avoiding the issue while being asked directly about it. Makes no sense if he’s orthodox. Should have been cleared up 15 years ago or more. And that’s just on the issue of the Trinity. Nevermind the ‘prosperity gospel’ errors.

              But I respect your wanting to know things for yourself. We all need the Lord’s grace and an added measure of truth, don’t we? May He grant it.

              Let’s chat by phone again some time soon.

              Grace and peace to you,

  8. Taylor says:

    I appreciate this post, in the same way that I’ve come to appreciate your blog in general. I’ve found it thoughtful, careful, and engaging.

    In this case, I found myself agreeing with your intent, but not with your conclusion. I think the terms exist because on some level they are true. Because of that, it may be wise to keep the terms in existence, but out of the blogging community.

    As you said, faithful are the wounds of a friend. And, knowing my own heart, the temptation to take advantage of my celebrity, even for well-intended purposes would be great. If I had any.

    Also, there is an observable cult of personality in today’s Evangelical world that lends itself to the whole “I am of Paul,” issue in the early church. That isn’t all on the pastor. We want to follow anything that we think is more hip than Jesus, even if the one we’re following doesn’t even recognize that we love their personality more than we love God.

    For those reasons, I think the term should stay; not pejoratively, but so we can ask ourselves: “Am I a rock-star?” and if so: “Is that actually diminishing the glory of God when people come to see me?”

    We have the term ‘fool’ not so we can call our brother one, but so that we can become wise and avoid folly. Maybe rock star should be the same.

    1. Taylor says:

      I reread that and can see how it could look like I’m suggesting well-known pastors are fools. I meant to suggest that if something could be a danger, we ought to have some way to warn against it.

      1. Taylor
        I think “celebrity” is better than “rock star”. “Rock star” is pejorative. “Celebrity” is easier to define – there is one necessary condition – to have a carefully structured media image.
        And I think that we should not focus our critique on the Pastors themselves. We need a critique of the market forces that now drive Reformed evangelicalism. One way to become a celebrity is to have measured success in some field. That could be albums sold, book sales, number of Church members, etc. Then you, or those who can profit from your success, structure a media image to maximise impact. An individual can actually lose control of their image (as many secular celebrities complain).
        Publishers, for example, will want a Christian writer to be a celebrity to increase output. Publishers will promote a writer with speaking tours and internet “trailers”. Some of these trailers are “peformances” – I watched one recently, in which a Pastor responded passionately to his conservative critics. He seemed angry and saddened. I was impressed – until a thought struck me. “I wonder how many takes it took to get that right?” Celebrities can also become trapped by their “fans” expectations. (I have to wonder – how many Pastors are running out of shocking things to say? How many are worried, because their audience demands shocks, and they don’t have many left to give?_

        All of these promotional methods can be pursued in good faith; I think that we’re only beginning to see the pitfalls now. I do worry that some men are manipulating the Church to their own ends; they can become minor celebrities in the Church. They would never have had that opportunity in the secular world. But for the most part, I think “celebrity” happens to Pastors and writers by accident. They never asked for it.

        Now we all just have to work out what to do about it.


        1. Taylor says:


          I think you’re assuming too much about motives. It’s unfair to those in ministry to assume everything we see is staged just because some of it is.

          I do agree that status abuse doesn’t always fall on the pastor (see paragraph 4 in my original comment); the problem is that even then a pastor may need to act when his congregation won’t. I know, and deeply respect, a man who removed himself for a time from his congregation because they had ceased to grow apart from him.

          I don’t think the term rock star is pejorative, or should be. Keith Green is something of a hero of mine, and he was arguably, and through no fault of his own, the first Christian rock star.

          I think his exhortation to aspiring musicians would be a timely read for aspiring church leaders as well:

          1. Taylor
            I think that you’ve misread me a little. I don’t think that many evangelical “celebrities” have sought celebrity at all. It might have been foisted on them by secular publishers, or they might have posted material online, and been stunned by the mass following that they have gained.
            So I don’t want anyone to make judgments about anyone’s motives.
            (There does seem to be some staging going on in some ministries. And I think we can ask some people to tone it down a little. But even then, I wouldn’t want anyone to make judgments about motives, only actions).

            As for “rock star”, I only meant that it might sound like an unpleasant accusation to some people. You and I might not make negative assocaiations with the term, but others do. So I don’t think it should be used in criticism.

            As for Keith Green…I agree with everything you’ve said. And in an age of “American Idol” (or “X-Factor” this side of the Atlantic) isn’t it incredible to hear a singer who passionately means what he is singing? I have played him to teenagers in my (secular) school, expecting a negative reaction because his music is not “up to date”. In fact, they have always been transfixed; I think that this is because Green’s conviction comes through in his recordings.

            Furthermore, some of his songs are so memorable because they just re-tell a parable in simple terms, and let the story make the impact. If you want to communicate the Gospel simply and powerfully, play “The Prodigal Son”.

            A bit of an aside there, but I think that Keith Green deserves it!


  9. Dave says:

    suh-leb-ri-tee evangelical pastor/preacher: “one who rails against the ‘prosperity’ gospel while just as robustly living as a prime example of it.”

  10. John says:

    Brother, frankly I can’t see any cause for offense – if half the Christian blogs out there were as, well, loving as yours, we’d all be better off. That being said, can any pastor achieve “rock-star” status without wanting to? Just a thought.

    1. gv720/ JUsher says:

      I don’t think that a Pastor can act like a “rock star” without meaning to. But I can’t really think of any examples, and the term is a little unclear. (The rock stars of the 1970/80s were known for wild living; so to a certain generation, the term “rock star pastor” might imply a certain lifestyle, and would therefore be calumnious.)
      Celebrity can creep up on a person unawares; but perhaps we could discourage individuals from deliberately courting celebrity.


      1. John says:

        I think those are good thoughts, and kind of where I was headed. It seems like Jesus intentionally turned people away and shunned popularity. Maybe leaders need to follow this kind of example. On the other hand, I think this whole discussion highlights the fact that we have collectively become idolaters. Isn’t that what we mean when we speak of pop/celebrity culture?

  11. Shawn says:

    Celebrity can be accidental. Rock Star is intentional. I think both terms are appropriate and that there are valid reasons they exist. I appreciate the willingness to not offend but if the concern over these terms causes offense in those who seem to exhibit them to some degree or another is it your fault? Is it my fault? Again, I appreciate the careful treading but don’t pull the appropriate punches.

  12. Lane Chaplin says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    I appreciate your sensitivity on this subject. I’d encourage you to keep in mind that, by definition, celebrity pastors need a personal following – that’s what makes them celebrities in the first place as opposed to “a commoner” who just tends to his own flock of 100-250 each week. When you wrote that first post, you challenged something that a celebrity pastor desperately needs to exist: his following – and you did that by encouraging their followings to think. I’m not sure who contacted you privately and had a problem with the post (and let me stress that I don’t need to know), but I would encourage you to keep that in mind when dealing with this. You may have touched a golden cow for some. No man can serve two masters: We can’t serve God and also serve our personalized following because we’ll end up hating the one and serving the other – even if keep the “Jesus flavoring” around. I’m thankful that your master is God. I’d be very weary about those who might say all the right things, but, when it comes down to it, their status is much more important to them than the doctrines of Christ. As you know, though, to stay in our circles, you have to keep “Christ around” in some sense or you’re off the speaker’s circuit. These are just some thoughts I wanted to share. I appreciate you.

    In Christ,

  13. The church has always had “celebrity” pastors- see 1 Cor. 3. Also, Polycarp was a celebrity pastor because he was the last living link to the Apostles. He used his “celebrity” influence well, to combat early Gnosticism. Charles Spurgeon was a huge celebrity, but even before him, george Whitefield was the best-known man in America prior to george Washington. Not a new problem. I’ll be eager to hear your perspective.

    1. Jason

      These seem like good points to raise; I hope you don’t mind if I butt in with a quick response.

      1) I suspect that it is anachronistic to talk about pre-modern celebrities. We need someone familiar with the history of popular culture to look into this, but I can’t see how a celebrity could exist without mass-media.
      2) Being well-known is not sufficient for celebrity status.
      3) But I think that your points about Whitefield and Spurgeon are on target. If we can move beyind hagiography, we could examine the use and abuse of celebrity in the Church over the last few centuries. Was Whitefield a celebrity? Did celebrity status help Whitefield? Did it cause problems for the Church in the generations to come (did it play a part in “revivalism”, for example)?
      4) Overall, we need to remember that God uses “jars of clay”. God can use a foolish man to bless many. So when we look at the past we can still ask – could the early evangelicals have handled things better, even though God blessed them?


  14. Doc B says:

    Celebrity- ‘well-known person’ (

    Holding a man (or woman) personally responsible for being a celebrity is like holding them personally responsible for their race.

    Now, what they do with their celebrity status means something. In other words, we should judge them by their fruit, not their status. Jesus was quite a celebrity in his day, but he didn’t mishandle the status even once. Paul had his moments as well.

    God sees fit in his providence to give some people, including some pastors, a status of being well-known. We should not speak harshly of them for their status per se, nor should we speak poorly of those who are not well-known. We are to examine the fruit of their lives instead.

    It seems to me the greater danger is putting men into groups based on how many know of them, rather than having men who are associated with us who are well-known.

  15. Thabiti,

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue, as I’ve learned much from your, at least in appearance, measured posts/responses. I’ve also done some recent thinking about the celebrity pastor issue, which, if you so desire, can read here:

    Thanks for standing for Christ!

  16. Ken says:

    A lot of the comments here debate the meaning of “celebrity”. It seems to me that the key word is “pastor”. There may be many famous pastors who are celebrities, but not one of them is my pastor. A pastor knows his sheep, cares for the flock, loves them, preaches sermons that relate to the concerns and issues they have. John Piper, or James MacDonald or all the other big name guys are not my pastors. They do not know me, they do not love me, they do not preach sermons and apply them according to what they know about the issues of my life. They have never prayed with me or visited me or been there for me in any kind of personal manner. They cannot know the dynamics of the church I attend. We do the term “pastor” a great disservice by suggesting that these men are pastors to a larger audience than their local church. They are not. I benefit greatly from the preaching of many men who are complete strangers to me and me to them. I thank God for them. But they are not pastors to me. They are distant preachers. I fear to think how many believers may find that sufficient for their spiritual growth.

  17. cindy says:

    I agree with you, Ken. I attend one of these mega-churces with the “celebrity pastor” and you are right. He is not a pastor, just a very gifted communicator. He knows nothing about my life.
    When I have tried to contact him, I can’t get past his administrative assistant who won’t let me talk with him directly and wants to know why I’m calling. When I was in the hospital I knew that he would not come to pray with me or for me. He doesn’t do that. So having followed all the recent posts of this nature, I am seriously considering leaving my church. I want a true shepherd for my myself and my family. I want that accountability and care. I need to be shepherded, not just preached at.

    1. Jerry L. says:

      Cindy, I went through the same thing not that long ago myself. I was heartbroken to have to make the choice to leave my church, but it was the best spiritual decision that I’ve made in the last 10 years. Keep in mind, I already knew that there were a couple of other strong, biblical churches in my home town, so I had a plan of where I would be looking. It does no good to leave a church without a better alternative to join.

      1. Jerry, Cindy, Ken,


    2. Bob says:

      Cindy, Could it be a Jethro to Moses thing? Maybe the Pastor needs to equip the elders to do the work of Ministry. Most Pastor’s of large churches didn’t ask God to grow it big. Big churches are of the Lord too. They just need to function differently. If I was a member of Tim Keller’s church I would not expect the same care from him as say a 250 member church.

  18. Hugh McCann says:

    Can it possibly be helpful that the celeb pastors are assembled onstage with
    (1) an applause-and-laughter-ready audience
    (2) thumbs up & thumbs down game-show lights
    (3) a knuckle-headed (tho’ perhaps well-meaning) emcee playing the house for laughs and feigned controversy?

  19. Jim says:

    Thank you for bringing up the “rock-star” pastor issue. I see young people who identify themselves as “Piperites” or “Chanites” and they are proud of it. They don’t go the Scripture. They get their answers from the Desiring God website. The brother above makes a good point about conferences with stage rushing and VIP sections. It’s a shame that Together 4 the Gospel uses the number “4.” It points more to the four preachers than to the gospel. Also look at the latest pictures advertising the conference–the speakers are holding up football jerseys with their names on them. Who advises these guys? Political handlers? Madison Avenue? Went to seminary with future pastors who lived for that Conference. We often criticize Roman Catholics for idolizing Popes, Saints, Mary etc. but Protestants have our own idolatries. Reforming the church often means reforming the leaders. Firmly believe the cult of personality must be dealt with in the church. Hope someone can get the message through to our superstars!

  20. deborah says:

    “We often criticize Roman Catholics for idolizing Popes, Saints, Mary etc. but Protestants have our own idolatries. Reforming the church often means reforming the leaders.”

    This is a good point.

  21. OFelixCulpa says:

    I look forward to your explanatory posts. I believe I understand your point here, but I hasten to point out that any time the truth is spoken, some will feel they are under personal attack. The fact that some people felt attacked by your post does not necessarily mean either that you were intentionally attacking them or that you failed to make your good will obvious.

    Sometimes truth hurts, and it is very often our first response to start beating up (or at least pointing fingers at) the messenger. I hope you don’t apologize too much!

  22. jim s says:

    Thanks for your comments, Thabiti. You rock! :)

  23. Hugh McCann says:

    Dear jim s,

    When you tell T.A. that he rocks, you’re not calling him a rock star, are you?!


  24. Hugh McCann says:

    I fear that such groups as

    ACE, Acts29, IX Marks, Ligonier, Ref21, SGM, T4G, TGC, et. al.

    easily foster a rock-star mentality and provide environments (blogs, conferences, etc.) wherein both the ‘worshippers’ and the men ‘worshipped’ are tempted to such adulation/ adoration.

  25. anonymous says:

    I think I’m beginning to see why you had to modify your tone, given events on twitter and at least one other blog.
    But I am very concerned about the way you have been treated; there is very little doubt in my mind that you have been the victim of politicking and a carefully considered “spin campaign”.

    Don’t feel the need to respond to this post; just know that many people are praying for you.

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Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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