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A dear brother and colleague in ministry has been following along with the “celebrity pastor” discussion we’ve been having.  He sent me a gem of a quote from the ‘good Doctor’ that I thought apropos:

“But let me emphasize the point that this is something that is important for the pew as well as for the pulpit. It was not because of anything that Paul had done or said that certain people in Corinth said, ‘I am of Paul’. The trouble was entirely in the people. And such trouble is still with the people. Do not be too hard on the preacher.”

Lloyd-Jones, D. M.  Romans, An Exposition of Chapter I The Gospel of God (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 211.

Now, this is by no means all that needs to be said on the important issue of responsibility for combating anything resembling “celebrity culture” in evangelical circles.  Check here for another quote relevant to the matter.  As my last post attempts to state, there’s responsibility or blame for every sector.  Simply stating some other party is more responsible without facing our respective responsibility strikes me as a bit of blame-shifting, or as our Master so eloquently put it, blowing at specks in the eyes of others while attempting to blink with logs in our own.


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8 thoughts on “Who’s Fault Is It?”

  1. Mark says:

    That’s a good quote from the good Doctor, but I’d like to push back a little. Please keep in mind that I am not operating with the entire context.

    I’m not sure I agree that the celebrity type of problem in the Corinthian church was “entirely in the people.” Church leaders have a higher responsibility and yet the problem seemed to persist to the point where an Apostle had to get involved. Assuming that Chloe’s people were part of “the people” it can be stated that “the people” sought a solution to the problem.

    Ultimately, it took the Apostle Paul to write a correction which is what we have to learn from today. Paul’s correction is the inspired word of God which is what today’s church leaders are to lead “the people” with concerning celebrity-type mindsets. Therefore, I would say that today’s church leader has just as much responsibility to teach from 1 Cor. 1:10-17 as he does any other passage, especially, if he sees similar division today.

    Please note that I’m not claiming that the people have no personal responsibility, but I am saying there may be a greater responsibility on the leaders who are leading them.

    You know…when one desires to market themselves and push hard to make the world their congregation, in a sense, it is inevitable that some or many will push back.

  2. Ken says:

    Paul went out of his way to demonstrate how he was not worthy of followership. When the current crop of celebrities do that in some serious manner other than the statements of humility from their platforms, then we can say “don’t be too hard on the preacher”. The people need to be taught not to give celebrity status to preachers. And who will teach them that? Those they listen to. Here’s an idea. Have them all write their books for their own congregations only. Publish no sermons on line except to say “Go to church and listen there.” No tweets, blogs, call ins or mailing lists. No conferences, no book giveaways, no forums. Become obscure and see if the church survives. If it doesn’t then shame on us all.If it does then maybe we all will get a dose of true humility.

  3. Taylor says:

    I watched Captain America last night and couldn’t help thinking of this topic. Near the beginning, Steve Rogers is made a superhero, does one heroic deed, and promptly gets sidelined in a broadway style production selling war bonds. It seems like he is beginning to forget who he was made to be, and all of a sudden he is faced with real soldiers have zero respect for him.

    The dynamic made me think of celebrity status in the church. Even if the pastor doesn’t seek it, even if popular opinion determines it, two things seem clear.

    Even a true hero can have a negative impact. Captain America began his career as a smoke screen posterboy, covering up the ugliness of real warfare. People followed a fantasy, and adopted his appearance, rather than his substance.

    The thing that concerns me about celebrity status is that I see people adopting the personality of the person they admire. People advocate their pastors’ favorite secular pastimes as if they were the things that make men Christian.

    Also, celebrity status can extinguish true heroism. Whether a person just gets too busy serving the crowd, or the crowd never allows them to fulfill their true purpose, it seems like, in the movies and in reality, celebrity status, however attained can easily serve to limit the truth rather than creating avenues to further it.

    I guess I’d say that it isn’t just the blame that lies on both the pastor and the audience, but the consequences as well.

  4. Andy says:

    I wish I could find the source of this quote from Martin Luther:

    I pray you, leave my name alone, and do not call yourself Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for any one. Saint Paul would not that any one should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How then does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and aches to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to those party names and distinctions — away with them all and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes. It is quite proper that the Papists should bear the name of their party; because they are not content with the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ, they will be Papists besides. Well, let them own the Pope, as he is their master. For me, I neither am, nor wish to be, the master of anyone. I and mine will contend for the sole and whole doctrine of Christ who is our sole master. (Martin Luther).

    Taken from the section 1:10-17 here:

    http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/1corinth.html

    At the risk of adulating Dr. Stevenson’s work – it’s pretty good stuff. A few typo’s here and there, not the end of the world.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      A hearty “Amen!” to that! Thanks for the quote and the link. Before it’s over, we may have a nice compendium of quotes and wisdom from the saints of the ages speaking to this issue. Wouldn’t that be cool?
      T-

      1. Mark says:

        Thabiti,

        If we just had a nice compendium of quotes from saints of today speaking to this issue, wouldn’t that be cool?

        ;)

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          :-)
          Brother, I think we do. I just don’t think we’re listening. Blinding lights may blind in many ways. ;-)

          T-

  5. Neil says:

    Is it possible that the “celebrity” pastor issue originated with the conversion of Constantine and his embracing Christianity? If we read the Pastoral letters of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus we have clear qualifications of the leadership in the local churches of the 1st century. Throughout the New Testament we also see a plurality of Elders in the early church and there certainly was not one man who led the church. Today we have “Senior” pastors who not only lead churches, they do so without any Elders in place.
    Eph 4:11-13 says: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;.
    Could the “celebrity” pastor issue be avoided if we seriously adhere to scripture which points to a plurality of Elders under the headship of Christ and not follow the ideas of men who have included pagan practices decreed by an emperor of Rome?

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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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