I’ve been around long enough to know this little “proverb” to be true: Seek the spotlight, and it will blind you. I’ve been saying it for years.
For a long time is was a truth I simply preached to myself as a personal reminder. It was necessary. Over the years, I started sharing it with younger youth workers who were growing up in a social-media-saturated world that made it much easier and even possible to quickly seek and create personal celebrity and a following. Now, I continue to say it to myself, youth workers, and just about everyone who is so easily drawn either to a place in the spotlight. . . or drawn to someone who is standing in the spotlight. (I blogged a message specifically to youth workers about this awhile back).
Over the years I’ve had trusted ministry friends who are much wiser than I am issue similar warnings. Many have recounted the sad stories of those who chose not to heed the warnings, and the tantalizing lull of celebrity became their undoing. This week we read the sad story about another well known celebrity pastor, Hillsong’s Carl Lentz, whose life and ministry seems to have shattered. I couldn’t help but think about the video interview I watched with our friend Carl Trueman as he issued concerns and warnings about celebrity pastors. It’s well worth your time (I’ve embedded it below).
Last Friday, Skillet’s John L. Cooper spoke out on his Facebook page with some strong words of warning which I am taking the liberty to share here. He is calling for us to “make pastors uncool again.” Take heed. . . all of us. . .
Make Pastors Uncool Again.
Pastors shouldn’t be rock stars. Yeah I said it. A rock star promotes himself, builds his brand, and entertains people. It’s his job. A pastor is supposed to lay his life down for his sheep. He serves, he protects, and he equips the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). So why does it seem like many of our celebrity pastors are obsessively self-promoting, building their own brands, and protecting themselves by never preaching or teaching anything that would put them in Twitter prison? Yes, it’s sad and devastating to watch our leaders fall into sin, but when the foundation is built so poorly it shouldn’t be all that surprising.
Many Christians have been saying this for years and its past time that I join them: I’m tired of celebrity pastors. Pastors aren’t supposed to be cool. They’re not supposed to be fashion trend setters. We are ALL called to decrease, that Christ would increase both in our hearts and in our lives (John 3:30). HIS fame should be known, not OURS. Celebrity Pastors, get out of the way! You’re hogging the spotlight by making yourself the story. Instead, you should be taking some hits on the front lines by stating clearly what God commands. Celebrity pastors seldom do this. Instead, most of what we hear is rhetorical gobbledygook, veiled mysticism, and repackaged new-age movement self-help promotional material disguised as the work of the Spirit.
My pastor helped change my life in college. “Really, who?” Exactly. He remains faceless, nameless, and will never get the adoration of the world because his desire was for Jesus to have all of the glory. He taught me how to read and understand the Bible. He took my midnight phone calls, he instigated the necessary but uncomfortable conversations, he taught me the importance of sexual purity, and he even taught me how to paint a house and balance a checkbook. It almost sounds more like being a father, doesn’t it? Working, serving, teaching your kids and never expecting a “thank you” or a hand clap is what pastoring is all about.
Pastors, I am thankful for you. Many are serving faithfully and you will be rewarded by God. But for the pastors who are receiving their reward on earth, I have a request for you: please stop looking for adoration from the world. We don’t need you to look “awesome”, we need you to be fearless and preach the gospel according to the unchanging, authoritative Word of God. Stop finding clever ways to evade questions. You know the ones—God’s commands about sexual morality, Gods authority structure in the Church and at home, biblical justice instead of the religion of modern social justice. Answer them. And answer them clearly for heaven’s sake. Please stop trying to find new ways to explain the perceived inconvenient truths of God’s Word. You ought to love what He loves and hate what he hates. This used to be a prerequisite for church leadership. Today, its deemed radical and even bigoted.
Play time is over. The spiritual battle is raging, and the field is full of wimps and boys who have never picked up a sword because it just “feels mean.” We need generals and leaders who don’t care about their brand, their look, their “likes”, or making allegiances with the world. In short, it’s time to make pastors uncool again.