Celebrity pastors? Say it ain't so!
May 12, 2016
I am thankful for Jared Wilson’s latest post over at his blog on TGC. Wilson takes on the issue of celebrity pastors. The post is worth reading.
I must however admit to feeling a bit of incredulity when I first read Wilson’s post. Even more so was my surprise (dismay? disbelief? disgust?) over the many retweets by well-known folks expressing appreciation for Wilson’s boldness. You see, I happen to know this guy from England who teaches at a seminary in Philadelphia who began raising these concerns several years ago and was both ignored and criticized for it. At least one blogger at TGC took this friend of mine to task for suggesting that we had a celebrity problem in the broader reformed-ish community. I'm waiting to see if he will post a similar correction to Jared's piece.
So, better late than never I suppose.
Wilson asks, “What are some specific, practical things that can be done to work against the idolization of the successful pastor?” He follows with five excellent suggestions.
I would add a couple things to Wilson’s already good list:
6. Take a break for two years from speaking at any conferences.
I’m serious. Just stop. If you are one of the top men who consistently find yourself center stage at the highest profile events deliberately give yourself a lower profile. If celebrity has become the problem that Jared Wilson suggests then it seems to me that those who have obtained celebrity status will desire to reverse that trend.
7. If you are a conference organizer reach out to some lesser or unknown but competent pastors to speak at your event.
Don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that we promote mediocrity or incompetence. There is nothing noble about promoting a bad preacher or shallow thinker. But the Lord has given more than 8 gifted men to his church. They are out there, these lesser known men. Now, I know what you are thinking: “No one will attend.” Perhaps. But isn’t that the proof that we have a problem with celebrity? If we are going to truly do something about our heavy lean into celebrity culture then we have to stop feverishly promoting the same handful of men. It is not an easy cycle to break. We want to see the guys who are the very best speakers/preachers. They will draw the crowd. And they, in turn, love the large platforms and privileges that go along with that faithful patronage. I am not seeking to cast aspersions on anyone’s character. If I were treated like a celebrity; if I received a $5,000 gift bag I am quite sure I would love it. We are sinners after all. Treating a sinner, even a saved sinner like a celebrity is dangerous for his soul and ours.
I truly appreciate what Wilson wrote. I hope he will be heard as enthusiastically as others have been ignored and mocked.