I believe I have mentioned this in previous posts but why not make another mention of a very witty statement. I remember while being a member of my former church that the church was preparing to dish out some big money in order to build a new facility. The amount of the facility would seem mild in comparison to some mega churches but in our fair city it was a pretty good sum of money. During the deliberations on whether we would go ahead with the funding, a very wise brother turned around and said to me “We’ve come a long way from the upper room”. The money could have gone other means and simpler accommodations could have been sought but we went ahead with the build.
While we have come a long way from the upper room in regards to our much larger buildings to accommodate the weekly churchgoers, there are other ways that many churches have strayed from the simplicity of the upper room. One way is that we now have the internet. If our pastor or teachers are not supplying us with our demand of spiritual food, we can always get a bite to eat online. We are no longer being mentored by men in our local congregations but we have the option of finding men online with much larger ministries. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we must always lend our support primarily to our local congregation. What has manifested itself from this is the elevation of pastors to the status of celebrity. These men have the podcasts, videos, books for sale and the red carpet is always rolled for them at conferences. They are the face of Christianity online!
Anyone who has been following us on Twitter has come across several posts relating to the downfall of Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was elevated to a celebrity status among online Christianity even amongst reformed believers. Men like Driscoll are the face of American Christianity. I remember sitting in a Tim Hortons with a young man who was confused about his faith and he wanted to turn to Driscoll since he felt he was “real”. He felt that he could receive some good teaching from him since he was so accessible and successful. Even while I tried to persuade him that I would be cautious with Driscoll, he was taken by him nonetheless. Today, Driscoll is now accused of plagiarism, misusing church funds to boost book sales, silencing church members, vulgarity and now seemingly researching other pastor’s wives favorite sexual positions. The man has been “apologizing” without necessarily repenting and the idea of stepping down from his position to take time to reflect has yet to cross his mind.
The question that we must ponder in this situation is who created Mark Driscoll and other celebrity pastors? While I admit that Driscoll is an intelligent man with good business sense, I believe there is more to his success than this. I believe that the reason for Driscoll’s star status is due to the fact that people have put him there. They have turned to the internet and a search for mentorship that they are not finding in their churches. Could it be that the sheep are hungry and they are out looking for someone to feed them yet they are left with a sermon on Sundays to feed them? Could it be that people are dissatisfied with their churches because they have not understood the real idea of the church. Could it be that people have bought into the idea that the church is merely a place to meet on Sundays to listen to a sermon rather than a place for people to find support, love and edification which satisfies them? Have we lost the idea that church is a place to share in the person of Jesus Christ and to find mentorships that help us grow in our spiritual walk? While I believe these reasons have validity in the celebrity pastor epidemic, I believe there is a far more serious reason. I believe, to put it simply, that it’s because they are trying to mimic the world. Think about it: if the world has their celebrities then why can’t we as Christians have ours? Why can’t we have men on the pulpit who have movie star looks, charisma (not the Benny Hinn type) and public speaking skills that match those the world has to offer? These celebrity pastors are what make us relevant right? We already mimic their music, their dress and every aspect of their culture so why not copy them with our own movie star celebrity mindset? What is ironic is that I remember hearing Driscoll would use explicit language and content that most prime time TV shows would refrain from yet it was accepted because we need to stay relevant. Did Christ command us to conform to the world? We are to be separate in more ways that I believe we recognize. Driscoll and others are the product of the Christian’s desire for relevance in a culture that won’t conform itself at all to Holiness and Godliness but expects us to conform to it. The sad part is that we’ve fallen for it! We are not paying attention to how we are being seen by the world. Why on earth would anyone who has their celebrities in the world even for a moment change for ours? What do we have to offer that is different from what they already have?
The pulpit is a place where God speaks to His people and commands them to be different from the world. It is a place where Christ is uplifted and man is abased. The life of a shepherd is not one of being uplifted to the centre stage but a life of humility to serve God’s people with meekness and care. The shepherd sits with the sheep not over them.