Thursday, April 11, 2013

The problem with celebrity preachers....

... is that they are prone to the same problems as any other celebrities:

1. Grandiosity of imagining that they are experts in things way outside their fields. Watch this clip of Tom Cruise speaking about how he understands the history of psychiatry. He's making huge claims about his knowledge. Celebrity preachers can do the same (though, thankfully, not to this extent!) MD, for example, is an expert in household management, children's nutrition, natural heath stuff, raising children, sex, personal finance and wealth creation, leadership,  Australian culture, Sydney anglicanism, the UK church scene, UK culture, theological education...

2. Thinking that they are truly exceptional and so believing they are entitled to special treatment from others - no criticism etc. This can make them awful to work with.

3. Obsession with with self - notice how much a celebrity/celebrity preacher talks about themselves. In anyone else we would think it obscene.

Humility is hard for us all. For the celebrity it's 100x harder.


  1. Yes. And when I hear some of the stuff these guys come out with it really is pop psychology stuff.

    And the Bible's authority is left behind.

  2. How many celebrity preachers do you personally hang around with?
    There must be a lot more of them in Cairns than here in Mount Gambier.

    1. What's your point, Gary? Isn't the thing about celebrities that we don't know them in person? They exist on screens etc. yet for some reason we are tempted to look up to them. Christian people in our churches (and our theological colleges) are wanting to emulate Christian celebrities. My point is that this is dangerous. Christians are human and will likely fall into the same temptations that any celebrity will.

    2. I don't think the concerns you've raised are well served by the blanket generalisations which you're using to illustrate your points.
      Perhaps we've both personally known preachers (different ones) who have demonstrated the same behaviour patterns described above with congregations of 30. And we've known others who wanted to emulate them.
      I think you've described some of the temptations which 'celebrity preachers' would be confronted with.
      That's caused by Christians wanting to treat our 'celebrities' the way nonchristians treat theirs.
      Which isn't really possible in a culture in which leadership has to be marked by service and humility.

  3. BTW,
    I posted this quote from Zack Eswine a while ago where he deals with what he calls 'placeless ambition' and how it result in 'restless fatigue'.
    For example, I am a preacher by vocation. It I had ever asked God to enable me to be like my heroes, he might have said, in this regard,”Which one?” If I choose [Charles] Spurgeon, I would have to live in Dickens’s London and inhabit that community and care for that people. To be like [J.W.] Alexander, I would have made Princeton, New Jersey, my boundary and labor for its good. But I cannot do both, and neither could they.
    Sensing Jesus, Zack Eswine, Crossway, 2013, pg 68.

  4. I've seen 1 in various places but not restricted to celebrity. 2 & 3 seem right on the money.

    How do you think God wants us to respond to these celebrities? Is he using their corrupt leadership to refine his people?

    1. God uses all sorts of things. But celebrity and narcissism tend to go hand in hand.

      Narcissists tend to rise to the top - they are ambitious and very good at promoting themselves. It is comforting to have a narcissist in charge. They tell you they know exactly what to do. They tell you how to live. Crowds like black and white. And they like the feeling of following someone important.

      How do we respond? Resist the tendancy to follow an important leader. It's idolatry. Don't be impressed by ungodliness - boasting etc.

    2. Is it the narcissism which turns 'popular' or 'well known/respected' into 'celebrity'?

  5. Interesting post Simone. Can I ask how you define a 'celebrity preacher'?

    I guess I'm asking because growing up I had the privilege of having many famous preachers stay at my house, and so have some insight into what some of them were like away from their platforms.

    But I don't think famous preachers and celebrity preachers are quite the same thing.

    1. If they travel with body guards, that's a sign of celebrity. I'm not talking John Stott here.

  6. Travel with bodyguards? I've not met many of those I suspect! Why do they need bodyguards?

    I was thinking after I commented, about your first point, about being experts outside of their field. I don't mind if someone who's not married teaches me about marriage if it's from God's word, even if they don't have marriage counselling expertise or personal experience. I think that the Bible is the authority, not them. But I do dislike when personal anecdotes somehow get confused with Biblical absolutes, ie you must live this way or that way to be a Godly wife etc when it's based on personality rather than Biblical truth or wisdom.

  7. If you have to hire a bunch of guys to be your bodyguards, it's a sign your elders haven't been working out enough.