I think that the term “celebrity pastor” is an indicator of how spiritually lost some of us are. I have received several invitations over the past year to visit someone’s church where they referred to their pastor as a “celebrity pastor”. It really turned me off personally.The church is the one place which should remain uncontaminated by pop culture but sadly, what we have been seeing is not just the influences of celebrity/pop culture on many churches, but the outright surrender to said cultures, on the part of church leadership. The body of Christ should influence and lead pop culture not be lead by it. There is no balance with too many pastors. With all of the caveats in the New Testament regarding the persecution that believers did and will face, quite frankly, popularity, to a large degree is not something that necessarily attracts me to a church. Of course, this depends on what a pastor or his church is popular for (teaching the word of God or how well the choir performs in a competition for example). The Christian church is not a club, restaurant, sports franchise, or clothing line. Spreading the gospel of Christ does not require that we must brand churches in the way the world does any of those things named.
I’m not attracted to the churches of pastors who are not just assigned this title (anyone can call a pastor this without his knowledge or acceptance of it, he can’t help that) but who embrace them & build brands around themselves rather than Christ. Our Savior, Jesus Christ often stands in the shadow of the celebrity pastor rather than front & center, where He belongs.
Celebrity culture in churches also fosters what I call the “untouchable” & “irreproachable” complex we see so often these days. Meaning, no matter what a pastor does wrong, he cannot be criticized, admonished, held accountable or in some cases, prosecuted. Even in the aftermath of scandal, when there is very clear evidence or admission of guilt & in some case illegal acts, many still worship these pastors as if they are Christ returned in the flesh & refuse to acknowledge that they are no less corporeal than any other person. I’m not suggesting pastors cannot be forgiven for sin because according to Romans 3:23 “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So, it’s not a matter of whether or not we should forgive but rather, should we continue to allow them to lead us? Should we obstruct secular punishment when the law is broken? After all, we are also commanded to obey the law, title of pastor notwithstanding. Sometimes a demotion (or punishment) is the best way to obtain the humility required for church leadership. As Christians, we must have something that separates the body of Christ from the secular world & the more pastors allow celebrity/pop culture to infiltrate & influence their churches, the more those lines are blurred. The notion of a celebrity pastor is oxymoronic at best but the only celebrity in Christian churches should be Christ himself. Think about it…
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1:22