“I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you're doing as ministry. Start realizing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toilet or not. Your ministry is the way that you love people. And you love people when you write something that is encouraging to them, something challenging. You love people when you call your wife and say, 'I'm going to be late for dinner,' instead of letting her burn the meal. You love people when maybe you cook a meal for your wife sometime, because you know she's really tired. Loving people – being respectful toward them – is much more important than writing or doing music.” ― Rich Mullins link
I want to thank all of our readers for bearing with me as I care for my elderly relatives. My mother in law has experienced a decline in her condition, resulting in the need for more assistance from me. I know I am way behind in corresponding with folks but will try to catch up here and there.
Sometimes I read a post by a well known writer and think I have entered an alternate universe. That is precisely what happened when I read the following post by Jared Wilson at The Gospel Coalition called Troubleshooting the Celebrity Pastor Problem.
Wilson appears to believe that the real problem lies directly with fallen pastors and their constituencies. TWW disagrees. The real problem exists with groups like The Gospel Coalition who have worshipped at the altars of churches like Mars Hill and SGM for years.
Every week one could write another post about another fallen pastor, because that appears to be the rate at which they fall. A great number of ministers without national or global platforms are counted in this number, but oddly enough, these falls only seem to hit “close to home” when it’s a guy with a big platform.
He seems to overlook that the problem started long before the pastor fell. One well known example is The Gospel Coalition's love affair with Mark Driscoll that lasted for years prior to his fall. TWW, along with a number of other groups, were reporting on the bizarre happenings at Mars Hill starting in 2009. We were called judgmental. It was implied that we were stupid since *wise* seminary professors and famous pastors loved Driscoll. Many of them fell all over themselves to endorse his soon to be controversial book Real Marriage. We have yet to hear any heartfelt apology for their foolishness.
The fault lies with those who propped up Driscoll, imitating his language and bizarre behavior. Many male leaders channeled his ridiculous attitude towards women while pretending that they were real men, looking for a cage fight to prove their virility.
Wilson claims that the problems that cause a pastor to fall are not new.
What is new, however, are the groups like The Gospel Coalition and T4G who embrace any dudebro who comes along and gets lots of followers so long as he (and it is always a he) espouses both complementarianism and hard line Calvinism. Then he can be a jerk and still have the boys rally around him, proclaiming his brilliance. I am thinking about Doug Wilson, CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, Darrin Patrick, etc. It is amazing how many reports of bad behavior can be overlooked so long as one adheres to the theology du jour (and perhaps so long as some throw a few almighty bucks in the direction of the big dogs.)
The problems being faced are not new — pride, anger, lust, etc. —
Wilson appears to believe that we are involved in a gospel renewal movement and this will take care of the celebrity thing.
Can I ask a question? Since when has the Gospel needed to be renewed? I want hard dates, people, etc. since it seems I heard abut the Gospel as a teen all the way up in the Boston area. What do they mean by renewed? is it a gender thing? Is that what will *fix* the gospel problem?
In every age there are those who believe and those who do not believe. Church history is replete with heresies and weirdness within the faith. I believe that Wilson is really saying that the Calvinistas will take care of things. So long as they revive the old, 5 point TULIP and hard line complementarianism, then the celebrity pastor phenomenon will fade away? Really? I don't buy it for a second.
Within the gospel renewal movement, of course, we are moving deeper to heart issues and idolatry, and this is a good thing too. Figuring out how the gospel speaks to the idolatries and root sins that seem particular to the work of pastoral ministry is really important.
Wilson appears to believe that it is our problem that cause celebrity pastors.
As my mom used to say "It takes two to tango." None of the celebrity pastors in Wilson's paradigm seem to have any problem with the fame, money, and travel that comes with their position. It is their pride, their self-centered focus, etc. that leads their members to worship the pastor. Hasn't Wilson read the breathless accounts of participants in conferences who met Piper, got famous leaders to autograph their Bible, etc.? Better yet, some of those celebrity guys actually autographed the Bible!
These guys could stop it but they won't because they enjoy it. They love pretending that they have some amorphous quality called "authority"along with the keys to the kingdom jingling in their pockets. Some of them even laughed at a joke told by Al Mohler about Googling CJ Mahaney's name. But, if the celebrity tells the joke, the celebrity wannabes must laugh. Yeah, child sex abuse is something really funny.
It is the “celebrity pastor” problem, where we participate in the highest elevation of a pastor’s platform as we can manage and then load him up with all the expectation we can muster.
…the most prominent dangerous temptations in pastoral bigness are these idolatries — worship of the celebrity pastor by his fans and himself.
"1. Transition your “video venue” satellite campuses to church plants or at the very least install live preaching."
This sounds good but it will not be happening in the near future. People are giving less and less money to churches and building campaigns are falling short. The easiest and most cost effective solution to this problem is to set up a cheap satellite in some school and make sure the bulk of the donations go back to the mother ship. The people won't donate unless they see the big name on the screen.
…The campus wouldn’t be viable without so-and-so on the screen.” And my response? “Okay. Maybe it shouldn’t be viable.” If they’re only coming because of so-and-so, you have a celebrity pastor problem.
"2. No more book deals for gifted preachers who are not gifted writers."
This suggestion was rather amusing given the comment that followed.
not every dynamic speaker needs a publishing deal, especially since the books are most likely to be written by somebody else, which is not just a celebrity problem but an honesty problem.
Look carefully at how Jared describes Matt Chandler. Then look at how he justifies his participation in writing (editing) Chandler's books. This appears to be a fine example of cognitive dissonance.
*Astronomically gifted pastor?* Impressive influence in the *attractional* world? If this book didn't get out, young people wouldn't hear Chandler's message? That's it! Christianity will be over if Chandler's book doesn't get out to the young people. Good night! It sounds like Wilson is as much of the problem as the riff raff.
"3. Discerning the credibility of our experts." Wilson considers himself a cultural gatekeeper.
The Deebs have been following the antics of the Calvinistas and their BFFs and we are convinced that the system of supposed gatekeepers is not working. That is why blogs have become more and more important in exposing the excesses and cognitive dissonance within the Calvinista clan.
What do we make of publishers, editors, and other public parachurch platforms who provide outlet for ministers, for which their only qualification appears to be success or popularity?
…What if the guy we’re paying to write and speak on grace-centered leadership is a short-tempered, domineering jerk to his staff?
Wilson appears to be claiming that he is one of the cultural gatekeeper because he is the editor of "For the Church." Huh?
What responsibility do those of us in cultural gatekeeper positions (I’m the managing editor for For The Church, a site that regularly publishes resources from ministry leaders big and small) have in vetting somebody’s credibility on a given subject or perspective?
"4. Actual parity among elders." is Wilson's solution. Elders are members of the ruling class in the church.
For this answer, Jared Wilson turns to none other than the TGC/T4G celebrity, Tim Challies, who posits that parity is a practical and spiritual necessity. Wilson believes that elders should say yes a lot but not be yes men.
Behind the scenes, church elders ought to exercise the Bible’s permission to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and check each other’s hearts. Elders ought to say “yes” a lot, but they are not supposed to be yes-men. And it ought not be inordinately difficult to fire a pastor who has disqualified himself. Whatever a church’s pastors are, the church itself will become. So if the pastoral team is “lead guy”-centered, existing mainly to prop up and orbit around the lead guy, guess what the church’s center will be?
Let's take a look at Jared Wilson's *astronomically gifted* BFF, Matt Chandler. The gatekeepers did nothing to intervene in the Karen Hinkley situation. Even worse, none of the elders and the many pastors and church leaders balked at the despicable treatment of Karen. It was only when the blogs took on the issue and the church was totally embarrassed and possibly facing a potential lawsuit that there was a change in heart. Chandler's boys are definitely yes men. Maybe the following tweet by one of Wilson's gospel acquaintances will explain why. "Ain't it nice to be king even if you have to share it?"
Wilson ends with this thought.
Tackling the celebrity pastor problem from any of these angles would likely require a fundamental and complex reconsideration and reconfiguration of the ways many of us do ministry, do church, “do” evangelicalism.
What Wilson missed in his article
Wilson, who actively participates in The Gospel Coalition website, is also an author of a number of books and is a conference speaker. He once was a pastor of a small church in Vermont but he felt called to move up in the world to use his gifts in a high profile venue. I was sad when I heard that since it appeared to me that Wilson had decided to become just another ordinary celebrity gospel dudebro, telling others how to do it. Why is it that pastors only get called to churches or parachurch situations in which they get higher visibility? Does God ever call talented people to minister in obscurity in Four Bears Village, North Dakota?
Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church.
Wilson blows off watchbloggers
Amy Smith sent me a note with a picture of the following tweet. Wilson has done a fine job of integrating into the Gospel Coalition culture which disdains outsiders looking in at their very public utterances.
I would have loved to communicate with Wilson but he has blocked me, just like his TGC brothers who do not want to hear anything about SGM survivors, etc. Frankly, what The Gospel Coalition needs is the constant attention of bloggers who call them out on issues like child sex abuse cover-up, church abuse, tec.
So, when one of the dudebros sent out a tweet about Wilson's post, I responded. In fact, my response sums up my feelings about Wilson and The Gospel Coalition's many, many celebrity pastors.