When I was asked by a dear friend of mine to participate on a program entitled Celebrity Status in the Kingdom and how we got to this state in the body of Christ, a thousand thoughts ran through my mind. The first thought was what I’d shared with a friend on Twitter: More people in the pews equal more income for the leader/church staff.
If you were to watch a certain TV station from 5:00am to 7:00am, you’ll find so many followers, while the leaders offer gimmicks to the congregation/TV viewers truthfully to fleece the flock. One thing that bothered me was on Friday mornings was to see a man, who claimed to be a prophet, come on the TV screen offering to read you a prophecy for $29.99. The first thing that came to my mind was Miss Cleo (for those of you who might remember her). Its people like them and leaders in churches who typically carry themselves as if they are to be worshiped and the congregation better get in line. They typically carry an entourage and the congregation is not to get too close to the leader. They will demand a speaking fee, receive an honorary degree and even demand a five-star hotel, first class ticket, etc. I remember in my former church in my Men’s Bible Study where our pastor wanted us men to have gun permits so we can protect the pastor from anyone who makes threats to the pastor (now mind you, the pastor used to call women whores and that the men were nothing if the woman ran the house; to the women, they were to be quiet and be a domestic slave, produce sex when a man wanted it, etc. – all during a church service).
There are a few traits I’ve come to learn when a leader (and some Christian/Gospel artists) is prone to fall to the sin of “wanting to be a celebrity” – truthfully, it’s just wanting to be worshiped. If the celebrity has to defend his lifestyle (sinful or not) by making threats like “touch not my anointed,” that’s one trait. When the gospel is compromised by making service after service a lesson on giving to get blessed (or delivering a message to itch the congregation’s ears by saying what they want to hear and the congregation is lacking while the pastor/leadership staff is hoarding all of the funds, living large, with a personal chef, etc.), that’s the second trait. Now if all of that came from the pastor’s salary, I don’t have a problem with that.
I need to detour for a moment, because I can’t shake this thought: I can’t help but to think about the Worldwide Church of God in the 80s and early 90s. When Herbert W. Armstrong was over the church, the church grew massive (considering his teachings were SDA, he self-proclaimed himself a modern-day prophet – almost all of his prophecies did not come to pass). When Herbert passed, the leaders started questioning his teachings and decided to teach the Biblical truth. Of course, the membership fell, and income fell in the church. What’s the message here? In most cases, when there’s a big following, there’s a strong chance that God is not being worshiped, but the leader/prophet is (dead or alive). Sadly, we make that leader/prophet a celebrity (and this can happen inside or outside the church, cultic or non-cultic church).
Continuing on: A leader will become a celebrity when there’s a compromise of the gospel (where the pastor’s teachings become the Word of God and judgments of not following the leader’s teaching). I’ve even heard where leaders throw temper tantrums when they’re not treated like royalty whenever they go places (such as out to eat as a simple place). It’s like a title is thrown out so that the red carpet is put out for them. If Paul were alive, he would seriously frown at that.
When I think about church splits, it wouldn’t surprise me that the majority of the splits are not because of false doctrine, or because it’s led by God. I would suspect that the splits are because the leaders break off for attention and want the glory for themselves, so they don’t have to punch a clock.
And without belaboring this topic, I’ll close with this question: are you following God, or the leader who’s putting himself out as a celebrity? If we’re following the latter, Christ is not being glorified and that’s dangerous.