This past Sunday, Senior Pastor John Decker of Morning Star Fellowship in Quakertown PA, made a statement that treating pastors as celebrities is dangerous to the church. After he made this statement, I immediately thought of Acts chapter 14:8-18 when Paul and Barnabas were upset that people treated them as “gods”, to the point they tore their robs. Based off those verses, let’s look at three reasons why treating pastors as celebrates are dangerous.
- Man is Considered “Equal With God”
When you start reading Acts chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas are found in a place called Lystra. While they are going through the area, they are meet a man who could not use his feet. Let’s look at the verses to see what unfolds;
“Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.”-Acts 14:8-13
It is very easy, in our sinful nature, to idolize men and believe they are just as “good” or “holy” as God. Now, I understand that some people have preferences of preachers because of their personalities or how they speak/teach the word of God, however, we should never get caught up in following man to the point we idolize them. Paul had to address this issue to the Corinthian Church.
“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”-1st Corinthians 3:4-9
Paul makes it clear that him and Apollos are mere men who, by the grace of God, are being used as instruments to point back to Jesus Christ. Any preacher/teacher should always be encouraging those around him to be imitators of Jesus Christ, and not of himself.
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”-Acts 14:14-15
2. Copy Cat Ministries
In the “Information Age”, we have can access church content at the tip of our fingers. With podcasts, blogs, online services, books, and much more, it is very easy for us to choose who we will or will not listen or even submit to. This can cause division, specifically in a local church body. For example, if someone is a huge fan of John Piper, and all they do is listen to his teachings, read his books, and see how his church is ran, it is very easy for that individual to become critical of the local church they attend. The individual compares their local pastor to John Piper, believes everyone should be like John Piper, and that the structure of their local church should be ran like John Piper’s. (Note, this is not a hit on John Piper, I’m just using him as an example. I believe Piper himself would agree that man shouldn’t be imitating man, but man should be imitating Jesus Christ.)
To think this doesn’t happen today would be foolish. Too often, people within local congregations, and even the leaders of the local church, feel the pressure of copying a method of another church so they will “succeed”. Let me encourage people within their local church to stop putting pressure on their leaders to use methods that may be working somewhere else. Let me emphasize, I am not saying not to care about what is being preached. That is far from what I am saying. We should be discerning whether or not our pastors/teachers are preaching the truth of God’s Word. What I am saying is don’t put pressure on your leaders to be like another church. I respect Matt Chandler, Pastor of The Village Church, when he says that his audio teachings are supplements to grow and should not replace the local church his listeners go to (paraphrasing).
To leaders of the local church who are feeling pressure to copy another “successful church”, let me remind you what Paul said to Timothy;
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry(emphasis added).”-2nd Timothy 4:3-5
Be faithful to the ministry God has called you to. Let the helper, the Holy Spirit, lead you, and not outside pressures.
3. Creation of False Teachers
This last section is more of warning for Pastors/Teachers who are seeking to be the “next big thing.” In Matthew 20, a mother came up to Jesus asking that her sons become “great” in His kingdom by sitting at His left and right side of the throne. I encourage you to read all of Matthew, chapters 19-20, but here is what Jesus said in response to the request;
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”-Matthew 20-25-28
It is our responsibility, who are called as pastors/teachers to not seek self-glorification, but to serve. One of those areas of serving faithfully is preaching the word of God. Whether your style of preaching is topical or expository, be faithful to the word of God. One of the most dangerous things you can do is become unfaithful to the text to “draw a crowd”. Whether you have 100 people or 10,000 people, God has given you the responsibility to shepard His flock. Don’t base your “success” on how many people gather in a building, but base it on how many disciples for Jesus Christ are being created. Remember the mission;
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”-Matthew 20:16-20