Rock Star Pastor

Here’s an excerpt from an insightful article The Problem with Pastor as Rock Star by Ed Stetzer on the catalystspace blog. While it is written with American Christianity in mind, its application is very much global:

Somebody once said, “The Gospel came to the Greeks and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy. The Gospel came to the Romans and the Romans turned it into a system. The Gospel came to the Europeans and the Europeans turned it into a culture. The Gospel came to America and the Americans turned it into a business.” And business is booming. Millions of churchgoers file in to buildings each week, line up in rows like shelves at Walmart, and watch the stage. They come for one purpose: to see a show and hear a pastor.

This, by uncritical standards, is success. But while this phenomenon increases, I believe it can be damaging to the spiritual vitality of the American church.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying pastors who look or act cool, or who speak dynamically, or who lead confidently, or who have large congregations are the problem. I’d have to rebuke quite a few of my friends if that were the case.  And, I am not against large churches. It is not the look, following, or size of the church, but the culture of the SuperPastor that can do great harm.

Furthermore, I think that any pastor of a church of any size can fall into the “rock star” trap.  It is a sin issue and not just a size issue.

I see four general problems with the rock star pastor and I will propose four fixes:

Personal Imbalance
No, not mentally. (Well, maybe mentally.) No, the problem of balance with a superpastor type is the distance at which ministry is done. Superpastors tend to either fly high above and lord over their ministries like detached dictators or they try lifting too much on their own. Both of these problems can stem from an enlarged ego. In the previous case, the superpastor thinks the normal work is for ordinary pastors, and in the latter case, the superpastor feels strong enough to handle it all.

Sometimes the superpastor is a passive sort who lets everyone else pass the buck to the pastor, afraid to delegate for fear of other people’s failures tainting the ministry.  In the case of the “lord on high” superpastor, the leadership culture is just as toxic, because staff and member tend to affirm aloofness and enable dysfunction. In either case, the biblical view of equipping others for ministry is absent.

Hindering Community
If the church life revolves around one person’s speaking gift, it is incredible difficult to move to community. A community “won” to a single voice is not won to community, but to spectatorship.  Thus, when pastors say, “it’s all about the weekend,” they tend to create an audience rather than a biblically functioning church community.  This is still true if your church is an oft-criticized seeker megachurch or a your verse-by-verse preaching point.  Either way, if you get thousands sitting in rows but can’t move them to sitting in circles, true community is hard to find.

As a guy who travels around speaking, I understand how quickly it can happen. For the last few weeks, I’ve spoken at a church close to my own house while the pastor is on a short sabbatical. But even in delivering biblical messages, I’m not engaging in biblical community with those people. It takes more than a stage to create a community. The temptation must be fought that a mass of people gathered to hear one person speak is equal to biblical community.

A gifted communicator can draw a crowd, but biblical community will sustain a congregation. A great orator is fun to have at worship, but cannot build community during the other six days and 23 hours of the week. Great preaching will be used by God to bring others to faith and sanctify God’s people, but it will also encourage the body to do life together on mission.

I’m not saying that every person in the community should have immediate access to the pastor. But I am saying that every pastor should be in some accountable biblical community.

Approval Addiction
Many rock star pastors enjoy having their egos stroked. When pastors become rock stars, it seems that they quickly learn how to strut while sitting down.  But when they become the face of the church, the church becomes identified with the pastor. Thus, the measure of success is tied to the pastor’s capacity to draw a crowd, sell books, and speak at the cool conferences. The scorecard of the church shifts from faithful growth to publicity ratings.

An approval-addicted pastor develops the split personality of an insecure bully. Paranoid that their reputation might be damaged by incompetency in others, the pastor resorts to pushing people around. Rock star pastors are addicted to measuring success by whether or not they get their way. Their measure of success becomes about meeting their personal needs, not submission to the mission of God. A rock star pastor is fanatical about approval, but not God’s.

Selling Out the Church’s Future
You can just check the headlines. When a rock star pastor falls, the church rarely recovers. When they do, it is through extricating their identity from that of the pastor’s abilities and personality. No pastor is indispensable. It’s good for pastors to remind themselves, “Others filled the role before you were born and others will fill it after you’re gone.”

But the rock star pastor constantly needs more attendees, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers. In a twisted bit of logic, they work to make the gospel well-known through their own fame.

(Read more here.)

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