One of most defining features of our time is the rise of the celebrity. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are famous for being famous. Talent and substance are not required. The ability to draw a crowd or following on Facebook seems to be the only requirement to become a celebrity. But has this phenomenon flowed over into Christendom?

The words of John the Baptist stand in stark contrast to what we see in many personality-based ministries today. “He must increase and I must decrease” seems far from reality. Recently a gathering called The Elephant Room gained much attention because it brought together seven celebrity pastors to discuss a variety of issues. Without commenting on the content of this event, it seems to me that much of the attention this event garnered was due to the fact that each of the speakers have die-hard followings. Modern day Pauls and Apolloses appear to exist. I wonder if this event would have been an issue if it had it involved seven pastors of regular size churches?

To be fair, not all influential evangelists seek or magnify their celebrity. I really appreciate the ministry of John Stott, not only for his teaching, but for his example of not pursuing the mega church and upfront glory. Nevertheless, we flock to human leaders.

Why is this? Have we confused leadership with pastoring? Are we seeking to put tangible flesh on a Lord we cannot see? Are we creating idols out of Christian personalities?

Godly leadership is essential. But like John the Baptist, the best leaders know when to get out of the way so Jesus becomes pre-eminently known.

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About Jeremy Crooks

Jeremy grew up in Sydney Australia. He has tertiary qualifications in business, training, and Bible. With experience in both church ministry and corporate human resources, Jeremy has a strong interest in how faith is demonstrated in our homes and workplaces. You can contact Jeremy at


  1. PJ 16 February, 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Interesting post.

    I’ve wondered about this issue for quite some time and I don’t know whether the negatives or the positives come out in front when it comes to the ministries of men like Mark Driscoll. Certainly there is more of a danger in our day for people to become ‘disciples’ of celebrity pastors/theologians. (Why listen to your own pastor when you can live-stream the sermon from Mars Hill, Bethlehem Baptist or Grace Community Church!?)

    (PS. The promo video on “The Elephant Room” site is ridiculous!)

  2. Robert Apps 17 February, 2012 at 6:55 am - Reply

    I recall Spurgeon had his sermons printed in the daily newspapers so he had celebrity status.

    without impugning anyones motives, I guess we just have to say with Paul in Phil 1:-

    15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

  3. david milson 17 February, 2012 at 9:07 am - Reply

    I think you have pointed out something important Rob, effective ministers use what means are availible to them to spread their message. There have been plenty of Godly high profile preachers in the past who raised eyebrows in their day, but we don’t think their methods unusual today. And then there are the OT prophets. Driscoll’s got nothin’ on Ezekiel and co, those old dudes would have gone viral!
    It occurs to me that the only difference is that caused by technology making ministries more accessable.

  4. Matt Leys 17 February, 2012 at 9:57 am - Reply

    Enjoying the interesting discussion …

    An extended family member of mine overseas has actually been a member & volunteer at churches run by two of the men shown in the above graphic. Last year when we were in the US he was really keen to show us around so we went on a tour of one of the campuses. Needless to say, it was large and impressive. That night we stayed up late (maybe a little too late) discussing his interest in the church, its approach to ministry, etc.

    I think we’d all agree that the celebrity factor can be used to the benefit of God’s kingdom (think Tim Tebow, famous preachers of the past, etc.) as much as the next saint. Even in highly fundamental circles I suspect that there is a degree of celebrity, although expressed in a more pious manner.

    The thing that rings alarm bells for me is the ministry approach taken by some that have become and I perceive wish to continue as celebrity leaders. You don’t have to dig very deep to discern that some of these ministries are big on evangelism and getting emotionally responses, but are often criticized for being poor on discipleship. My relation actually inferred that his church was about getting people to meet Jesus, but they didn’t actually expect everyone to stay because there wasn’t room so they hoped that people would join other churches.

    And I know that some of these men have explicitly stated that they prefer positive preaching – which clearly shapes the type of doctrine and Gospel presentation that is given.

    And clearly separation and identification with the world is something that causes concern. Newspring Church opened their Easter service a few years ago by performing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. I also listened to part of a message by Steven Furtick a while back where he used a Nirvana song for a Biblical analogy, explaining that in his opinion it was, and still is, one of the best songs written all time.

    To be honest, if you cultivate a ministry based on the above principles, I don’t think it’d be that hard to get a very visible response and become a celebrity.

    A few relevant links …

    BTW, I’ve downloaded and listened to great sermons by both PJ and Robert Apps. Are we able to consider them celebrities now? :o)

  5. Robert Apps 18 February, 2012 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Well Matt, it has only taken me 20 years to get one person to suggest I might be a celebrity preacher.

    I will happily sign the inside of your Bible next time I am in Sydney:)

    All the best to you and your good family.

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