When I raised the ‘celebrity pastor’ issue a few years ago, my primary concern was the distasteful self-promotion and the cultivation of cults of personality which it seemed to involve.
More recently, we have witnessed the plagiarism/ghost writing debacle and now the use of not-for-profit money for market manipulation. The sums involved dwarf many church budgets and indicate the disconnection between the showcase pastoral talent and the everyday experience (and financial circumstances) of most pastors.
Perhaps most disturbing is the way in which we also seem to be living in our own version of that final scene of Animal Farm. The language being used by the church regarding its behavior (‘it is not illegal,’ ‘it was unwise,’ ‘mistakes were made’) is obviously parasitic on the venal patois developed by secular politicians caught with their trousers down.
All of this is old news. But here is the rub: If there are people out there who still believe that there is such a thing as reformed evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement, if they believe that this movement will play a key role in the future of the church, and if they believe that they are important leaders in this movement, then they need to speak directly, clearly, and firmly to precisely these issues.
You cannot be a leader without leading publicly on the major issues and major personalities of the day who impact your movement and your chosen constituency. It is not enough to say ‘That person is no longer one of us’ when you helped to create a culture in which accountability is not transparent and where your public silence encouraged the big names to think they could do what they wanted and not be held publicly to account. That is where today’s problems started.
Read more: Reformation 21