Kevin’s Conversations: How Big Is Too Big?
He’s not one of these prosperity gospel heretics and is pretty well respected by many evangelicals. However, I said that although I don’t think he’s terrible, I don’t care much for the man. Over the years, I have seen and heard him do, or say, or be involved in too many disturbing things.
He is a man of which I used to generally think well, but no longer do.
I was then followed up with the question of, “Well then, aren’t there any pastors on tv that you like?” After thinking about it for a bit, there really wasn’t anybody that came to mind. All the prosperity gospel preachers and similar were automatically ruled out. And they are the ones who dominate Christian television. There were a couple other tv preachers I thought of being okay, but I just don’t take to their preaching with any particular interest. Beyond that, there were a handful of some other more mainstream evangelical preachers that came to mind, but even they I couldn’t say I liked because I knew of discomforting or troubling things about them or in their preaching.
Now, I am sure there are some solid preachers on tv. Some whom I may like that I couldn’t think or of which I’m just not aware. This article is certainly not to say that all tv preachers are bad.
But my inability to think of any tv preacher that I liked did make me think further.
Why is that? Am I just overly critical? That could be part of it, but I believe there is more to it than just that.
It would seem to me that the more popular a pastor gets, the more fame they gain, the bigger their church gets, then the greater the chances become that they will become corrupted. Some that definitely should be disqualified from ministry,others in lesser but still troubling ways. Sometimes the corruption will occur outside anything to do with their preaching and teaching. Other times the corruption will effect their teaching, prominently seen in the health and wealth crowd, and most especially when some teachings become more and more bizarre in apparent efforts to gain or at least maintain attention.
I have no studies or data to prove this assertion that the more famous have greater levels of corruption. It is only my opinion based on observation. However, I would be surprised if there aren’t a good many others who join me in this opinion based on their own observation.
Now, I am not saying that a pastor or Christian leader should avoid fame and popularity at all costs. That it’s definitively wrong for them to be on tv. That they have to shut the doors of their church once the 999th person walks through in order to avoid having a church with an attendance of greater than a thousand.
There are those who have navigated fame and popularity and have fared to lead an honorable life. Probably the greatest example of our modern age is Billy Graham. While one may quibble with his theology or methodology, by all known reports the man has managed to carry himself with restraint and grace and has avoided any kind of significant corruption or wrongdoing. And there haven’t been very many Christians as famous as he.
I am not going to say that it’s never God’s will for a pastor, preacher, or Christian leader to gain considerable notoriety or for their church to grow beyond a magic number of attendees or members. Who am I to limit what God desires to do?
But it sure seems in our current era of tv and internet and social media and 24 hour news cycle, the temptations have become exponentially greater. More and more are succumbing to those temptations, or so it seems.
It sure appears as if there are many dangers, toils, and snares, to steal a line, for those who follow this path. That it takes much wisdom, humility, and discipline to navigate the choppy waters. Waters that are already rough for anyone who is a pastor or leader. All the more so when adding in fame and extraordinary power and influence.
I guess in many ways it goes back to that old adage of power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I venture to submit that we can replace power with fame or popularity in that saying and get the same effect. Our human nature is corrupted by sin and the bigger and more numerous temptations we face, the greater the chances become that we’re going to mess up.
With some of these Christian celebrities it seems like they’re not even trying with some of the outrageous things they say and do. Some may have peen perfectly corrupt and narcissistic from the beginning. Others, however, may have started on the straight and narrow and have slowly knuckled under the pressures.
It would seem to me that we’d be better off without most of our Christian celebrities (meaning to the extent of being without their “celebrity-hood”, not necessarily that we’d be better off without them altogether). And that some, if not many of our mega-churches would be healthier if they were smaller. Lack of celebrity and smaller churches are certainly no guarantors of the absence of corruption. But it would seem to favorably increase our odds.
In this day and age, it sometimes can be easier said than done to try to avoid fame or to keep churches from growing precariously large. In our culture, fame can come in a instant, sometimes even with no desire for such by the newly famous. The masses flock to churches they like with gifted speakers. And maybe even in some cases, these are things desired by God. When fame and large size come and everything stays on the up and up and appears to be healthy, I am not going to be the one to declare them not of God.
This is the day and age within which God has placed us. There are things unique to our times and culture that nobody before us ever had to encounter or manage. Other things we have had to deal with since God said, “Do not eat of that tree.” Lord, give us the wisdom to handle these challenges with honor and grace.