The Celebrity Pastor and the Potential of Pride

Originally published for

Five thousand followers on Twitter. Two thousand “likes” on Facebook with another 750 friends. Hundreds of weekly downloads of the sermon via podcasting. Ten thousand hits on the blog per month. Up and coming musician? Hollywood superstar? I think not. It is your pastor and he has a following.

In our world of media-saturated marketing, the celebrity pastor has become all the rave. For decades, a public preaching ministry was confined to live radio preaching on Sunday mornings or possibly cassette tapes being sent via the mail. Only those pastors who served in larger churches in a major city were able to get these messages broadcast over the national airwaves.

Then came the era of the tele-evangelist and Christian cable stations such as Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) with its flagship show The 700 Club. While many of these stations are still going strong today, they have lost much of their appeal to a consistent cycle of scandal and the dominance of the prosperity gospel, which is slowly going out of style. The general public’s interest is waning in “watching” others worship in a TV studio and being constantly tapped for donations.

Yet ministry through media is not slowing down. As the digital age blossoms and social media takes over the world, pastors are getting in on the rising tide of digital ministry. Nowadays any pastor, from the smallest congregation in rural America to the megachurch in a metropolitan area, can broadcast, podcast, video-cast, tweet and blog sermons, articles, Bible studies, devotions, teaching, anything all for free.

With nothing than a flip camera, a laptop and a bit of time, they can expand their listening, reading, watching audience far outside of the walls of their church. They can reach people on the other side of the world with a cheap website and great domain name. They are stretching farther than TV or radio ever imagined.

The question, then, is what might result with such digital opportunities? What temptations lurk in the dark with such media venues at their pastoral finger tips? The answer, I believe, is pride. With this power, comes arrogance, ego, an infatuation with oneself, self-directed idolatry, envy, jealousy, and a lust for more and more followers.

Temptations abound with such opportunities and the pastor should carefully discern his heart before proceeding. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The slippery slope toward pride and destruction is being greased up daily as the digital age accelerates.

Nevertheless, I believe modest and humble pastors who use digital media can do so with pure and righteous hearts. They can seek to serve the Lord and their flocks by hoping to provide more and more avenues for people to hear the Gospel and be strengthened in their relationship with Jesus.

If they see their role as a servant of God holding the greatest news ever told and not some megastar, celebrity pastors with an ever-growing following, they can be of service to the kingdom. It is all about attitude and motivation. If your attitude and motivation is to build up your legacy and name recognition, then you have stepped over the line into idolatrous sin. But if your attitude and motivation is to proclaim Jesus and make his name famous, then you are on safe ground.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:8 help us here, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart — that is going to the standard for pastors in the digital age because the avenues in the digital age are only going to increase.

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