In an Era of “Celebrity Pastors” and Megachurches, Perhaps It’s Time to Return to “The Little Brown Church in the Vale”


Those outside the church expect followers of Christ to live differently, yet today many in church are chasing after the world – not to win them, but to be like them. – Reverend Billy Graham reports that

In recent years, a number of high-profile evangelical church leaders have fallen from their pedestals — and the landing has been anything but soft. Often, the story goes like this: A “celebrity pastor” with a wide sphere of influence falls prey to sin, leaving in his wake a trail of chaos and disillusionment.

From sexual impropriety to alcoholism, these moral failures are met with shock and disbelief from many in the Christian community. What exactly went wrong?

Jimmy Evans, senior pastor of Gateway Church, a multi-campus church in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, told The Christian Post that the problem often begins when pastors isolate themselves — from others, from accountability, and ultimately, from the truth.

“We’re all human beings, and I believe pastors who fall put themselves in a position of secrecy,” he explained. “I’ve never met a pastor that didn’t have the same basic temptations as the other guy. The difference is how we deal with it.”

Isolation, Evans contended, is one of Satan’s greatest weapons.

“The devil works in the darkness,” he said. “As pastors, we need to not put ourselves in a position of living a private life away from the eyes of others. That’s why pastors fall, and it can happen to any pastor. It’s the way we carry ourselves, the way we relate to people around us, whether we’re honest or dishonest.”

Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership, told CP that pastors become more susceptible to isolation as their ministry grows.

“The bigger your church becomes, you begin to have more fans and admirers than you do actual friends,” he said. “It’s really important to be surrounded by people who are close enough to you, that they can express concern with you and your character and help steer you toward toward Christ. Pastors need to welcome this kind of friendship, community, and accountability.”

Thanks in part to the rise of social media, the “celebrity pastor” phenomen is relatively new. And while the Gospel is able to reach formerly uncharted territory, so, unfortunately, are scandals within the body of Christ. What once remained within the four walls of the church are now able to creep into a watching, scornful world.

Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas, explained that humans are made to worship. It’s no surprise then, that in a celebrity-obsessed culture, worship is often directed toward an influential pastor or charismatic church leader. But when congregants put their pastors on pedestals, he warned, the results are disastrous.

“There is always the danger to idolize a pastor,” he said. “But they are men. And that’s what the country and church is being reminded of — pastors are just men. We live a very fast life today, and when we’re not careful, we become careless in the way we live. We can’t let our guard down. That’s why God says, ‘Guard your heart.'”

Sauls clarified that the problem doesn’t necessarily lie with the “celebrity” aspect. There are, he said, healthy “celebrity pastors,” adding, “That’s why we have the Francis Chans and Tim Kellers and others of the world.”

But sometimes, people who attend well-known churches aren’t committed to Christ or His Church; rather, their allegiance lies with the engaging, influential pastor. Unfortunately, he said, these leaders may have extraordinary gifts — but questionable character.

“And that’s why we see a lack of humility and sometimes even a moral collapse, even among well-known pastors,” Sauls explained. “Staying anchored in the truth and the simple ordinary aspects of daily faithfulness, I think, is much more important than chasing spectacular sermons and spectacular worship events.”

I have been a church member for as long as I can remember.

Whether it was attending Sunday School as a child, being a part of a youth group when I got older, or teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and singing in church choirs as an adult, I have had the pleasure of being friends with Christians from all walks of life, including pastors.

One of my family’s best friends was “Brother George”, a warm, wonderful man who worked as Sears during the holidays to help make sure that his family had a Merry Christmas.

I can remember as a child holding hands with my family around my grandmother’s deathbed in our home as Brother George led us in prayer.

The pastors I have known throughout my life were all strong in the faith and were men “after God’s own heart”. Like David himself, they were far from perfect. However, when you were around them you knew that they loved God, His Holy Word, and His people.

The growth over the last couple of decades of these so-called Megachurches with their “Celebrity Pastors” has not only puzzled me but concerned me as well.

While Megachurches, such as Bellevue Baptist in Memphis, Tennessee, can accomplish great and wonderful things in the name of the Lord, I’ve just never found attending one to be my cup of tea.

The reason being, I want the Man of God presiding over my funeral to actually KNOW me.

Not only that, but I want him to shake my hand on Sunday morning and ask me how things are going in my life. And, if I, my wife, or one of my family are in the hospital , I want him to come by to visit.

If I was attending a Megachurch, the Pastor would not know me anymore than President Trump knew that I was sitting in the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi for his MAGA Rally in October.

Sure, I may get to know some of the people in the church and that is fine. I love being in the company of fellow Christians.

And, come to think of it, I could accomplish that by staying at home with my wife in our matching recliners watching a church service on television.

I may be old-fashioned but I believe in the concept of a “Church Family”, not a “Celebrity Pastor” being adored by thousands in a church the size of a concert venue.

The size and notoriety of a church and its pastor are not as important as their heart for God.

After all, one Good Shepherd and 12 disciples changed the entire world.

Until He Comes,