I was speaking with a friend of mine recently who asked an intriguing question: "why is it that it seems that most famous pastors of mega-churches tend to reach a point very quickly where they embrace a "cult of personality" persona in regards to ministry?" Generalizations aside, there is some truth to that in that question. I think the answer is simple: we have made personalities of them and given them power, admiration, and authority that is not in keeping with servant-leadership or imitating Christ; and their lofty platforms, prove more times than not, very difficult for any man to handle. When sectarian loyalty abounds (1 Cor. 3), then believing ones own press release becomes a real danger. Even the best-intentioned subordinates on church staffs can succumb to this pressure when much of their time is spent trying to get close to "the senior pastor" and remain in his good graces for either reasons of influence, job security, or to gain advancement by riding on anothers coattails.
Whatever the reason, what is true in the secular business world known as "brown nosing" is sadly true within the Christian community as well. We don't like to admit it; we seldom talk about it; and very rarely challenge it. And in part, if one does, one might find oneself on the outs with some "leaders of influence" in local church or greater denominational circles.
That is why I am firmly against what I call "Protestant Popery"; and favor the biblical model of servant-leadership we see in the pastoral epistles. In saying that, I am blessed and very grateful to the Lord for my pastors at my home church who are a model for me of Christlike humility; who are submissive to the standard of God's Word as their final authority; who invest tirelessly in the daily lives of the people of the church; and who are content to be servants of Christ, instead of stars in evangelicalism. They have a low visibility, yet high impact for the kingdom of God. May their tribe increase!
Our Lord is not like what Tozer used to call "the glory boys of today." Paul said in 2 Cor. 10:1, "we are mindful of the humility and gentleness of Christ." What an example for pastors today. Our Lord, though King of kings and God in human flesh, humbled Himself as a bondservant (Phil. 2:5-11); washed His disciples feet (John 13:1-12); was a friend of sinners (Luke 7:31-50); embraced the cross despising the shame (Heb. 12:2); and even submitted to the injustices of evil men (Acts 2:19-23). Pastors of large influential media driven churches today need to follow Christ and His example of leadership. They need to come down to the people, take up the towel, water and washbasin, serve God’s people daily, be men of fervent prayer privately before ever ascending to the pulpit publicly. They need to be more than expositors--more than effective communicators and leaders; they need to be under-shepherds who smell like sheep and are invested in the lives of the people. They need to be on the radio less, writing fewer books, maintaining a low visibility on TV with making the news talk-show appearances a rarity, limiting personal appearances around the country, and in their churches more. They need to disciple their fellow elders, deacons and lay leaders every week. They need to be more than excellent orators; they need to servants (1 Cor. 4:1-2). Ministry in famous pulpits alone breeds not humility, servanthood and Christlikeness, but left imbalanced could result in increased power, unjustified authority, and fosters unbroken pride. What's the solution? Accountability. Who shepherds the shepherd each week beloved? Who does the pastor submit himself too for discipleship? Who is willing to challenge his words, evaluate his preaching, examine his life, and hold him responsible to his holy charge from heaven? (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
May I encourage you today to email this to as many pastors, youth group leaders, missionaries, elders and deacons as you can. It will convict them, and in turn, bless them. Pray for your pastors and leaders at your church. Love them, serve them, encourage them, exhort them, and walk with them (Heb. 13:7; 17). May the following words give you some good insight in beginning to answer those important questions above.
Grace and peace,
To God be the glory alone; and may God help the man who takes any for himself.
“When all men honor us, then we may very well he content; but when the finger of scorn is pointed at us, when our character is held in ill repute, and men hiss us by the wayside, it requires much gospel knowledge to be able to endure that with patience and with cheerfulness. When we are increasing, and growing in rank, and honor, and human esteem, it is easy work to be contented; but when we have to say with John the Baptist, “I must decrease,” or when we see some other servant advanced to our place and another man bearing the palm we had longed to hold, it is not easy to sit still, and without an envious feeling cry with Moses, “Would to God that all the Lord’s servants were prophets.”
To hear another man praised at your own expense, to find your own virtues made as a foil to set forth the superior excellence of some new rival —this, I say, is beyond human nature, to be able to bear it with joy and thankfulness, and to bless God. There must be something noble in the heart of the man who is able to lay all his honors down as willingly as he took them up, when he can as cheerfully submit himself to Christ to humble him, as to lift him up and seat him upon a throne. And yet, my brethren, we have not any one of us learned what the apostle knew, if we are not as ready to glorify Christ by shame, by ignominy and by reproach, as by honor and by esteem among men. We must be ready to give up everything for him. We must be willing to go downwards, in order that Christ’s name may ascend upwards, and be the better known and glorified among men.
“I know how to be abased,” says the apostle.” (Phil. 4:11)