I realized that even before going into ministry that I was no where “cool” enough to be a pastor. And I honestly don’t think that if I was to try to “get hired” as a pastor in most churches today, I would even get a second look. I don’t have a seminary degree, I have never written a book, I don’t have the charisma to capture an audience, and I’m not up on all the hipster style or trends of the day.
Sure, I may be generalizing a bit, but as they say, “generalizations are generally true”.
A growing number of “pastors and leaders” tend to fit a common mold. Instead of looking at the Biblical qualifications of books like Timothy and Titus in the Bible, many are chosen because of other worldly characteristics. Even the qualifications for ordination in many denominations say they look to the Bible in examining pastors, elders, and deacons, but in reality they rely heavily upon man-made characteristics far more.
Because someone has a master’s degree, or even a doctorate in ministry, doesn’t make one the least bit qualified in themselves for ministry simply because they did the work. If someone has planted, grown, and established churches, doesn’t mean in themselves they have the Biblical qualifications to lead a church. And just because someone can gain an audience, write books, speak at conferences, or has the “look” of a pastor, doesn’t mean in themselves they are qualified.
But what we see is that these things often times take precedent. Whereas, we used to have to read a person’s books or hear them speak over a period of time to find out what they actually believe, now a person’s beliefs and what is important to them can be found out quite easily without having to dive so deep.
Social media, for example, has been a blessing and curse in many ways. Much more of a curse than a blessing for many, I believe. Social media has led to the rise of people who would otherwise only be known in their remote parts of the world. Now, in real-time, they can post, comment, and share their thoughts and beliefs like never before. They gain followers and audiences, speaking to people who were hardly reachable even a decade or more ago.
With all of this, churches, pastors, leaders, authors, bloggers and the like have gained a platform to “reach the world” and their “communities”. In order to remain relevant, they must be on the cutting edge of well…everything.
Where it used to be enough for pastors to lead their churches, knowing their people and ministering to them personally, now the pastor is so shielded from people except for on their terms. The interaction is usually contained to self-preservation against critics or acknowledgement of praise by other leaders or their own followers.
Some of the most self-absorbed people are truly pastors.
Many who are leading churches today look far more like CEO’s than Biblical pastors, elders, and deacons. They are masters at advertising, marketing, and keeping the “message” fresh and relevant. Those leading these churches know how to appear authentic and relatable. And while I honestly think some may start with good intentions for doing what they are doing, the results have proven to be a complete and utter failure. If their followers were really disciples, wouldn’t their lives actually reflect a growing faith and obedience to the Lord??
Pride is at the root of being self-absorbed. Give people a bit of success and pride is off to the races. Give people more success, and it is a run away train.
While businesses have something to actually sell, many pastors have found a way to sell themselves. There are many names in the Christian world we could name who have made a major profit from selling their materials. But rather than focusing on the countless names, it more important to recognize that what they actually are selling is themselves.
It is true that these pastors and leaders are often very talented people. They are usually very charming. Tie that together with talking about God and Biblical sounding things, they catch undiscerning professing believers off guard.
If they can get a book deal, along with leading a growing church, rub elbows with the whose-who of the conference speaking circuit, they have essentially made it. But the never-ending cycle of needing to keep up with and make new trends, keeps them pushing the limits.
In order to remain relevant, these pastors and leaders need to continue to reach a bigger audience. They need to always have a new book deal in the wings. They need to be working on not only growing their current church, with it’s expanding influence, but also reaching beyond with all sorts of new “ministries”. Not only that, but these pastors and leaders also need to be speaking at events all over the place regularly.
The constant need to be in the lime light drives them to new heights. But in the end, these pastors and leaders are merely a shell. They may look spiritual, even sound Biblical at times, but they end up leaving a massive trail of casualties in their wake.
At this point, you may be asking, “Who are these people and how else can I recognize them??” Great question. The reality is that these pastors and leaders are not those way out there, but are in our midst. They may even be in some of our own churches. Most will think that “they aren’t in my church”. And that may be the case. But chances are that even if they don’t fit the mold described here, they may be promoting and endorsing those that do.
Think about that for a moment.
It is important to know what are churches are promoting in terms of books to read, conferences to go to, and many other things. It is even more important to know who our pastors and leaders are being influenced by and those they are following.
It is true that there are pastors and leaders who may have begun with good intentions, but a growing number have lost sight of how self-absorbed they have truly become. They have lost sight of the simple and practical concept of teaching people about the Way of the Lord and meeting with believers to actually be the Church. They may say that ministry is not about them, but one can’t miss how everything they do is really about themselves. These pastors and leaders love to talk a big game about “Jesus”, but when you take a step back, you can see their true agendas.
Many of these pastors and leaders also tend to think they are the experts on basically everything. They even like to be known as a “pastor to pastors”. And so they find ways to be the “go to” guy that shepherds people as well as other pastors and leaders. To be known is to have influence.
One trend that has been going on this past while is posting pictures on social media of pastors and leaders own books. They love to share photos of people reading their books in various locations. They like passing on the new discounts of where to buy their books. They love to take pictures praying over their books (Making it seem like their books are more important than the Bible). And worse yet, taking pictures of themselves going into bookstores to show off and sign copies of their own books. If this doesn’t scream of shameless self-promotion, I don’t know what is.
Another troubling trend is the constant praise from one pastor or leader to another. You see it constantly about liking, commenting, and applauding one another for how “awesome” one another is and the things they say. One such example is how they love to post “flame emojis” on each other’s posts saying that what they say is on fire. Again, if this isn’t going around in sheer arrogance, I don’t know what is.
I say all this because it is important to recognize the things going on today. The average professing Christian has been taught to follow man rather than God. So when they see these pastors and leaders with a big audience and a voice to reach people, most latch on to them and others like them, hanging on their every word.
As I said, and it’s worth repeating. These pastors, leaders, authors, bloggers and the like are not in some far off place or simply on the margins. They are truly in our midst and in a growing number of churches. I see these things going on all around and we must do the work to look into what we are really being taught and what is being passed on as Truth. It is not enough to bury our heads in the sand and deny that these things are actually taking place. And it is also not enough to think that just because I may not have seen this going on personally, that these things aren’t true.
It is critical for us to examine these things and make sure we don’t find ourselves enamored with what man has to say rather than what God says in the Bible. Who cares what conference people are speaking at, being excited for so and so’s new book, what “cute” catch phrase is quoted on social media, or whatever some trendy thing people are talking about. Let’s boldly dismiss those who are shameless self-promoters and surround ourselves with true believers that are only concerned about growing in faith and obedience to the Lord and simply being the Church.