Celebrity Pop-Culture’s Influence on Churches
It deeply saddens me that in many (not all) contemporary churches, it seems that the goal of pastoral leadership is to be a successful CEO, a well-known speaker, or a great motivational coach. In some cases, I believe churches have become nothing more than faith-based corporations built on Biblical success principles, instead of modeling the New Testament Church seen in the Acts of the Apostles.
Churches need financial resources like any other organization to exist, but it seems that church revenue is now more important than repentance and revival. That numerical church growth is more important than the people’s spiritual growth. That leadership gifting is more important than love, management more important than mercy, and good deeds more important than doctrine and discipleship. I believe the Church overall is once again in great need of reform and true revival.
The time has come for all of us as church leaders to really ask ourselves and each other, “What are we really doing? What are we really about?” I’m not against these things, but just maybe it’s time to turn off the LED lights, turn off the smoke machines, and suspend church programs, to blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, and call a solemn assembly (Joel 2:15).
I believe the Church has been so influenced by mainstream celebrity pop-culture, that having a pastor serve as a faithful shepherd who lives like Christ and gives his life for the sheep is no longer good enough. It could be that the people are demanding more, but really need less.
The Greatest Pastoral Counsel Ever
In all my years of preparation for ministry and formal theological training, of all the books I’ve read and conferences I’ve attended, the greatest pastoral counsel I’ve ever heard came from my father-in-law, Pastor Carlton Arthurs. Pastor Arthurs has endured many decades of ministry with impeccable integrity and scandal-free ministry. He’s not the most popular preacher and he doesn’t have the largest church, but he’s the most Christ-like man I’ve ever met. I was favored by God to have answered my call to ministry under his care.
He trained those of us under his apostolic oversight to embrace two essential core values in pastoral leadership. His voice still rings in my head every single day, “James, we must be pastors with whom God’s people are safe!” I often marveled at the fact that he didn’t say successful pastors, wealthy pastors, pastors skilled in business, or popular pastors, but pastors who could be entrusted with the safety of God’s people.
His second admonition to his young pastors was this: “Before we do anything to bring reproach on the name of the Lord, we’ll quit the ministry and put padlocks on the front doors of the church.”
Pastor Arthurs was very stern and very clear. Integrity in ministry must never be compromised, and lack of integrity would not be tolerated under any circumstances. To this very day, His words more than anything else I have heard have shaped our ministry, and has drawn the much-needed boundaries to keep us from going where we mustn’t go. Both in our personal and public lives.
To this day, he and several others around us have complete access to our lives. They possess apostolic authority as prescribed in Scripture to hold us accountable for our actions, and remove us from ministry altogether at the slightest hint of unacceptable behavior. Every Pastor needs apostolic leaders who are capable of saving them from themselves if necessary, and protecting God’s people from their known and unknown character flaws and any undesirable tendencies.
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James E. Ward Jr. is a pastor, author, and entrepreneur who speaks nationally and internationally on cultural and spiritual issues. James is pastor and founder of INSIGHT Church in the north Chicago suburb of Skokie, IL.