Hero Boycott
Why the big-name celebrity leaders are turning me off.

Angie Ward, Leadership contributing editor, calls for a boycott on worshiping ministry heros. It isn't the popular Christian leaders that she has a problem with, but the clouds of zealous followers that seem to follow them wherever they go. Below is an excerpt from her article. You can read the entire piece here.

We'd like to hear your thoughts about ministry heroes. Who do you celebrate, listen to, and admire? How do you choose your heroes, what do you find so attractive about them, and what are the dangers? We may reprint your comments in the upcoming Spring issue of Leadership.

A few years ago I attended a large ministry conference that included breakout sessions featuring a variety of speakers and "experts" on all things related to ministry and leadership. At one point during the conference, I was waiting in the lobby when one of the speakers (we'll call him Mr. Jensen) walked by, surrounded by at least 25 groupies who hung on this man's every word, nodding their agreement. I actually like this man's writing and philosophy, but was struck by the groupie mentality. A friend who was with me observed, "You know, I like what Jensen says, but God save us from the Jensenites."

Sadly, I've seen that "Jensenites" are becoming the rule rather than the exception. I've heard dozens of pastors speak breathlessly and reverently about their ministerial and spiritual heroes, reading their books and their blogs, listening to their podcasts, following them at conferences, hoping just to get a glimpse of them or to touch their robe so they can receive some magical leadership or teaching power that will result in overwhelming ministry success and their own fame...

...It's no different today than it was in the first century, when Paul noted in his first letter to the Corinthians that the Christ-followers there were dividing themselves over who they followed. "I follow Paul," said some, while others countered, "I follow Apollos."

Today it's the same story, just a different millennium: "I am of Hybels." "I am of Warren." "I am of Maxwell." "I am of Stanley." "I am of Moore." "I am of Groeschel." "I am of McLaren." "I am of Driscoll."...

I have nothing against any of the leaders I mentioned above. They are doing what God has called and gifted and assigned them to do, and they have all made a significant impact for the Kingdom. Many of them are worthy mentors and models. But they are also just servants, just like each of us who follows Christ. My problem is not with the celebrities, but with the groupies who have made them such.

These groupies try to become clones of their heroes, instead of becoming who God has made them and ministering in a uniquely personal way that no celebrity could ever attain. Instead of claiming their standing in Christ and asking what He wants of their leadership in their unique situation, they settle for a trinkety-bracelet approach to ministry: "What Would Hybels Do?"

Read the entire article here.

Angie Ward is a church leader, ministry coach, forward thinker, ministry spouse, and follower of Jesus living and serving in Durham, North Carolina.

November 13, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 26 comments


November 29, 2007  3:10pm

I have always been struck by how this problem is more rampant in the evangelical side of the church than elsewhere–-not just today, but historically, too. I think most folks would be hard-pressed to name even a handful of mainstream church "rock stars," but on the evangelical side of the church you can easily start reeling off the names. What is it about evangelicalism that breeds this?

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larold p. body

November 27, 2007  6:38pm

We all have our popes, I guess. I guess some are just more forthcoming with that fact. Actually, I'm beginning to read Pope Pius VI's Humanae Vitae. Talk about prophetic. That's someone I'd like to hug for his insights on human nature.

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November 27, 2007  4:31pm

We're quibbling over words again. I think we need to parse this down to basics. A hero versus someone you admire. An idol versus a symbol of veneration. How is this defined? When we look back at biblical examples, we look at mentoring relationships – the disciples were mentored by Jesus, Elisha was mentored by Elijah. The Levites had... well... Levites. Someone has to carry on the work of the person who came before them. We do the same at work, at home, at school. We pass on what we do to someone else. A leader has followers. It's when we unquestioningly follow these leaders, blinded by what they do (or don't do), and when WE DON'T KNOW THEM AND PRETEND WE DO that we can fall in the trap of hero worship. There's nothing wrong with admiring someone or finding a spiritual mentor. But don't stick them up on a pedestal because Humpty Dumpty could have a great fall. Keep your eyes open, effendi.

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Bob Robinson

November 22, 2007  11:48am

Yes, Yes, Yes!! We in the evangelical church determine our affinity primarily by the "I am of ____". How would our koinonia look differently if we were to cut this out of the equation?

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November 21, 2007  12:10am

chad said crap. Can you say crap on here? I love Driscoll and would kiss him on the cheek if I could... is that hero worship?

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November 17, 2007  10:33pm

Yup. But I must note (as others do above) that heroes aren't inherently worshiped. Elisha admired Elijah as his hero, and used Elijah's "spirit" as his unit for describing what he wanted most, and it wasn't considered evil. (Elijah didn't rebuke him, and his water-striking "trick" worked.)

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November 16, 2007  12:11am

Rob Bell is one of my favorites. Listen to his podcast, watch the NOOMAS, etc. Now that I've been in ministry for over a year, I love the sentiments about going to the Anglican Church. I've thought about that a lot when we argue continue to argue about worship styles, "outreach" models, preaching styles, technology, etc. I wonder, Does God give a crap whether we use PowerPoint or EasyWorship? Does God give a crap if we sing with guitars, organs, drums, etc? How will God judge our efforts? That's what I'm more concerned with...

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November 15, 2007  7:43pm

First I was afraid we were being asked to boycott the TV show HEROS. That would hurt. I have a preaching hero that I don't get to listen too very much anymore. He was my Father in the faith and is an interim pastor in Washington state. He is one of the ten best preachers I've ever heard and I don't include me in that group. I see Lucado as a hero to me. He demonstrates what a wordsmith is all about and I love his work. I am also enthralled by those like John and Carol Arnot. I experienced ministry with them one time and there was absolutely nothing flashy, ego building or manipulative at all. I just appreciated that their heart and purpose was to serve Jesus. Peace Alan

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M. Taylor

November 15, 2007  3:54pm

"It seems to me that though Rob Bell has compelling messages that are attractive to some, most who are engaged by him are attracted by WHAT HE DOES NOT DO." Don't kid yourself about Rob Bell, Sam. He has a full-throttled marketing machine working behind him, he lives a celebrity lifestyle with a celebrity's income and he is so busy and important that he rarely has to rub shoulders with commoners. But nothing against Rob Bell, of course. But regardless of the content of his message, his not much different than the rest. Groupies exist because Christian celebrities (authors, speakers, musicians) encourage their existence by allowing themselves to be treated like celebrities. I realize I might sound just a little crazy, but the entire system – the books, the speaking tours, the concerts – is corrupt, and those who participate in it can't help but get their hands dirty. I have heroes, too, but most of them are pastors working in poverty in places most people would never visit. I can live without the purpose-driven-velvet-elvis offerings of the evangelical subculture's superstars.

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November 15, 2007  2:23pm

I was recently asked who my heroes were. I had to name 2 women, both of whom I have only met once. They are my ministry heroes. Their lives modelled Christ in a way that I can follow- in my own capacity. That said, I do not worship them. I have heard others gush over their favourite preacher/ speaker in the same way one would gush over a celebrity. This is idolatlry, as far as I can see. My "ministry heroes" are older women who taught the younger (me). They mentored from afar by their examples and words. That's the world-wide church in action. It is not north American hero WORSHIP.

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