As my chiropractor was working me over yesterday, she was asking about the reading I'm doing for a degree I'm working on. After I rattled off the titles and subjects of a number of leadership books, she said, "Wow, what are you going to do when you are finished with school—rule the world?"
"Actually, I'm moving in the opposite direction," I said.
And I am trying to mean that. Genuinely.
Over the last few years, I've thought long and hard about "my platform" as a pastor, a writer, an occasional speaker. And as I've done so, I've come to the conclusion that there is a danger to my soul in pursuing more exposure, more name recognition, more money to be made from thinking, writing, and speaking about ministry issues. Especially while I am still in full-time, paid ministry to a local community.
I want to be clear, though: I have no issue with writers/speakers who sell lots of books, go on speaking tours, and generally promote their works however they can. But there's something very "off" in the proliferation of pastors who are mixing ministry in and to a local community with "building their brand." I think a good case can be made that the self-promotion that's inevitably needed to build a brand in today's world in incongruous with the servant-leader model of pastoring and the attitude of humility that ought to accompany it.
The Celebrity Pastor certainly isn't a new phenomenon. But the extent to which some take it today, I think, is. Yes, Spurgeon had his sermons published in the paper weekly. But can anyone really imagine him re-tweeting the fawning praises of his Twitter followers, or John Wesley selling tickets to his latest tour? Can anyone imagine Dwight Moody slapping his name on a couple ghostwritten books a year?
In other words, it seems as though we've thrown any reluctance over celebrity for our ministry endeavors out the window, and now many of us are now actively cultivating, pursuing, and—dare I say—grasping at the fame, increased money, and recognition that comes with hitting the big time in today's ministry world.
And therein lies the danger and the challenge. Both for us personally and for the church as a whole.
When pastors start building their "platform," growing their influence, and raising their profile, it's generally talked about in terms of expanding ministry reach, being a good steward of the talents God has given, and, always, increasing "kingdom impact." And while I have no doubt that many are humbly pursuing a God-given call to speak beyond the bounds of their local church community to a larger audience, I also suspect that for many, the motivations are somewhat more muddied, somewhat less altruistic.
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