Monday, March 26, 2012

Celebrity Pastors And The Gospel Of Grace

It may seem fitting that the mighty TBN ministry is in crisis right now, given the false prosperity gospel upon which Jan and Paul Crouch, undeniable the most celebrated ministers in the country, have built their empire. Given the current discussion of celebrity in the reformed church, it is timely, if nothing else to ask if this drift towards self-destruction is the direction that all celebrity pastors end up taking. All of the discussion seems centered on the celebrity of the Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald types, but is not limited to just them. They beg the discussion because of their current book tours, and their high profile at the last Elephant Room conference where they seemed to blur the lines between solid gospel understanding and heretical preaching by their inclusion of word/faith pastor TD Jakes in their very public conference, even though the conference was designed to bring different views to the table.

So is celebrity a slippery slope to oblivion? Anyone can seach google on just about any celebrity pastor, and view millions of web pages on the controversy that they all create, literally without exception. Type in “John Piper controversy”
 and you’ll find plenty of people who think he is out in left (right) field on any number of issues. The far left word of faith / prosperity pastors have been living with this constant cry of “heretical” for some time, and seem in the short run to adapt quite well by just ignoring it, and sticking together. But the inclusion of TD Jakes, prosperity’s most celebrated proponent, at the Elephant Room has brought to front and center the celebrity of many other pastors, if for no other reason than it brought the two camps together. For instance, James MacDonald had to resign from the Gospel Coalition because of it, even before the event happened. Mark Driscoll, a Coalition board member may be next, and at the least, is certainly feeling the heat of being a part of it. Matt Chandler has spoken at various events, including a conference by the always controversial Steven Furtick, though the jury is out on what actually happened there. So more reformed minded celebrity pastors are mixing with questionable pastors, but to what end? One could grind an axe forever trying to determine if biblically they should or should not mix with heretical or near heretical pastors. And why the sudden need to mix, anyway? Chandler, Driscoll, and MacDonald have all preached against the very ministries they now seem to at least approve of to the point of attending. This leaves them unable to circle the wagons and stick together when the storms about it come. There is no “camp” that will accept the teachings of the word of faith movement, except that movement itself, so they are left to themselves to try and ignore it and weather the storm. They can’t possible believe that they will get Steven Furtick or Perry Noble or TD Jakes to actually change their message.

Apprising Ministries believes that the men, being of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement, New Calvinists, of the charismatic type are letting their horizons open too broadly letting preachers into their circle simply because of their charismatic similarities. This may well be the case.

But what slope are they on? Will their own understanding of the gospel strengthen them enough to prevent them from washing out, just as TBN may soon fall? Only the true gospel of grace frees us from the need for prosperity, so living a gospel of prosperity will be of no help when storms brought about by the human condition threaten to sink our ship. But will a reformed minded seriously humble grace-filled celebrity pastor be able to make the right decisions when faced with the temptation to sell more, make more, be more? I think yes. But why are they taking the risk? We are all allowed to take risks and make mistakes, but pastors are called to make the right the choices the first time around if they take their flock seriously. And because of their celebrity (and they asked for it), they need to realize their mistakes will injure not just their own churches, but the movement that has begun, the movement to bring the true gospel to the forefront of the western church, will also be set back immensely if they end up just proving that they don’t practice their own preaching, or if it doesn’t work for them, it won’t work for you. It feels like we are just one real scandal away from having to start all over again.

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