We dont need to drop any big names, but we can all think of someone in ministry who rose to celebrity status only to cave under pressure or temptation. They were doing great work for the Kingdom of God and then they werent. Sure, for argument’s sake, it may not be that every “celebrity pastor” falls (that we know of), but the track record weighs heavily against pastors being stars.

It’s happened so often that we should ask the question: “Are we even made for this?”

Yes, our culture may push us towards this more and more, but that certainly doesn’t make it right. We know we arent meant for fame, so please consider the following five steps to fight against the temptation of celebrity status, even if your church happens to be growing like crazy.

Additionally, to help shape a culture that promotes this within your team, each point is followed by a staff discussion question.

5 Ways To Avoid The Pitfalls of Celebrity Status in Ministry

1. Flourish as a servant instead of falling as a celebrity.

When Paul compares pastors to the under oarsmen in Corinthians; when Jesus puts on the servant’s outer dress to wash feet, they arent just giving us demonstrations of what we should do, they are helping us to understand the DNA of what it means to be “pastor.” They do not describe tasks as much as they depict personas. Think about the most frequent analogy the Scriptures use for a pastor… shepherd. Shepherds lack prestige and significance; they are merely sheep leaders. No matter how much experience or education they have, pastors will always be most pastoral when they are serving others, not standing above them.

A few years ago I went to watch a Christian Comedian at a larger EFCA church. I was encouraged to see the lead pastor of that church serving as a greeter, wearing the standard greeter name tag with just his first name. No celebrity, just servant.

STAFF DISCUSSION:

How prone is our congregation to be attached to a single leader? Does our church have a history of struggling with this?

2. Discover more than you innovate.

Pastors are primarily in the discovery business. The psalmist speaks about the righteous walking in the steps that God has laid out for them. Paul speaks of keeping in step with the Spirit. When we do our job well, we are discovering the path that God has laid out for us. As much as we lead, we really are followers of God. So yes, while some of what we do may be innovative, we have to remember that really all our best ideas are sourced from God through a discovery process.

STAFF DISCUSSION:

How can we create a culture of accountability? If other staff/elders begin to perceive we are falling prey to a celebrity status” mentality, how should they respond?

3. Delight in a team that collectively points to Christ.

A preaching team has a number of advantages. The primary speaker doesnt suffer burnout or go crazy trying to come up with illustrations. The congregation isnt tired of listening to one person. Each speaker has their own perspective and passion, connecting with different people in different ways. Additionally, when an entire team is pushing towards the same thing, much more momentum is generated.

The other day I joked with someone in our congregation about how the attendance seems to increase when Im not there. He felt free to offer his thoughts on our preaching rotation and said, This is honestly the first church I have attended where I don’t have a favorite.” It wasnt a slight at all and it truly brought joy to our team to hear someone else catch what we were trying to do. When we preach, we are pointing to Jesus, even if it is at a cost to ourselves… Thats how this works. We really need to consider people getting that mentality as a reason to celebrate.

STAFF DISCUSSION:

What are some whole-team success stories of which you are glad to be a part?

4. Lead like someone else will take your place.

We must make it as easy as possible for our congregation to envision life without us.

  • Go on a sabbatical/longer vacation.
  • Put together a preaching team.
  • Invite a guest speaker that you think communicates more effectively than you.
  • Regularly teach that the church needs to live longer than every person in the room.
  • Highlight what God is doing outside of your own church.

STAFF DISCUSSION:

What do we want to be true of the church after we arent here any more? How would we encourage live longer than us” desires?

5. Give others the credit.

Quote other staff members, cite your resources, and acknowledge who helped with ideas. Keep giving the impression that other people are equally, if not more important, than you in the Kingdom of God. Helping people realize that you arent all that, prevents them from thinking that you are.

STAFF DISCUSSION:

What are practical ways to live out what Paul says when he proclaims, I am glad that I didnt baptize any one of you…”?

IT’S JUST NOT US.

We are in a celebrity culture but need to live as though what we carry is infinitely more valuable than the vessel carrying it. We are John the Baptist, and if our end promotes the reign of Christ, then that is who we are.

The one thing we never are, is a celebrity, and it’s ultimately up to us to guard against that.

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Matt Saxinger has served in the EFCA for 14 years. He currently is the Lead Pastor at Susquehanna Valley Church in Harrisburg, PA. He has a heart for the gospel and seeing the next generation rise up in leadership.

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4 Comments

  1. Paulo Freire on November 13, 2023 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks Matt for the encouraging and insightful words. Your points are fitting for any pastor despite the trajectory of his church. We are easy prey, vulnerable to the whims of the world and accolades of men. How easy it is to esteem ourselves too highly and welcome anyone who agrees. Your words are a good warning and helpful.

  2. David Hansen on October 25, 2023 at 8:41 am

    Matt:

    Excellent and timely article!! Thank you!!

    I had a seminary professor tell his students, “If you believe you are as good as your congregation says you are, you are in deep trouble.”

    • Matt on October 25, 2023 at 11:38 am

      Thanks Dave! So easy to slip into subtle mindsets.

  3. Tony Balsamo on October 25, 2023 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for this! Sooooo good! Thanks, brother!

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