I read lots of wisdom in Andy Crouch's article on the problem of celebrity pastors, but I'd like to approach it from another angle because I think the problem is much bigger. We don't have a problem with celebrity pastors as much as we have a problem with leaders! I've seen abusive leaders in both small and big churches, narcissists in small time ministry as well as those who have celebrity status (see video below for narcissism). So I think our solutions need to include the pathways people take to ministry.
1. Character over Gifting
Jesus said, we would know people by their fruit, not their giftings (Matt 7:15-23). We are often putting people into various ministries because we like their giftings. I'd suggest, we put more emphasis into character. How do we know someone's character? It takes a long time observing someone in stressful situations to be able to tell their character. Once a narcissist is given a powerful position in ministry, he will hurt people, and then we'll blame him; but who let the narcissist into ministry in the first place?
2. We're saturated in a culture of rightness.
I naturally desire to be in the right, and my theological tribe does too. This desire to be right has become an idol. I think I've seen this in two ways.
Firstly, we trump intellectual rightness over right actions (orthodoxy over orthopraxy). If you want an example, look at how some conservative evangelicals respond to poverty-- we can easily fold our arms in satisfaction that we haven't fallen for the social gospel, whilst not bothering to preach the gospel to the poor (like Jesus did), or care for the poor in the church (like Paul did).
Secondly, we have a hard time admitting we're in the wrong. Although my tribe 'believes' in Christ's imputed righteousness, I've hardly ever heard a church leader say sorry for hurting someone. I've heard people admit past 'mistakes' in ministry, but this is usually to a third party, not the injured party. When, I think about it, there are only two Christian leaders I remember hearing saying sorry about something, M and B. You prob don't know them, that's not the point, the point is that I've been in churches for over 30 years, and known lots of pastors, and authors, and I can only think of two pastors who say sorry if someone brings something to them. There must be more, surely? hopefully?
In my experience, it doesn't matter whether its a leader of 10 people, or 500 people, we have a culture where leaders so badly want to be in the right, they can't even consider being in the wrong. In some ways this culture starts when we start learning good doctrine - there's a sense that we are in the right. But it also grows when we judge other church groups as not being in the right. For some of us working class leaders, it occurs when we look down on the prejudice we've experienced from other leaders who are not in the right. And we egg each other on with a sense that we are in the right. And then someone comes to us and says, 'I feel you wronged me' and we say, 'Of course not, I'm in the right!' Well actually we don't say that, but we think that.
So the solution is Christ right?
Our character needs to be more like him. And we need to be more firmly convinced of His righteousness each day, so that we are open to being in the wrong.
For a better understanding of narcissism, watch this excellent video by Diane Langberg
part 2 of this article can be found here