This will be short (for me) but will hopefully stir some discussion. With the recent (and long-term) events involving Mark Driscoll and the tragedy involving Ergun Caner coupled with the beginning collapse of the megachurch system (including a score of other examples), I think that the rest of us really need to take a break from following the personalities and “successes” that has marked so much of Evangelical Christianity over the past 40-50 years or so – really since the 1950s. We never really held the megachurch phenomenon up against Scripture to ask if it was the right approach. There was too much money and power involved. Those of us in the trenches have been given much information over the years from the “experts” as to how to be “successful.” When we have tried much of it, we find that it either doesn’t work or perhaps, we aren’t impressive enough to pull it off. Churchgoers get the message too about what is best, so they flock to whoever can provide them with more and more or the leader with the most charisma or who can organize things best or who makes them feel good. All the while, we live by the wrong metrics.
A megachurch in my own state melted down over the past few years. There wasn’t some kind of scandal (in the way we think about scandals). It melted down because the pastor employed every strategy and tactic for church leadership that SBC leaders and seminaries have been teaching for the past 30 years in church growth and pastor-as-CEO-type-leadership. It was devastating and the church went in very counterproductive directions. But, this church was celebrated by SBC leaders for years as being on the cutting edge of church growth and success. In the end, it was unsustainable. There should be a case study done and we should rethink our entire approach. But, that won’t happen because the entire system is built upon the presumptions that are ultimately failing.
Celebrity leadership is a cancer – perhaps a slow growing one, but a cancer, nonetheless. There aren’t many experts anymore – at least at the edges of culture and church growth/effectiveness. Things are changing way to fast. The ones who seem to know more than others are the ones going deeper and slower and who are putting down roots and who are failing at much but who are learning even more.
The greatest tragedy is not what has happened to our celebrity leaders (as difficult as that is). The greatest tragedy is how willing we all were to follow and glorify them and fight and defend them – and attack them as well, as though they represented something true and endearing. Before we throw anymore stones, we need to all look in the mirror and ask why WE are so susceptible to the temptation to go for the glory instead of the cross. And, we need to pray for them. They need it. So do we.
And, then of course, we should all look to Jesus as our true Source of life and direction. Or, maybe we should look to Him first.
Just an opinion from a guy who is trudging along.