Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Cult of Personality

This morning, I came across something on Facebook that caught my attention. It was a Christian radio station in a place that I formerly lived, asking people what they appreciated most about their pastor. Here are some of the responses...

"He believes in us and our gifts! He and his wife (our worship Pastor) love getting to know everyone; we're more like family than just a congregation. They love to plan potlucks, family community outreaches, and just 'hanging out' on a casual level."

"My pastor is the funniest dude I know! So weird, and filled with energy when he's teaching a sermon, it's so easy to learn because he's so weird!"

"We have a new pastor and we learn more about him every day! One Sunday he sang a solo! Who knew?? Then, last week, he played guitar too! And his wife was on keyboard!"

"All the pastors out at _______ Church are just amazing. They know how to relate the day's sermon to our understanding and make us laugh the whole way through."

"My pastor has the most amazing sense of humor."

"I appreciate his transparency...he shares his own struggles with us and also that he is energetic and shares what the Holy Spirit tells him spontaneously."

"Two things come to mind--1st: He has upgraded our sound system and brought our sound system into the current century! 2nd: His wife Lily has done a lot for our Youth group."

"He's hilarious!"

So apparently, what people most appreciate in their pastor is a sense of humor, musical gifts, authenticity, and the ability to just "hang out." Very simply, this is the cult of personality. If we like the guy, if he's funny, hip, cool, then he's a great pastor. The problem with this, of course, is that it has no correlation whatsoever to Scripture. For example, as I read the New Testament, I don't see any of these characteristics in the apostle Paul. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says this...

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

May God give us a greater desire to have pastors who preach Christ, rather than pastors who are funny and hip.


Anonymous said...

I was digging through my university day archaeological files and found this little nugget of truth from early the 1st century.


My friend you ought to come to our religious establishment. Luke, my doctor, told me the other day that one of our leaders was responsible for the death of two people who lied to God. How pax is that!?


Chris Gordon said...

Good post, Rev. Efflandt. We have this problem in the Reformed world also, people joining a Reformed church only because they are attracted to the pastor. I know some who even hate the Reformed denomination or federation they are in, having no particular committment to Reformed teachings, but stay because of their attraction to the man. How many have moved to a certain town in Idaho for this reason? We should do all we can to keep people from following the man and not the message. Good reminder!

Kevin Efflandt said...

You're right, Rev. Gordon, which is why the preaching of the gospel needs to be front and center in the ministry of a pastor. Over the years, I've heard people say things like this about their pastor, "He's not a very good preacher, but he sure is a good pastor," as if preaching and pastoring are two separate things.

John Z said...

Is it scriptural to equate being a preacher with being a pastor? Is it scriptural to equate the title of minister with pastoring? What is the "office" with the best defined characteristics and necessary qualifications?

Anonymous said...

You mean I can use my rugged good looks and boyish smile to lure people into the church?
Mitchell Persaud

Kevin Efflandt said...

I think you could pull it off, Mitch.

As to your question, John...the duties of the minister of the Word involve preaching and shepherding God's people. Both are important and crucial. Therefore, I don't think the, "Well he's not a preacher, he's a pastor" line holds much weight.

Al said...

my former pastor wasn't all that funny... or hip... ;-)

Kevin Efflandt said...

See, exactly my point, Al :)

If being a good pastor rests on these things that people most appreciate about their pastor, I'm in big trouble. I'm not going to tell a rip-roaring monologue in the sermon...I'm not able to put together a great sound system for the church...and I don't play an instrument (other than the 3 weeks in the 4th grade that I played trombone).

John Z said...

Kevin, you did not answer my question, or any of the three questions I asked. You only answered the question that you formed in your own mind.

Kevin Efflandt said...

John, I thought that I made it quite clear that a minister has the task of pastoring or shepherding the flock. So, to answer your 3 questions...Yes, yes, and I don't understand what you're getting at in your 3rd question.

John Z said...

The word "minister" means servant. A ministry is a work of service. Ministers can be anyone who washes feet, who attends masters, who cares for the sick, who brings food and clothing to the poor, who brings comfort and hope to people, etc. Scripture uses the term minister and ministry in many different contexts and situations.

Preacher is someone who preaches, and in the context of scripture, someone who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the word of God.

A pastor is someone who cares for the flock, which is the derivation of the term pastor. The new testament indicates that churches had several pastors, which were not necessarily synonomous with prophets(prechers), nor with apostles, nor with teachers.

Ministers are not even specifically mentioned in the listing of tasks and gifts in those passages. Teaching could be a ministry. Deaconal work would be a ministry.

The only specific offices to my knowledge that identify specific and general qualifications, are the offices of elder(sometimes termed bishop), and deacon.

Kevin Efflandt said...

John, when I mention the "minister of the Word," I'm speaking of the specific office, not the general office of believer. The church order of the URC states that there are 3 offices that Christ has instituted in the church: Minister of the Word, Elder, and Deacon.

John Z said...

Interesting that the King James version only uses the phrase, minister of the word, only once in Luke 1, while the NIV does not use it at all, but uses "servant of the word" instead. In other words to serve the word more likely means to obey it, to follow it, than necessarily to preach it.

I know what the church order says.

3.Matthew 20:26
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
Matthew 20:25-27 (in Context) Matthew 20 (Whole Chapter)
4.Matthew 20:28
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:27-29 (in Context) Matthew 20 (Whole Chapter)
5.Matthew 25:44
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Matthew 25:43-45 (in Context) Matthew 25 (Whole Chapter)
6.Matthew 27:55
And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

Scripture does not appear to make a clear distinction when it comes to ministering, between one class of ministering and another.

Changing a description into a title.... hmmm.

Kevin Efflandt said...

John, I'm not going to debate this with you. You seem to want to lump everyone into the same category, as if everyone is a minister, which I think is contrary to Scripture, our Reformed tradition, and our church order.

John Z said...

He that wants to be greatest among you, must be your servant. (spoken by Jesus, Matt.20:26)

Kevin Efflandt said...

John, I already told you that I was not going to debate you on this. For someone who has claimed on another blog to have listened to over 4,000 sermons in Reformed churches, as well as a list of other things you claim, by now you ought to know Reformed ecclesiology. Your previous comment will now be deleted. If you want to debate why everyone is a "minister" in the same sense then I would recommend that you start your own blog.

Anonymous said...

"Of all the preaching in the world I hate that preaching which tendeth to make the hearers laugh, or move their minds with tickling levity, instead of affecting them with a holy reverence in the name of God."

Richard Baxter-The Reformed Pastor

(I would say you are in good company here pastor!)


Kevin Efflandt said...

Looks like Baxter was dealing with some of the same stuff in the 17th Century as we are today. Nothing new under the sun.