Friday, October 19, 2012

Close But No Cigar On The Church Celebrity Culture

The whole sordid mess around Dinesh D'Souza, (now former) President of King's College has been ugly and bad for the church as these issues always are. Set aside for a moment that someone who is as smart as D'Souza that makes his living from speaking to Christian groups didn't think that getting engaged while still married to his first wife would be an issue or the fact that even if he weren't still married, that by getting remarried while his ex-wife lives would mean he was committing adultery (something that not many people seem to care about). Something else in this drew my attention.

Carl Trueman has been all over the problem of celebrity driven Christianity for some time and he weighs in on the issue and has this to say (emphasis mine):

Yet, while the questions hanging over the matter regarding his marriage are worrying, I confess that I find equally disturbing the idea that there are Christian groups out there willing to pay Christian leaders fees of $10,000 and upwards for giving a single lecture.  When my youngest son read the reports online, his initial reaction was not to the marriage issue but to the cash: "That's what really gets Christianity in this country a bad name."  was his comment.

I heartily agree. But. While Carl is on the right track he misses the bigger picture:

It is no less disturbing that there are Christian groups out there willing to pay Christian leaders fees of $40,000 a year and upwards for giving a single lecture every Sunday.

Paying a talented speaker $10,000 for a single speech is outrageous but paying a less talented speaker a full-time salary and benefits to do the same thing on Sundays is "not muzzling the ox"? Celebrity speakers who command huge fees for speaking engagements are nothing more than a natural outgrowth of a church culture that seeks after passive observers in church watching a performance and listening to a religious professional give a lecture.

We can often get caught up in the outrage of a celebrity Christian speaker being paid huge sums to give lectures or group like First Baptist Dallas spending $130,000,000 on a new building but then we miss that paying anyone to lead in the church or spending $500,000 on a new building is simply moving the decimal a few places while retaining the same spirit.

When we look at the celebrity culture in the church or the drive to build ever bigger and more expensive "churches", our first impulse is to blame it on being worldly but the culprit might just be our own church culture writ large.


joe said...

Arthur, over the past 2 yrs I have stopped going to an institutional church and now go to a Sunday morning "gathering". I like the gathering a lot. No pastor (obviously), but a lot of sharing and a lot more intimate setting. Much more deep and real in my opinion. Do you have any thoughts on institutional church settings (i.e. head pastor, sermon, youth pastor, tithing, other crap that i don't anymore think is Biblical). I'd be interested to know your thoughts. I don't see how I could seriously ever go back to an institutional church w/o laughing every 5 minutes.

Arthur Sido said...

Hi Joe

I have written a ton of probably really poorly written posts on those topics over the last few years.