The Deadly Virus of Celebrity Christianity

by J. Lee Grady

(Reprinted here with the kind permission of Charisma and Christian Life, July 2007. Full copyright notice at foot of article)



Some bigheaded preachers demand rock star treatment. If the apostle Paul were around today he might throw rocks at them.

Just when I thought we charismatics had finally taken enough abuse from the egomaniac ministers in our midst, I’ve learned that some of our leaders are taking things to a new extreme. We’ve moved beyond the red carpets, limousines and entourages of the 1990s. A new strain of the celebrity virus is spreading in large segments of the church.

One friend of mine in Texas recently inquired to see if a prominent preacher could speak at her conference. The minister’s assistant faxed back a list of requirements that had to be met in order to book a speaking engagement. The demands included:

“What is this sickness spreading in the body of Christ? All I know is that God is grieved by all of this shameful carnality.”

This really makes me wonder how the apostle Paul, Timothy or Priscilla managed ministering to so many people in Ephesus, Corinth and Thessalonica. How did they survive without a manicurist if they broke a nail while laying hands on the sick?

I was relieved to know that this celebrity preacher’s requirements in 2007 did not include a set of armed bodyguards—because I just might want to jump uninvited into her Rolls-Royce and say a few words.

It gets worse, if you can believe it. At a charismatic conference in an East Coast city recently, a pastor stood on a stage in front of a large crowd and smugly announced that the guest speaker was “more than an apostle.” Then the host asked everyone to bow down to the person, claiming that this posture was necessary to release God’s power.

“This is the only way you can receive this kind of anointing!” the host declared, bowing in front of the speaker. Immediately, about 80 percent of the audience fell prostrate on the floor. The few who were uncomfortable with the weird spiritual control in the room either walked out or stood in silent protest.

So today, I guess it’s not enough to feed a celebrity preacher’s ego by treating them like a rock star. We also are required to worship him.

And apparently in some places you even have to pay big bucks to speak with him. In a city in the South, a well-known preacher is known to ask for money in order to secure a five- or 10-minute counseling session. The minister uses Proverbs 18:16, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men” (NASB), to support this bizarre practice. Some people are known to give more than $1,000 for a short meeting.

People on fixed incomes need not apply. (That would include lepers, blind beggars, Samaritan women or any other social outcasts who were welcomed and healed by Jesus without payment.)

What has become of the American church? What is this sickness spreading in the body of Christ? I don’t know whom to blame more for it: The narcissistic minister who craves the attention, or the spiritually naive crowds who place these arrogant people on their shaky pedestals. All I know is that God is grieved by all of this shameful carnality.

How far we have fallen from authentic New Testament faith. Paul, who carried the anointing of an apostle but often described himself as a bond slave, told the Thessalonians, “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (1 Thess. 2:8).

New Testament Christianity is humble, selfless and authentic. And those who carry the truth don’t preach for selfish gain or to meet an emotional need for attention. May God help us root out the false apostles and false teachers who are making the American church sick with their man-centered, money-focused heresies.

(From Fire In My Bones by J. Lee Grady. Reprinted with permission from Charisma & Christian Life, July, 2007. Copyright Strang Communications Co., USA. All rights reserved. www.charismamag.com. We at UK Apologetics are grateful).


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