By Rene’ Reilly
We are told in the bible, Matthew chapter 3, that John had’em. Acts, chapter 2, tells us Peter had’em. And 1 Corinthians, chapter 1 tells us Chloe, Paul, Apollos, Cephas…and yes…JESUS had’em.
What is it that these men and this woman had? And who is this ‘em?
He was a people magnet. He spoke with authority. The movie star-handsome, tall, well dressed Billy Graham stood behind the pulpit with a microphone attached to his lapel; his powerful voice commanding the attention of the thousands that had packed like sardines “gill to gill” into a gigantic canvas tabernacle in Los Angeles, California. This charismatic figure seemed to connect eye to eye, heart to heart with each person in that vast sea of humanity. By the time the Los Angeles campaign ended, Graham’s fame was escalating to global proportions. Billy Graham and his Crusades became the archetype for the future of evangelism.
As Wacker details in Christian History magazine:
“He had preached 65 sermons to an aggregate audience of 350,000 — maybe 400,000 — souls jammed into a Ringling Brothers tent pitched near the city’s central shopping district. The meetings ran every night and Sunday afternoons from September 25 to November 20. Around 6,000 people either committed or recommitted their lives to Christ. Graham spoke to countless civic, school, and business groups, making three to four appearances a day. He gave dozens of interviews. He even schmoozed with Hollywood celebrities such as Cecil B. DeMille, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn.”
So, yes…Billy Graham had’em too!
Had what? Pastor Groupies!
What seemed to be a new phenomenon genesis in a tent in Los Angeles was actually, according to ancient scripture, not so new.
Crowds from Jerusalem, all Judea and the region about the Jordan were thronging to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. It was reported to Paul that Chloe’s people were arguing over whose teacher was the most scholarly saying, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas”. Don’t forget Peter’s speech during Pentecost …”and 3,000 joined their numbers that day!”
And then, of course, scripture tells of instances in which Jesus is preaching to and feeding the thousands; times when He had to climb into a boat as the masses pressed forward and engulfed the shore in order to come closer to Him.
Were these men worthy of all of this attention? Well, none more than Jesus!
My point is not to say that these occurrences were not God ordained, but my point is that not all of the people present at these events, were attending for the right reason (the right reason being placing their hope and trust in the revelation of Jesus Christ as Savior). Some were there simply to align themselves with a popular figure in society or to rub shoulders with the “big boys” hoping some of the “spiritual stardust” would settle from the breeze onto them.
This is the M.O. of a Pastor Groupie.
Our fleshy human bent to aggrandize our leaders into demi-gods has not dissipated since times of old. I know people that travel all over the globe to hear their favorite Celebrity Pastors. Names like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Mark Driscoll, and Joyce Meyer light up the marquees. I recently attended a Beth Moore Conference along with 4,500 other women (there would have been more, but the space was maxed out) and I must confess that I too covet her “big hair”! Now, let me be clear, Beth has not allowed her popularity to corrupt the message that God has given her. She is an amazingly humble, compassionate, and authentic servant of Jesus. But here’s a question that I’ve had to ask myself and I’m now asking you, “Parishioner, have you made your Pastor your idol? Are you worshipping Jesus or His messenger? “Pastor, are you allowing your parishioners to elevate you to demi-god status? Are you a conduit of “The Word” or have you allowed yourself to become a flashing billboard of self-promotion?
As Tom Krattenmaker pointed out:
“One of the problems with celebrity pastors is that it’s very difficult to draw a line between advancing the gospel and advancing the preacher. When a famous pastor grows his audience and fame, doesn’t this mean that more people are hearing his saving message about Christ? Well, yes. But as revealed by the long history of church authority and its periodic abuse, the dynamic also gives the preacher on the pedestal a too-easy justification for seemingly everything he wants to do.”
Having been involved in ministry leadership development as a trainer and Christian event speaker for the past 15 years, I have had the blessing of crossing paths with and “doing life” close up with some professional ministry leaders. They have seen me in my best times and in my worst, just as I have them. And in the words of my Pastor, “We are all just a bunch of lug nuts.” In terms not quite so Texan, we were all born into the same post-Eden sin cycle. The only place that we are flawless (by God’s grace and Jesus’ work on the Cross) is seated in the heavenlies in Christ. There is only One who is without blemish…the Sacrificial Lamb of God…and He should be the center (and the perimeter) of our worship. Jesus, to You be the glory!
So how do we begin to reconcile our misplaced awe and the human tendency to desire “gourmet meals” for our egos?
First we need to identify a few of the characteristics that we want to avoid, so here goes:
You might be a Pastor Goupie if:
You spend exorbitant amounts of money traveling to every venue that your “object of attention” will be delivering a message at.
You find yourself vying for the Pastor’s attention after every sermon.
You’re not interested in the flock, only the shepherd.
You are constantly name dropping or telling personal stories that make you seem closer to the Pastor than you actually are.
You become friends with the Pastor’s wife, just to get closer to the Pastor.
You are dressing a bit too immodestly for that after service Sunday Brunch.
You read the Pastor’s blog religiously, but only read your bible once in a while.
You might be a Pastor encouraging the “groupie mentality” if:
You continue to “counsel” someone long after the problem is solved.
Instead of passing the project to someone more qualified who has offered to help, you do it yourself.
You get depressed if no one approaches you after service with accolades.
You find yourself in potentially compromising circumstances and you do not run.
You think that you are “spiritual” enough.You become upset when your “air-brushed photo” is not on the weekly handout.
You are increasingly unreachable for individual pastoral care needs; interacting only with an audience.
O.K., that might have been some painful reading, but here we are. Where do we go from here?
I read this quote in a recent blog by a Pastor (whose name I can’t remember…sorry, but I did write down the quote):
“It’s a wonderful, beautiful thing when you care for, acknowledge, and affirm those in leadership in the Church. It’s a kind, Biblical response to the blessing you receive from another’s efforts and sacrifice, but maybe the greatest gift you can give a high-profile pastor, is to remind him or her, that earthly position does not necessarily reflect personal value, and that a public platform, doesn’t ever elevate the shepherd above the flock…Don’t let your pastor get bigger than Jesus.”
Dr. Jackie Roese, shared with me on this topic as well. Jackie gave me much insight as she has seen the “groupie effect” from every possible angle. She is the wife of a Pastor and is a Pastor herself…yes…a female Doctor of Theology. She admits that she was a bit shocked by this groupie mentality present in the church, as a young Pastor’s wife, coming from an unchurched background she had never been exposed to this type of behavior. She witnessed several occasions when women swooned over and became overly flirtatious in their attempt to “share words of encouragement” with her husband/Pastor. Of course, what man–or women for that matter, does not enjoy, even just a little, being “swooned over”? Don’t get too comfortable, it can be dangerous.
Jackie’s advice to fellow Pastor’s: Instead of excluding women from your team, inner circle, staff, or life relationships; be discerning. If you are just too naïve to pick up on subtle innuendos, be sure that you pull others (namely your spouse) into the loop, so that they can observe your interactions and help you to identify any red flags. Develop a diverse team of ministry leaders that can help you in counseling situations where the party that needs counseling is “extra” needy.
1 Peter 1:13-16 “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Scripture teaches us all that no matter what side of the pulpit we’re on we should be alert and conduct ourselves as one worthy of our calling. Instead of focusing on the hand holding the laser pointer, let’s focus on where the laser is pointing. It’s pointing at You, Jesus! Can I get a “Woot woot”?!!!
Rene’ has been a leader in Women’s Ministry for over 15 years. She has served in the capacity of: Women’s Ministry Director, Bible Study Leader, Youth Small Group Leader, Worship Team Vocalist, and “Local Grocery Store Evangelist”! Rene’ has earned a Certificate in Women’s Leadership from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as Director of ProvenWay Ministries in Austin, Texas for eight years. She is currently, serving as Women’s Leadership Trainer/Presenter and Advisor for ProvenWay Ministries, founded by Terri Burnett centered in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. And is partnering with Dr. Jackie Roese to expand her ministry, The Marcella Project, to the Austin area. Rene’ also leads Bible Studies in local venues that encourage women with fresh insight into the Scriptures.