Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cult of the Celebrity Christian Personality

I am going to perform a little bit of thievery today.  Yesterday, a friend and sister in the Lord of mine posted a blog on the Scripture premise modeled by John the Baptist when he said that he must decrease so that Christ must increase.  I thought of that verse and how many self-serving teachers are in the church today.  Sadly, these pastors are increasing while Christ is decreasing.  They are not interested in showing people Jesus, they are interested in their own name recognition.  Instead of pointing people to Christ, they have become their own cult of personality with their own pet theologies where they become known more for their on-stage antics than for the Christ they are supposed to represent.  They forget the example of John the Baptist. 
He must increase, but I [must] decrease. John 3:30 NKJV
Christ needs to be magnified in all that we do.  We are not supposed to point people to ourselves or our own ministries but to Jesus.  We are called to make disciples of Jesus, not of ourselves.  Sadly, that is not what we have today.  Sadly, today we have ministries that are all about elevating their leader.  They become about the man and not about the Lord they claim to serve.   A great way to tell this is that they usually name the ministries after themselves.  We have Creflo Dollar Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, Joseph Prince Ministries, Joel Osteen Ministries, etc and so on.  These are not just small ministries either, but ministries that take in millions upon millions of dollars with offices and infrastructure all over the world.  What would happen to any of these ministries should their leaders be gone?  What is Benny Hinn or Joseph Prince ministries without Benny Hinn or Joseph Prince?  They are nothing.  It is the personalities and theologies of those leaders that define those organizations. 

Another way we can tell that they are about magnifying themselves is that not only are those ministries named after their leaders, but they are named after the made up name of their leaders.  Benny Hinn is really Toufik Benedictus "Benny" Hinn.  Perhaps not quite as blatant, as at the very least it is a viable nickname, but it is still a little disingenuous.  It is easy to create a cult of personality around a nickname, sort of like many tyrant have done throughout history.  A more egregious example of Joseph Prince, or should I say Xenonamandar Jegahusiee Singh.  In his defense, he did change his name before he was a full-time pastor.  When asked about changing his name, he responded on how God changed peoples names in the Bible.  Apparently, when God did not give him a new name right then and there he took it upon himself to do it.  It is also curious that his chosen last name of "Prince" really does fit in with his theology.  His chosen name has become his trade name and he has built his whole ministry around this newly created persona. 

And that is what all of these ministries really are.  They are cults of personality surrounding the created and marketed persona of the namesake of those organizations.  They sell their books, CD's, and DVD's.  They sell T-shirts and other marketing paraphernalia.  Some even sell special memberships where your are a part of that leader's "circle."  It is all about the leader.  Even if the leader makes some attempt at pointing people to Jesus, every other part of their organization points people to their leader.  If you read their websites it is Benny Hinn did this great thing or Joseph Prince did that amazing thing.  It is all about promoting their leaders.  It is all about making people think just what an amazing teacher and man of God that leader is.  Sadly, you never really get to see who that leader is.  Their pictures are staged and carefully selected to portray a certain image of the leader.  This does not even include the majority of pictures after their stylists and makeup artists are done with them.  You never get to see the real man, you only get to see the marketed persona.  It is the absolute epitome of a cult of personality. 

What all this does is takes eyes off of Jesus and onto those leaders.  It ceases to become about what the Lord says through His word, but what the teachers say about the Lord only using bits and pieces of the Word usually way out of context.  When no word can be found, they resort to prophesy because all of them are prophets and/or apostles.  When you talk to their followers, you never hear about what the Bible says, you only hear what Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Joel Osteen, or Benny Hinn said.  They have fallen under the spell of a cleverly marketed charismatic leader.  Instead focusing more of Jesus, they see Jesus through the eyes of the teacher and only through the eyes of the teacher.  It is no longer about the Lord, but it is about what that leader says about the Lord. 

So why does this happen?  How do people, even Christians, become zombies following a dead theology?  The answer is simple.  These preachers preach what people want to hear.  Ones like Creflo Dollar plays on the desire for wealth and prosperity.  Joel Osteen plays on the desire to not worry about this things like accountability and sin.  Benny Hinn tells you that you can have perfect health and even promotes the many false healings at his events.  Teachers like Joseph Prince play on all of them.  They stoke the desires of our flesh leading their victims to believe that they can have all of those things.  They teach a "You can have it all right now" Christianity and the only time you your life you have to be sacrificial is when you give sacrificially to their ministries.  Apparently, the only thing God cares about in terms of giving wealth and prosperity is how much money you send them "in faith." 

The solution to not being sucked into their lies is simple.  Read you Bible.  Read your Bible and test against Scripture all things that they say.  Do not let them get away with just telling you what it says, but read it yourself.  More than that, read its context and compare it to other Scripture.  Do not let your flesh cheat your spirit by seeking after those desires of the flesh that they promote.  And, finally, submit to God in all things.  These teachers always teach (and very subtly so) that God is under our authority.  We are taught to come to God with a sense of entitlement to claim (another word for demand) our prosperity and health.  We are told to cast off the conviction of the Holy Spirit as the work of the devil (I fear for them when they have to stand before God and explain that one).  Do not be the Pharisee who stands feeling entitled of God, but be like the tax collector who knew how unworthy he was.  Joy does not come from trying to make God obedient to you, but by submitting your will to God. 

In the end, if I can borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, it is all about Him.  It has to be all about Him.  It can not be about a teacher or ministry.  It can not be about clever twists of Scripture to cater to your own desires.  It must be about Him and our submission to Him.  Any teacher or ministry should ultimately point you to Jesus.  Do you let yourself be persuaded by these apostate teachers.  Do not forsake the Lord for a caricature of a man you do not even really know.  Do not ask yourself what Benny Hinn says or what Joseph Princes tells you, but seek what the Lord is speaking to you.  Do not seek Creflo Dollar or Joel Osteen to teach you about the good life on earth, but seek after God to learn about the amazing life to come. 
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this timely, well written article! I enjoy your blog.