Arminian Today

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The Rising of Superstar Christianity

When I was a boy my father collected all things Jimmy Swaggart.  He had albums by Swaggart and tapes by Swaggart and we even would drive to hear Swaggart preach if he came near our city.  And then came the fall of Swaggart.  After that, my father threw away all his Swaggart stuff.  He didn’t give up on God but something changed in my dad when Swaggart fell.

And no doubt Swaggart needed to fall.  From the accounts I have read of him, he had become consumed with pride (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Peter 5:5).  He refused to listen to anyone.  The late David Wilkerson told the story of even flying down to Baton Rouge to see Swaggart and told him to give it all up (this was before he fell).  Wilkerson said that this warning came from the Lord.  Swaggart looked at Wilkerson and said, “Do you realize how much we are giving to missions this year?  If I left this, this ministry would collapse.”  Swaggart had come to a place where he loved ministry more than God and he viewed his place in the kingdom as so vital to the plan of God that he couldn’t and wouldn’t forsake the ministry.  In just a few weeks after this, his sins caught up with him and he was exposed for all the world to see.

Looking back at the falls of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, I believe this was helpful.  For a season the Church in the West became focused on the Lord and not on people.  For a season, ethics and doctrine were important above pragmatism.  While I do believe that God has forgiven Swaggart and Bakker, they will never be in the same place they were before they fell and nor should they have been in the first place.

The fact is that God is all about Himself.  He does all things for His glory and He said that He would not share His glory with anyone (Isaiah 42:8).  His whole purpose is to exalt His name and to make His name great.  He does not exalt flesh.  He exalts only His own glory for His own glory is perfect.  Our glory is full of pride and sin and flesh.  Our passion should be that of the Lord’s and that is to exalt Him and make Him great (Philippians 1:20-21).  The gospel is not about you and I.  The  gospel is about God (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-29).  The message of the Church is not “Hey, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” but rather, “God is holy and just and He will judge all by His own righteousness.  Repent then and turn to Him and be saved by His grace.”  All that God does from His creating the world to the sending of His Son to die on the cross to Jesus’ resurrection to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the end of time is to glorify Himself.  He alone is the only one who is worthy to be worshiped and adored (Revelation 4:11).

Yet I see superstar Christianity on the rise again and I fear it.  I see superstar mega-pastors all over the place from the local bookstores to television to podcasts.  Their emphasis seems to shout, “Hey, look at me.  I am great.  I am an evangelical superstar.”  They have built mega-churches around their own personalities.  I do believe that some of them started out so pure in that they wanted to do great things for Jesus but somewhere along the way, the flesh took over and now they are finding their satisfaction not in Christ and His glory but in their own glory.  They enjoy the crowds who adore them.  They enjoy the attention they receive just by walking into the room.  They love that they are making millions of dollars simply by being themselves.  They have fallen trap, I am afraid, to Satan and his lies (see Luke 4:6).

And this superstar Christianity is doing so much harm.  For one, it creates more and more pragmatic churches who want to copy what the other churches are doing who are growing.  They care little about faithfulness in doctrine, making true disciples of Jesus who deny themselves, and care little about repentance or prayer.  Secondly, it continues to push the clergy-laity system that promotes one person above all others instead of all using their gifts to glorify Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26).  Third, it damages the gospel because people don’t see Jesus or even hear of Him really but instead they are bound by idol worship of pastors and superstars.  Fourth, it creates many false converts as they are not falling in love with Jesus but with the superstar pastor who is not showing them Jesus nor teaching them in truth about Him or His salvation.

How we need the Lord to help us.  When God saves Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9, He sent him away for three years according to Galatians 1:18.  The great Apostle was to be trained by Jesus in the desert.  Ironically, by the time we get to 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul is alone except for Luke.  This great Apostle of our Lord who would be so used by God is now alone.  This “superstar” of Christianity was abandoned. And that is how crowds are.  They love you one minute and are willing to crucify you the next.  Paul, however, found his comfort in Jesus and not the crowds.  He wanted only to glorify Christ even to the end (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and Christ was with him (2 Timothy 4:17) as He promised He would do for His saints (Psalm 23:1).

Just remember this, God doesn’t need superstars.  He does all things for His own glory and He said that He would not share His glory with another.  God will not share His glory with a superstar Christian.  He does all things for the glory of His own name and fame.  In the end, He will exalt His name and all other kingdoms will be crushed (Daniel 2:44-45; Hebrews 12:25-29) including these mega-pastors and their kingdoms.  In the end, only Jesus will remain (Philippians 2:9-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/16/2012 at 1:37 AM

5 Responses

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  1. I get nervous when my pastor friends consider MacArthur or Piper or Mahaney or Mohler or Driscoll or Sproul to be superstars. I sometime wonder if conferences (like the ones where all these men speak) do more harm than good for ministers?

    You have any thoughts about conferences like T4G or Gospel Coalition?


    01/16/2012 at 10:53 AM

    • Dan, I don’t. I have never been to them nor have kept up with them. I could see them producing superstars though.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. The Seeking Disciple,

    I completely agree with your posting. I just have question for you that stretches across several postings. I don’t think I fully understand what you are getting at with the term “pragmatic” in relation to church. You seem to be using it as a negative term. Could you unpack what you mean with that term?

    Thanks Bro!

    J. A. Been

    01/16/2012 at 11:20 AM

    • Sure brother. By pragmatic I simply mean that the ends justifies the means. Pragmatism is the philosophical idea that if you get the end results, the means is irrelevant. Sometimes this is okay such as changing a battery on a remote and it fixes the solution. In the Church we should operate from “What does the Scripture teach?” and not from “Does it draw a crowd?” Often times the Church uses pragmatism when it comes to preaching or ideas and they never bother to question is it biblical. Pragmatic churches will preach whatever, do whatever so long as the ends justifies the means.

      I hope that helps. John MacArthur’s book, Ashamed of the Gospel, deals better with pragmatism than I can.

      • Did the whole seminary thing but dealt little with philosophy. Makes perfect sense. Gracias!

        J. A. Been

        01/16/2012 at 4:36 PM

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