Video: Why Are There So Many Celebrity Pastors?

Every generation has had a few popular preachers, but today there is a whole celebrity class within American evangelicalism. How did this happen, and why do these celebrity pastors often have catastrophic falls? Skye Jethani answers a viewer’s question by comparing modern evangelicalism to the “military industrial complex” President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961.


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  • September 8, 2016

    Jay Patel

    I have heard that the mega church pastors are exiting this game and focusing on their local church. Either they have run their course, They are gone too much at these conferences and/or it’s taking away from where their hearts are at. As an attendee of one of these said churches, the key litmus test for me is if I see Jesus moving among the people.

    In other news….that beard is awesome!

    • September 11, 2016


      Yes, I also think the Evangelical Industrial Complex is beginning to crumble and some of the megachurch leaders are leaving to play in other sandboxes.

      Regarding your litmus test. In my experience, I have known churches and Christian communities where Jesus is moving powerfully among and though people. However, it’s dangerous to assume that this in any way confirms the godliness of the community’s leadership. In the OT it was not uncommon for God to use pagan leaders to accomplish his purposes for his people. And Numbers 20 is a vivid example of God acting miraculously through a very disobedient Moses (who was then severely punished by God for his sin). By his grace, Jesus uses flawed pastors and imperfect churches, that should not prevent us, however, from turning a blind eye to sinful leaders.


      • September 15, 2016


        Skye, I think your last line in this comment says the opposite of what you mean.

        To me, an important question here is: Whose fault is it that a leader is popular? It may seem tempting to blame a leader or an entire system. But that system is made up of a whole bunch of individuals providing money and yielding influence — it’s impossible to crush celebrity without also crushing freedom.

        Frankly, doesn’t it seem weird to credit/blame any popular person for their popularity?

        Hey, maybe it seems like the wildly unpredictable mix of factors that goes into popularity is just too fluky to be a coincidence — it *must* have God’s stamp of approval or something. However, my own perspective is that celebrity is more chasing after the wind — it’s ultimately meaningless. (God doesn’t love popular people any more or any less.)

        Indeed, recognising popularity’s meaninglessness would likely diffuse a lot of its excesses (on all sides of the equation). But instead of diffusing, most of what I’ve seen within the church is inflating: leveraging, currying and jockeying on the way up — intrigue, suspicion and controversy on the way down. But always with the leader at the centre.

        And when that leader collapses due to the precariousness with which all of these individuals built his/her pedestal, they all rubberneck, they wring their hands, they ‘tsk tsk’. They may even gloat!

        And then they merely go and repeat the pattern.

  • September 9, 2016

    Ryan Forkel

    I’m sure this goes along with “celebrity worship artists/leaders.”

    Great post

  • September 10, 2016

    Stan Risner


    Jesus claimed that His truth could set people free–genuinely free with all that that is intended to mean. Our culture’s desperate hunger for freedom–even in a “free” society such as ours–is a testimony of how clueless we are to our own susceptibility when we settle for truths other than His as our foundation. We become easy targets for Madison Avenue style marketing techniques in all areas of our lives. All that is needed for us to behave in a dignified, herd (or rather, flock) mentality is some key personality that is convincing in their presentation. Enter the orators of our day–pastors of large congregations who have perfected the art of persuasion. What better change-agents could publishers ask for to market their goods to a large segment of our population–evangelicals?

    As with all half-truths there is a high price for celebrity–high visibility and a pressure to conform to the world that gave you so much money. Integrity cannot be bought; but it can be sold!

    True freedom is designed by God to give us opportunity to choose to be totally His. Many in our Western culture cannot comprehend this, and they have deified personal freedom in and of itself with no one but own our appetites to serve. Literature and the unending flow of digital information and stimulation is provided so that we might adequately feed our capacity for “more.” The “still, small voice” of God’s Spirit that we can hear when we study the Scriptures on our own or find fellowship through waiting on God in prayer is being drowned out by the cacophony of messages aimed at our senses to grab our attention, attention that rightfully belongs to God Himself.

    How about if we give God a chance to speak to our hearts once again? Saying “Yes, Lord” to God first will enable us to say “No” to all other voices that clamor for priority in our lives. Then the EIC will have to go elsewhere for victims.

  • September 12, 2016

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