Saturday, February 21, 2009


[Subversive Underground]
Article #177

The Cult of Christian Personality
by Keith Giles

"For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." - 1 Cor 3:4-9

One thing that concerns me was I see this growing house church movement flourish is the celebrity effect.

When I first stepped into this there were a few books out there to help me get my bearings and for those books, and to those authors, I am grateful. Some of them even made themselves available to me and those who were local even took time to meet me for coffee.

Now I see us selling books on organic church that are topping best-seller lists, and our annual house church conferences are selling out early (better get your tickets now before they're all sold out), and our spokesmen and women are now becoming minor Christian Celebrities.

I suppose I fear that, if we're not very intentional about all of this, we risk becoming the thing we're raging against.

I was reminded of this when reading Lionel Wood's excellent interview with author and house church leader Jon Zens over on his blog this week. Zens urged those who are new to the movement to remain humble to not allow people to cluster around them.

If we really believe in this peer-led, leaderless concept of "being Church", and if we really are convinced that God's Spirit is active in each of us just the same, then I would love to see us model something different at the highest levels of our movement...something really unique and refreshingly inclusive.

Each of us can also check our own hearts and do our best to avoid hero worship and the fan-club mentality around our favorite author or speaker or blogger.

We would do well to heed our own advice, and the commands of Jesus when he instructed his disciples:

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."- Matthew 23:8-12

If we put our hope and our faith in men, they will let us down. They are all as weak and as fickle as we are. None of us is righteous. No, not one.

Instead, let us place our hope and our eyes on Christ alone. Let us consider one another equals, and brothers, and let us not exalt one over the other in the Body of Christ.



JP said...


Ordinary Guy said...

Funny, I couldn't help but think of the band Nervana and other "alternative music" bands. They were so counter-culture, but in time, they became "mainstream" and they didn't know how to handle it.
No doubt, we don't need any heros. We just need to be more like Christ. He said "If I (Christ) be lifted up I will draw all men unto me." By all means lift up Christ...not an organization or a person. He will last and never fail.
Good word Kieth.

Anonymous said...

This is a good, and very important word. I would submit, however, that while there are some great guys who have been spiritual fathers to this movement i wouldn't say that people are flocking around them like celebrities...(Of course, there is always the exception to the rule...I hope...that whoever those exceptions are will read this blog post)
Not only do i not feel that the people view these guys as celebrities, but i also know that these guys (if they felt the people were flocking to them as celebrities) would respond in the same exact way that Paul did in the verses quoted above. I completely agree that we MUST be careful not to glorify a man over Christ, or lift up the books, personalities, etc. of today's "organic church movement". In the circles i've been in i have not seen that. I see TRUE disciples who love Christ, and have a DEEP desire to see His kingdom grown. Because they buy books, go listen to these authors teach or "Speak" does not mean they have glorified or lifted them above Christ, ya know?
My question would be, "where do you draw the line, and how do you determine when an "influencer" in a movement (Paul, or choose any of our modern day influencers) has been elevated above Christ?" and, if/when they are how do we respond? (Hopefully, in the same way we see Paul respond in the scriptures) I mean, is it after 100 people have bought or read their book? Is it after that person has put on a "conference" that 200 people come to...? What about after that person has put on a "non-con"? =) Please hear no sarcasm or criticism here...i am truly wrestling with this stuff...and see your concern, but feel that it may be more of a prophetic WARNING than a reality at this point...?

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"Because the moment the works of scripture are taken out of the hands of the common people, and put in the hands of trained professionals, a movement ceases to move forward"...

Sounds like a good place to start exploring where those lines might be...

aWritetoBelong said...

It is exactly this that would discourage me...Christian I have succumbed to this in the past...and was drawn away by our precious Lord...and I was able to see clearly, after I left a church...then tried to go back. It is sometimes easier to start following another, rather than spending the time alone with God and in fellowship with others. I fight the temptation to so and so's book...check out so and so's blog...including mine...and to pray and trust that the Spirit of the Lord will make it clear when and where and whom to tell or say something about or recommend...other than HIM! Thank you for your I continue to attempt to figure out this 'church' thing. I appreciate your thoughtful writing and if I had put in the effort to write what you wrote in this article...I would have written the same thing.

Keith Giles said...


You said: "...but i also know that these guys (if they felt the people were flocking to them as celebrities) would respond in the same exact way that Paul did in the verses quoted above."

I would ask, "How do you know?" I mean, do you know all of these leaders that well?

In some ways your response reveals that you already have a sense that these leaders are "special" and above any sort of sinful behavior as pride.

I know you don't really think that, do you?

To your point about my hosting the "Non-Con" I would agree with you. This is something I struggle with personally (my pride) and that's why I have to watch myself and take steps to walk away from a desire to be famous or desire applause, etc. Maybe I'm only writing this for myself?

I also know that the tendency towards Christian Celebrity is alive and well in every single church pulpit across the globe. Whenever one person stands on the stage and gives a speech, or leads others in worship, he sets himself up for that form of hero worship.

The choice we make is to receive that adulation and puff ourselves up or we continually humble ourselves and ask God to help us to avoid the sin of pride.

You don't have to write a book or speak in front of 10,000 people to have a struggle with pride or with the lure of Christian Celebrity.