Should “Celebrity” Pastors Offer Disclaimers?

Warning.  Caution.  Disclaimer.  These are popular words.  We see them on everything and everywhere today.  They are good, bad, indifferent and life saving.  Should we have something of those words at our Christian conferences where “celebrity” pastors and theologians speak?  Maybe.

There are many good, Gospel-centered conferences offered these days.  I was at one of the last week.  The Advance09 Conference.  I even took notes.  I did think about the issue of the men speaking, who speak often, and if some sort of spiritual caution or reminder is in order.

Two men more qualified than I have broached the topic.  John Piper and Kevin DeYoung have written on evangelical heroes and superstars respectively.  I encourage you to read them both.  So why this post?


First, I really appreciate those who might be deemed “celebrity” pastors/speakers.  They are serving the Kingdom.  Most of them pastor their own churches.  This means they must word extra hard to prepare for these conferences.

There heart is for the Gospel.  The Lord has blessed them with such a ministry and gifts that they might bless the rest of us.  It’s a great thing.  My observation is in no way meant to take away from their work for the Kingdom.  I enjoy the audio from most of these conferences.  God uses them to convict me.  To help me grow.  So, why a disclaimer?

A Disclaimer, Really?

At these conferences we attempt to learn to see the areas of life address through the lens of the Gospel.  The Gospel is not new.  The topics addressed are not new.  The Bible we read is not new.  Yet, neither the Gospel nor the Bible will ever get old.  We will need them until Christ’s return.

Yet, these conference speakers don’t just say: Just look at life through the lens of the Gospel, goodnight.  The same topics are addressed over and over from different perspectives that God has given each speaker.  As Matt Chandler said at Advance09, if he is saying something a you’ve never heard before then you need to get out of ministry.  Yet, the message is repeated over and over.  Jesus taught the same things over and over.  It’s part of our growing as a Christian, our sanctification.

So why not a reminder that these speakers are not our pastor(s) or elder(s)?  We tend to be reminded and taught of most other things concerning the Christian life.  Mark Driscoll’s list of ministry idols was helpful and is along the same line of thought.  I really appreciated John Piper explaing just how sinful of a person he is.  Especially, helpful was the admission that he struggles with one-on-one engagement.  Why else though?

Local Pastors

The local pastor, your pastor is to whom you’ve been given for the watching over of your soul. You are to emulate the life of your pastor not necessarily the “celebrity” speakers.  Though, they too should have lives worthy of such following.  The speakers will not personally know you to be involved in your life.  Nor will you know them in such a way.  Also, your pastor is responsible to God for your soul.  He is your assigned shepherd and answers to Jesus for you.  Don’t make his life in this area any harder than it is.

If you are a pastor you are responsible to your other elders and congregation.  You’ve got to love your own flock that God has given you.  You can’t expect your congregation to look and be like Matt Chandler’s or RC Sproul’s.  You are responsible for God for the souls given you in your congregation not in another’s congregation.  Whose to blame?

The Real Indictment

The real indictment? Yes, the real indictment and concern about offering a disclaimer is not on the “celebrity” pastors themselves.  (I only call them that for lack of a better term.)  The real indictment is on the rest of us.  Those of us taking in these conferences as if it were the first drink of water we’ve had after two months in the desert.  We are the ones who could be making idols of them.

Regardless of whether or not they get caught up in themselves.  Regardless of what their intentions might be we are responsible for not letting ourselves make idols of these men.  We have enough idols all ready.  Don’t we?

While a sort of disclaimer might not be a bad idea some times, it’s not necessarily a requirement.  Though it may be helpful as a humble reminder.

For what it’s worth…


tagged as in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris October 9, 2009 at 12:05 am

Good thoughts. Dan Phillips made a similar point a few months ago on Team Pyro, and in a very striking way.

2 Vicki October 9, 2009 at 12:07 am

I appreciate your post, Mark. Too many Christian personalities have become idols to us.

Guess I wouldn’t want to automatically assume that just because we’ve not heard something preached before, that it’s wrong. Many say they weigh everything against the Scriptures, but do they really? Some of what I learned in church over the years was wrong, not because of the pastor, but what was read, heard, and commonly believed. I found myself in spiritual bondage, following church practices and misinterpretations of the Word instead of looking to the Lord for myself. I became too reliant on “‘celebrity” preachers, thinking they’d never steer me wrong. Most of them don’t want to, but everyone has blind spots. Thankfully, the Lord opened my eyes and the Holy Spirit freed me from the constant running after biblical knowledge. Funny, but attending all these wonderful conferences doesn’t ensure my growth or sanctification. Applying biblical principles doesn’t ensure our growth either. I doubt you’ll hear that preached much. It’s only abiding in Jesus, and allowing His indwelling life to grow in us that matters. We tend to rely on the shepherds of the flock and neglect the Shepherd. At least that’s how it was with me. I have copious notes from years of sitting under great teachings but it’s not the same as living out of His life now. So thankful the Christian life is about Christ IN us, the hope of glory – and not all this other.

3 Mark Lamprecht October 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

Thanks, Chris. I think I remember that.

4 Mark Lamprecht October 9, 2009 at 10:48 am

Vicki, thanks for sharing. There is something about Christian conferences and the celebrity like status some people happen to attain that disturbs me. The big issue may be that the ‘celebrity’ at times replaces ones actual pastor and/or church family. I love the teachings of many of these people, but they cannot hold one to account nor be there when in need. The iPod just doesn’t allow for that kind of feedback. 🙂

5 Mark Lamprecht October 13, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Should pastors approve before members attend a conference? The recent Catalyst conference made me think about this post on “celebrity” pastors/speakers, etc. Since the pastor is responsible for the souls of those who God has given them, should such conferences have a box (or something) to check that the attendee’s pastor approves of such attendance?

6 Aaron Armstrong October 13, 2009 at 4:22 pm

It’s a good question, Mark. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in a pastor knowing who his people are listening to and what conferences they’re attending, and certainly he should be speaking into those things whenever possilbe… but I don’t know how feasible it would be for most pastors to be approving every application. It seems to me that a pastor who is shepherding his people will already be equipping them to do a good job of discerning truth in the words of any conference speaker (or author, or podcast pastor, etc).

Am I being naive?

7 Mark Lamprecht October 13, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I would hope what you say is the case. Pastors aren’t perfect in how they keep up with their congregation. This might have to do with members and their transparency though. And I think we know the personalities can overwhelm some folks. Also, everyone does not have the same level of discernment.

While I do not think you are being naive, there could still be a place for such a validation. How many pastors are actually up on all that is going on out there? How many have time? I can’t help but think of just how many churches a book like The Shack has made its round in.

Beside, it does not seem like it would be too much for the pastor since conferences are not every week and it would probably only be a small amount of people.

8 ecrosstexas October 13, 2009 at 5:44 pm

I would think that most of the attendees at Catalyst were from emerging/emergent and/or Purpose-Driven/Seeker churches. The mantra from the Reveal study at Willow is that members should be self-feeders. When pastors don’t take charge and lead their people, The Shack becomes a best-seller within the church. When pastors don’t shepherd their people, they flock to Catalyst and cheer Hipps & Bell. Yes, Christians need to study the Word of God themselves, but pastors need to feed their people. We need to be well fed from the pulpit so we can be the discerning Bereans we need to be.

9 Chris Poe October 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Part of the work of the elder is refuting those that contradict. One can get out of balance either way, either becoming a heresy hunter and continually railing against error to the exclusion of the whole counsel of God or by never “going negative” and failing to expose the errors of ravenous wolves that destroy the flock.

10 ecrosstexas October 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I would think that most of the attendees at Catalyst were from emerging/emergent and/or Purpose-Driven/Seeker churches. The mantra from the Reveal study at Willow is that members should be self-feeders. When pastors don’t take charge and lead their people, The Shack becomes a best-seller within the church. When pastors don’t shepherd their people, they flock to Catalyst and cheer Hipps & Bell. Yes, Christians need to study the Word of God themselves, but pastors need to feed their people. We need to be well fed from the pulpit so we can be the discerning Bereans we need to be.

11 areformingmom October 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm

The answer to this problem (easier said than done!) is teaching your congregation how to be Biblically discerning. The average church-goer wouldn’t even know what you are talking about if you were to ask them if they are Biblically discerning. There is a lack of Scripture knowledge and of who God is, and therefore, makes it that much more difficult to look at the world through the lens of what the Bible teaches.

If this were taught from the pulpit, there would be many less Christians attending conferences that had false teachers as speakers. It also irks me when I see a couple speakers who are doctrinally sound teaching at the same conference as those that are the complete opposite. Which I believe tricks those into thinking it may actually be a sound conference….again because of the lack of discernment.

This is my soapbox issue that both grieves me and angers me.

When I see people that I know…blindly believing whatever they hear because it sounds good and it touches on their feelings, emotions, and experiences….the lack of discernment is painfully obvious.

Why aren’t the leaders of the Christian church arming their congregations with the knowledge of who God is? How can we possibly go into battle against Satan, when Satan is so readily accepted by the flock when he looks like Rob Bell?

12 Mark Lamprecht October 14, 2009 at 2:16 pm

…when Satan is so readily accepted by the flock when he looks like Rob Bell?

How do you really feel, sister? 🙂

I appreciate your comments. They are spot on.

Is there something about one’s local church and fellowship that is so lacking that one must attend such conferences for spiritual nourishment? Or, maybe I should ask differently.

What does one get at a conference that they do not get from their church family? How can this change?

I do also wonder how many are layman vs. clergy at the various conferences. Catalyst 09, for example, claimed to have around 13,000.

13 Sam March 31, 2010 at 10:03 am

How many conferences are there now? How many of them feature the SAME group of speakers that seem to be on some sort of conference circuit? Often times they are just speaking on the latest fad in the church growth movement. And like you pointed out, Mark, many of these pastors are local church pastors that have their own flocks that they are supposed to be caring for. You say that people shouldnt think of these “celebrity” pastors as their own pastor. But i contend that these pastors should make their local congregations their main priority as they are called to shepherd that particular flock. They arent called to travel around and mentor other pastors or worse yet called to teach on a church growth method/fad to other pastors. In this day, where most of these conference pastors make their sermons available online, other pastors can still benefit from their teachings without attending conferences.

Also, who is financially supporting organizations like Catalyst and Leadership Networks? Local congregations are. Money that is given to the church is used to pay conferences fees for the pastoral staff. And in the case of the last Catalyst conference, local church money is given to support the teachings of someone like Rob Bell. TD Jakes also speaks at many conferences as well. So local churches are in effect supporting these men of lets just say dubious teachings.

The conference circuit keeps growing as more conferences are added each year to an already crowded conference “scene”. This is perpetuating and creating the “celebirty culture” within the Christian community today. It is amazing to me of the deafening silence of most pastors when it comes to this problem. Perhaps they are also aspiring to one day speak at these conferences. And do you notice that only pastors of large churches are chosen to speak at these conferences? As if pastors of small perhaps rural churches have nothing of value to add….but that is another story for another time.

Lastly, lets not be quick to blame the local church member who looks to these men as their local pastor but instead lets really look at the pastors that feed into this system that is increasingly becoming a major problem.

14 Bobby Capps March 31, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Good post, like usual. I quit going to conferences in 2000. I had worked on the hosting teams for 5 mega-conferences in the city of Phoenix in the prior two years and just stopped it all. Here’s why (most you’ve already stated):

1. It’s quicker to go to a movie than read a book.
I wanted to learn the conference subject (prayer, evangelism, church planting, etc.) in a fire-hose way from a few respected Superheros. Learning: Four or five hour long lectures don’t move you that far down the road. Buy their books and others, do your homework and you only learn by doing it anyway.

2. You don’t really get to go back stage at a concert. Look, we like their work (these celebs, that is) and seeing them live is cool and all, but none of them really rubs off on us and they don’t become our friends while we’re there and yes, we can put their lift ticket on our jacket but… you know.

3. I’m a glory hound. The darkest side of the super-pastor thing for me was I wanted to say I’d seen, touched, met, licked the hand of all these guys. And many of were awesome men of God who lived up to their billing and some were jerks on their way to a fall but in either case it was my heart that was troubled. I got so sick of hearing myself name drop and…. ugggh.

4. God really specially uses people. In every generation there are Davids and Daniels and we love them. At least I do. I hate to see them picked on and love what they do to bring glory to God and move the Kingdom along. But for me, the conference revealed more bad in me than good and in the bang for the buck category, not so profitable.

15 Mark Lamprecht March 31, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Very insightful and interesting response from @bobbycapps I appreciate this, Bobby. I think you’ve hit on some issues that we could all stumble in our personal pride and glory.

16 Mark Lamprecht March 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Sam, you’ve hit on some of the problems of separating the good theology from the bad, even heretical. I know that not all conferences are paid for with church funds though that is up to each church body.

I’d like to expand on what you said about it normally being large church pastors. Even though some of those speaking may speak against seeking large congregations, I’m not sure that message is as clear as it could be. Promoting only (mostly?) large or “successful” church pastors seems to foster a position that those with smaller congregations are doing something wrong.

I did not intend to quickly blame the local church member, but to point out the individual responsibility that may be overlooked in these conversations.

As I meant to also say to Bobby, I am gladly going to T4G this year. It’s my first time and I’m traveling with several from church. I believe the drive back and forth will be edifying.


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