Heroes of the Faith


I recently read an article in Relevant magazine from Rachel Held Evans about the tendency in American Christianity to create “celebrity pastors.” It was a fine article, and a relevant (pun intended) topic to discuss, but what caught my attention was the unexamined assumption behind the topic. In the article, Evans lists the following pastors as the examples of “celebrity pastors”: Ted Haggard, Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Joel Osteen, John Piper, Francis Chan, Bill Hybels, and Joyce Meyers. These are the ministers, exemplars of the faith, people look up to so much that, if not careful, it can turn into celebrity status. What’s fascinating to me is all these pastors are known primarily for their speaking and writing skills. Apparently, and I have noticed this trend before the article, the measure for becoming an exemplar in the faith today is whether or not you are good with words. This is not only the case for “celebrity pastors” but is often true for local churches. If you speak well, then people look up to you. If you write well, then people want to follow you. A good pastor is articulate.

Now, no one enjoys a good sermon or book or lecture more than me. My stance is not that words are unimportant; they are extremely important. But, I am interested in trying to shift the standard back towards behavior and lifestyle. In other words, why aren’t our “celebrity pastors,” the heroes of the faith, the ones who are radically following the Way of Jesus in how they live their lives and inviting others to join them? This seems to be closer to how the early church talked about the exemplars around them. Take, as an example, the church’s first great minister and theologian—Paul. It is obvious from his letters (see the Corinthian correspondence) he was not the greatest of orators. He did write some good letters, but the richness of his ministry came as much from living out “Christ and Him crucified” as it did from preaching “Christ and Him crucified.” This is why Paul can urge the Corinthians to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1)

I wonder what would happen if we started following pastors as much as we listened to them? What would happen if ministers were primarily known for what they did between Monday and Saturday? What would happen if congregants were more like apprentices than audience members? What if we started honoring and imitating people who pick up their crosses daily and follow Christ, not just those who talk about it. My hunch is that our churches would become God’s people sent into the world.

Once again, I think words really matter. I think they are vitally important. But, I think they become even more valuable once they are made flesh.



  1. You live it even better that you say it and you say it quite well………..thank you

  2. I wonder about the pastor model itself. It seems to me that the early church didn’t have many pastors as we see them today…as you said, the leaders of the church didn’t seem to be the preachers. It seems that it is too much of a temptation for one person to be the head of a church. Our congregation in Illinois has many problems but one thing I’ve come to believe is that a lay-led congregation has a unique opportunity to use many kinds of gifts in worship, assembly and the life of the church. Elders are the ‘leaders’ but all members of the congregation give to the assembly. It’s very interesting and it doesn’t leave as much room for these celebrity kind of pastors. I think you’re absolutely right about the importance of following ‘heroes’ of the faith rather than just listening to them. Our churches have become so theatre-like…possibly one of the reasons we care so much about who it is that is standing in front of us leading the assembly. Would we care as much if we were just sitting around together in a circle worshipping?

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