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The Cult of Personality

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The following is by Rev. Kevin Efflandt, pastor of Zion URC in Ripon, CA and is used with his permission.  Rev. Efflandt blogs at Confessions of a Confessional Rev.


This morning, I came across something on Facebook that caught my attention. It was a Christian radio station in a place that I formerly lived, asking people what they appreciated most about their pastor. Here are some of the responses...

"He believes in us and our gifts! He and his wife (our worship Pastor) love getting to know everyone; we're more like family than just a congregation. They love to plan potlucks, family community outreaches, and just 'hanging out' on a casual level."

"My pastor is the funniest dude I know! So weird, and filled with energy when he's teaching a sermon, it's so easy to learn because he's so weird!"

"We have a new pastor and we learn more about him every day! One Sunday he sang a solo! Who knew?? Then, last week, he played guitar too! And his wife was on keyboard!"

"All the pastors out at _______ Church are just amazing. They know how to relate the day's sermon to our understanding and make us laugh the whole way through."

"My pastor has the most amazing sense of humor."

"I appreciate his transparency...he shares his own struggles with us and also that he is energetic and shares what the Holy Spirit tells him spontaneously."

"Two things come to mind--1st: He has upgraded our sound system and brought our sound system into the current century! 2nd: His wife Lily has done a lot for our Youth group."

He's hilarious!"

So apparently, what people most appreciate in their pastor is a sense of humor, musical gifts, authenticity, and the ability to just "hang out." Very simply, this is the cult of personality. If we like the guy, if he's funny, hip, cool, then he's a great pastor. The problem with this, of course, is that it has no correlation whatsoever to Scripture. For example, as I read the New Testament, I don't see any of these characteristics in the apostle Paul. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says this...

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

May God give us a greater desire to have pastors who preach Christ, rather than pastors who are funny and hip.


Editor's Note: You might be interested in also reading W. Robert Godfrey's article in Modern Reformation "The Myth of Influence".

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  • Guest - Rana

    amen. i really think we Christians have an IDENTITY problem that causes us to want to remake the church into the image of the world, or at least remake the church into the image of what the world values. rather we need an identity change with hearts, minds and identity re-oriented to Christ every Sunday.

    i have told a couple of pastors that i thought there sermons should/ could be more Christ centered, and i've also thanked the pastors who have been Christ centered. i must admit though the church where Christ was foremost the young pastor suffered greatly and it eventually cost him his ministry. i admit, as much as i appreciated his gifts and work at the time i didn't always appreciate his preaching, not enough application we in the pew mumbled, but he was pointing us to a heavenly hope which was very counter cultural to the world around us.

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  • well said! but i want others to know pastor may be pointing his listeners to Christ in his sermon and in his deeds yet most of the listeners may not be ready for that. when you ask those listeners (not ready to be Christ-like)what pastor said on Sunday; they will project their own views and readers may think that is what pastor is and teaches. I do not want to absolve all pastors; some pastors are not Bible grounded and may have taken ministry like any other job though. both of these teams need to learn something new--believe in Christ

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  • Guest - Bruce

    May God have mercy on His Church

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  • Guest - M Burke

    I was there to hear this sermon in person! :) Another aspect of what pastor Efflandt was saying that some miss is the idea that your 'favorite pastor' should be your own local pastor. It's fine to listen to sermons online, but ultimately he's the guy who watches over your soul.

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