If you think that churches & ministries with a “celebrity” leader don’t take a risk, then it might be worth looking at a similar situation on the secular side – the financial price Tiger Woods infidelity has cost his sponsoring companies. A researcher tracked the stock prices of companies that sponsor Tiger before and after the revelations of his promiscuity and the results were pretty stark. In short, they found that the market value lost to companies that had the golfer as a sponsor is already as high as $12 billion. The estimate is separate from whatever money Woods himself may lose as a result of his missteps.
“Total shareholder losses may exceed several decades’ worth of Tiger Woods’ personal endorsement income,” said Victor Stango, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis and co-author of the study.
In the same way, when a ministry creates a celebrity culture around a single person, they run the risk of the same financial blowback should he or she experience moral or financial failure – not to mention the loss of confidence, damaged perceptions, and resentment toward the message of the gospel itself.
Understand that I’m not against personal branding for Christian leaders who are writing books or creating television programs. It’s necessary to a great extent if they want to sell books or create media programming outside the local community.
But at the same time, it’s instructive to ponder the risk involved and be very careful.