Creative Leadership

The Risk of Christian Celebrity

Australian Michael Guglielmucci’s story is an interesting case of the dangerous place that “Christian celebrity” can lead.  My friends in Australia tell me that he apparently hoodwinked the entire Christian community there, by lying about having terminal cancer for 2 ½ years.  No one knew – not even his wife.

His father’s a pastor from one of the larger Churches in the country, and he’s a leader there.  It’s a huge story among churches in the country.  His cancer story had a big run in the Adelaide paper (where his father’s church is) and ran on one national TV program and apparently thousands were praying for his healing.

He even appeared on the stage with what they now know was fake oxygen tubes and I’m told there might be criminal charges that he could face for fraud.  The question becomes, “How far will some ministry leaders go to stay in the limelight?”

What happens when pastors and  ministry leaders get addicted to the attention?

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  1. i had heard about this last was so upsetting to me..i can't understand it. do u really think it has to do with his "celebrity" status tho?

  2. Its difficult to imagine a more painful scenario than this, and I feel particularly sorry for the Michael and his family.

    Its bizarre. In fact, when our congregation was notified by email I had to read it several times to make sure I hadn't misunderstood it.

    Celebrity and fame is undoubtedly mercurial and must be handled with great care.  I am just reminded of how fragile and deeply flawed we all are, and Church leaders are no exception.

    As my Pastor once said; "Thank God for Jesus"! 

  3. As an Australian pastor I am aware that there is more behind Michael's lying than a desire for celebrity.  The entire hoax came about to cover an addiction to pornography He is now undergoing a psychiatric assessment. 

    While there are many unanswered questions surrounding Michael's actions, the question of celebrity remains – who makes a (Christian) celebrity?

    If it wasn't for the Christian consumer who buys the books, the CDs, the DVDs and travels across the country to hear him/her speak at a conference, there would be no celebrity. 

    Typically a celebrity is someone who is famous. Surely, within the Christian world, one can only be made famous by another.  There are many people who have DVDs, CDs, and speak at varied venues, but their sphere of influence would be much smaller than that of, say, Michael, and, as a result would not have a celebrity status. 

  4. The question is what to do with Michael's song "Healer".  Many churches are still using it in worship.  I've made my case known to my church that we shouldn't sing it, but they're still using it.

    What do you guys think?

  5. One of the major weaknesses that I see in the American church in particular is our proclivity to shoot our wounded.  It seems that we rush to distance ourselves from any Christian that exhibits weakness.  Watching the video I was encouraged to see his Father's response, he didn't defend his son's actions, but he didn't disown him either. He acknowledged the wrong and set about to make things right as much as possible.  While Michael should have to pay the civil penalty for his actions it is my hope that the church and Christian community will gather to pray for him and support his recovery.


    As for using his song, as Dave asked, I think that it should be based on the content of the song and why it might be used.  Instead of simply dismissing the song as bad because of who wrote it, let the song stand on it's own.  If it is uplifting and meaningful for your congregation then use it.  If not, then don't.  I think of past situations that the American Christian community has experienced with singers and songwriters that have been caught up in scandals (Amy Grant, Michael English), just because they sinned doesn't make the music that they wrote useless, does it?


  6. It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

    So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

  7. After viewing the video and listening to all the testimony, granted there was admission to a pornography addiction, but in my medical experience, this looks and sounds like a classic case of Munchausen Syndrome.  There is also Munchausen by Proxy which is somewhat different.  I have witnessed Munchausen Syndrome first hand and it is a very disturbing disease and even "scarey."  But these are individuals who are ill (mentally) and require professional help.  Even the deception to the immediate family is not uncommon in this disease.  A brief overview of Munchausens can be found on Wikipedia.

    It is unfortunate this has had such a far reaching effect and should be considered a tragedy.  Our prayers go to all the family and those affected by this young man's actions.

  8. I don't think situations like this are helped any by sites like yours posted half the story that you heard from your "friends in Australia". The full story below with a little more why behind what happened sheds a little more light on what you are just writing off as another preacher trying to get attention. 


    THE father of fallen pastor Michael Guglielmucci, Danny Guglielmucci, read this brief statement to a packed congregation to explain his son's actions.

    "Today is a very sad day for our family and church family.

    For many years our son, Michael has suffered from unexplained illnesses. We have been worried as we have seen him suffer and spend periods of time in hospital.

    Two years ago our lives were totally turned around by the sad news of our sons' cancer diagnosis. The love and support shown by our local church and all of our many friends around the world helped us get through a very difficult situation.

    During the last two years we have experienced the favor of God, his love and grace, and also the constant pain of the possibility of losing a son.

    On Tuesday 12th of August we received a call to come and meet with Mike and Amanda but weren't ready for what we were about to hear. Mike began to share how he has lived a lie for the last 16 years of his life because of addictive behavior he couldn't break free from.

    He loved God and would throw himself into prayer, worship, and serving God with full energy and enthusiasm but still couldn't break free.

    In September in 2006, Mike had an accident and went to hospital. It was at this time, because of his torment of living a double life, Mike thought he could escape the pain by creating a diversion from his addiction to adult pornography, so he created the cancer scenario.

    The pain of this addiction was so deep that he started something he couldn't stop and proceeded on a downward spiral that led to him experiencing pain and suffering that resulted in constant vomiting and many other symptoms of a genuine sufferer.

    Sharonne and I witnessed these episodes and pained and wept over his suffering. Michael wrote the song Healer because he wanted God to set him free from his addiction but hid it behind the lie of a fabricated illness.

    Once he had started down this track he felt he couldn't stop so he continued to act out this sickness, feeling he had gone too deep into the lie.

    I can't begin to tell you how much this is hurting us on the inside. A few weeks ago Mike had a dream of Jesus on the cross looking down on him saying, 'the truth will set you free' and so he decided to confess and bring everything out into the open.

    I immediately contacted our National Executive and submitted to their advice and council. Church, our family needs your prayers at this time. We are so, so sorry to bring you into this.

    I have lead you with openness and integrity and declare that we have not lived a lie before you. We fully understand the questions, shock, disbelief and even anger you may feel over this announcement. Please pray for us and we will pray for you.

    Michael is struggling with a different kind of illness and is receiving professional help and will do so as long as is needed. On the council and advice of our executive and board, after our up and coming Edge conference, we will take time to be with Mike and get him all the professional and spiritual help he needs to come to full recovery.

    We have an amazing team. Thank you, executive, board, staff and church, for your love and support. We will do what is right before God and man and see this situation turned around for the glory of God. We love you. "

  9. That's an excellent letter and I have the greatest respect for how Michael's father is handling the situation.  By all appearances, he was deceived like everyone else and was caught in a very difficult situation.  However, that doesn't take away from this discussion of the incredible damage living a lie like this does to our Christian witness in the culture.  First of all, a church leader is Biblically responsible at a level other believers aren't.  Second, in a media-driven culture word travels fast – when a Christian leader lives in error – particularly at a level like this – enormous damage is done, not only to the Christian community, but our perception in the culture.  Thousands of people were deceived – they prayed, bought his record hoping for his healing, and supported the church and his situation financially.  I'm all for compassion and understanding Michael's challenge – but what about the thousands of people he damaged with this gross deception?  That's why the perception of Christians in this culture is at it's lowest point in a generation.  Until we live our lives in a way non-believers can admire, we don't have much hope in reaching this generation with our message.     

  10. Dmizzle….Not to take away from what Phil is saying…because he makes a good point, but this letter further makes a compelling point…"Michael is suffering with a different kind of illness."  In Munchausens, the individual is cognizant of what he is doing and as the letter indicates, can have and manifest "real symptoms of illness." Though on a thorough medical evaluation and testing, there is no underlying disease process, other than the mental illness.  Even though the sexual addiction may be present, Munchausens is a covert cry for help and attention, but manifests in a bizarre fashion.  As his father, Danny, explains, "(Michael) is receiving professional help and will do so as long as is needed."  There is no easy fix with Munchausens and, yes, will require ongoing treatment with close monitoring.  However, with proper professional medical treatment and spiritual guidance, there is no reason not to expect a full recovery.

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