I mentioned on a recent blog post about a generation of pastors and Christian leaders I’m seeing out there who have experienced great success by the power of their personalities, motivation, and personal charisma. In a Christian celebrity culture, they excite and inspire audiences, and become leaders based on external abilities. But what they lack is sober responsibility. They are not personally disciplined leaders, forged in the fires of adversity. They don’t have to make the hard choices (they have “executive pastors” to do that). They have an attractive exterior package, but a shallow, empty interior. They don’t carry the “gravitas” of the position – or apparently even care about it.
As a result, they have thousands of “fans” – but no real disciples.
When that happens, risk seems manageable and even easy, because in most cases, they’ve never really experienced the consequences of bad choices. They begin to assume their charismatic personalities, loyal followers, or financial situation will help them weather any storm. So they take on building programs, mortgages, or private jets they want but can’t afford, dabble in sexual or financial indiscretions, or take doctrinal shortcuts to help sell books. After all, I’m under a lot of stress, and I’m not accountable like everyone else.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, writer Peggy Noonan described many current Wall Street Executives as having an illness she calls “Goldmansachs Head.” She says, “When you have Goldmansachs Head, the party’s never over. You take private planes to ask for bailout money, you entertain customers at high-end spas while your writers prep your testimony, you take and give huge bonuses as the company tanks. When you take the kids camping, you bring a private chef. Goldmansachs Head is Bernie Madoff complaining he’s feeling cooped up in the penthouse. It is the delusion that the old days continue and the old ways prevail and you, Prince of the Abundance, can just keep rolling along. Here is how you know if someone has GSH: He has everything but a watch. He doesn’t know what time it is.”
Maybe that illness is similar to “TV Evangelist Head”: In one case, the ministry is laying people off left and right, cutting back ministry opportunities, and has started a budget freeze – and yet they still have their private jet for the leader’s use. In another situation the leader expanded the ministry too quickly and now is seeing a therapist and on medication to help him cope with the stress. In another a pastor dumped his wife for his secretary, and yet never missed a day in the pulpit.
We can never forget just how just how much their actions impact the lives of others – sometimes, thousands and even millions of others. Taking on the role of pastor or spiritual leader is far more substantial than being a motivational speaker or “life coach,” and how often we forget that the scriptures hold pastors to a higher standard of accountability.