One of these nationally known ministers caught my attention when he walked on stage. I had seen him in person a few years ago. The difference in him was noticeable. He had aged far beyond the number of years since I’d seen him last. His shoulders were stooped and there was an air about him of “burnout.” The arrogance that was once so poignant had been replaced by weariness.
He went through the motions of what as expected of him. He put on his happy face. He theatrically said Biblical things, but his thoughts were disconnected and the things he said did not come together to form a sermon. Someone after the service was condemning themselves because he was so spiritual and deep, they couldn’t follow him. That wasn’t it. They couldn’t follow him because he was unprepared, use to relying on his fame and popularity to carry him through.
It broke my heart. This one time fireball of a young minister seemed very lost. I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize he was so transparent to at least a few, or he would have never taken the platform.
A call to the ministry is a hard thing to accept. It is a divine call on a person’s life to be less selfish, more spiritual, live under a microscope, and to always have an onslaught of other people’s problems coming toward you in a never ending flow. People think a minister is supposed to have all the answers to ease everyone else’s pain. A true minister of God is scrutinized, criticized, and almost always underappreciated by those he serves.
Take all of that, make that minister popular, and/or famous and the difficulties are magnified even more. Television and TV ministries are the bane of young dynamic preachers. No one extracts the ego when a young man answers a call to preach the gospel. Giving that young man a congregation that can hold him accountable is one thing, but throwing him up in front of an audience who blindly adores him is altogether another.
There are people waiting to pounce on the opportunity of taking a young, firey preacher, and building him up because his youth, energy, and good looks (if he has any) will draw a crowd. Young people are looking for someone to follow. When a young minister is elevated and celebrated, he will be worshipped almost like a movie star or a ball player.
Unfortunately, many a young minister has fallen by the wayside because he didn’t have the emotional or spiritual maturity to handle people constantly telling him how wonderful he was. At times even seasoned preachers who find themselves in the limelight fall victim to the same seductions of the desire to be popular, and the egomania of people adoring them.
I’ve watched preacher after preacher change the delivery of his sermons when the cameras were on him for a couple of years for television appearances. If he handles this well, with good PR, and a positive feedback from the public, the television promoters of preachers may see that he gets some regular air time. The next thing that happens is that he starts making “appearances” in strategic places, maybe writes a book or two, says one or two profound things along the way - then BAM! He has a TV ministry.
And the little boy, called of God to bring the Good News of the Gospel to humanity, called to be a servant to the people, becomes part of a promotional machine. People constantly stroke his ego and smooth any ruffled feathers. They discard any questioning thoughts he might have, and strive to convince the young man that he deserves it all. In his own mind he becomes special, set apart, called and anointed of God to above the common people he is supposed to be ministering to. The fire and passion that he once stirred his soul to take the pulpit, become Hollywoodized until his sermons and ministry become a performance staged by those who are supposed to be instructing him in the faith.
I’ve heard big time preachers refer to their “team.” I’ve seen them with body guards. I’ve watched the “team” surround the minister to become a barrier between the minister and the people he is supposed to be ministering to. Gradually the man of God who once had a servant’s heart is surrounded by people serving him.
No wonder so many prominent preachers fall flat on their faces. The machine with them at the center becomes so large, it begins to control them. Their team of helpers has become a hungry beast that has to be fed. So there is more pressure to bring in more and bigger offerings, sell more products, make more appearances, put on a better show, and support all the people and their families that make up “the team.”
Somewhere along the way the whole reason for being gets distorted.
Thinking through this whole process and remembering the many rise and fall stories of men of God troubled me deeply. My dad is a minister. He has been a faithful servant, a small town minister for decades. I’m so glad that he wasn’t destroyed by the call he answered and the people who might have turned him into only a piece in a machine that was out of control. He has always kept his perspective. God called him to preach the Word and to be a servant to his congregation and that’s what he’s done.
In the beginning, these young men are dedicated to giving all they have to give and making sure they give God all the glory. Then they get caught in the temptation of trying to share the glory with God and their troubles begin in earnest. God’s glory was never meant to be shared with anyone. And once the celebrity machine and promoters take over, the man of God starts to take the glory of God and claim credit for himself.
That might sound ridiculous on first thought, but it is exactly what happened to Lucifer before he was kicked out of heaven. He was so beautiful, and sang so well, he was compared to a morning star. Even the angels started to adore him and he began to like it. He liked it so much so that be began to promote himself above God Almighty. When he was kicked out of heaven, a third of the angels were thrown out with him because they had been enticed by Lucifer’s charms. They had begun to worship the creature more than the one who created him.
There is a lot to consider for every Christian. The gifts we have, our worldly riches, and the talents we are equipped with were given to us as tools to better know God and have a relationship with him and to serve our fellow man.
Sometimes people get so desperate to hear from God or have answered prayers, they are attracted to anyone or anything that glitters or seems like a quick answer from God. And often they are devastated because they put their trust in a man (or woman) instead of in God alone.
There is one sure way to know if a person who claims to be a minister of God is the real thing — by their willingness to serve others and give God the glory for all of their success.