In my last post, I suggested that the American Evangelical Church is experiencing a fairly significant credibility gap. One of the things I pointed to was the idea that pastors were moving toward celebrity status. Here’s current evidence of that part of the problem. Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church recently put out a coloring book for the kids. Check this out!
This kind of celebrity status is actually what the kids are used to in our media saturated culture. I’m sure to them Pastor Steven is like the other stars they see on the Disney channel. You’ll notice some of the same “Moses” kinds of thinking, as if Pastor Steven is the only one in the body that “hears from God.” What is troubling, in addition to the cult like feeling of this coloring book, is the bizarre sense of entitlement that surrounds these Christian celebrities. Furtick and his wife have recently endured criticism for building their 16,000 sf home near Charlotte, NC where Steven pastors. He’s not alone in drawing scrutiny from folks inside and outside of the church. Many of these superstar “pastors” make unbelievable amounts of money from their pastoring gigs and are still able to make much more from their book deals and outside speaking engagements. James MacDonald, another pastor celebrity, is purported to have made $500,000. in 2009, just from his church job and his radio show. He’s grown in popularity substantially since then. Current figures for his income aren’t available, much like many other megapastors.
I do believe that “the workman is worth his wage,” but these kinds of numbers are ridiculous. I’m afraid something happens to these “pastors” that get a taste of success and the good life. They, it seems, actually begin to believe their own press reports and feel entitled (blessed) to receive such lavish signs of God’s favor over them. Though their loyal followers continue to support the one to whom they feel God gave the vision, the rest of the onlooking world looks on with a large degree of cynicism. These are the very kinds of things that widen the credibility gap for believers and unbelievers alike who are hoping that the “church” would act more nobly.