Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celebrity Pastor and Seminaries

You read a lot today about the Celebrity Pastor and the problem and even how to fix it.  Opinions vary on the causes and solutions.  Sometimes it is an overhaul that includes no multisite churches, or the Evangelical Industrial Complex, or calls to humility and proper ambition, or even just simple accountability.  But I wonder if there is another factor . . . seminaries.

Today the vast majority of seminaries use “celebrity” professors as a way to lure you to their seminary.  These seminaries almost always have at least one well-liked, well published professor.  The better the finances of the seminary the more publishing by more professors, usually also equals more students.  You don’t need me to name the big names at each seminary you probably know them off the top of your head.  Besides the problem here is not in professors who write good books, but in the attraction students have to them. 

Modern seminaries also love distinctions.  You need something that sets your seminary apart.  What makes Westminster in Escondido, CA different than the rest?  What makes Mid America distinct so that you should go there?  Yes, this is promoted and encouraged.  And it is hard to blame the seminaries for doing it.  It is what businesses are supposed to do.  Carve out your place and grow that place.  And independent seminaries are no different. 

So perhaps part of the “celebrity pastor” begins with seminary.  We want future ministers to go to the seminaries with big names, but then when they get into the pastorate we don’t want them to pursuing having a big name or follow other pastors with big names. 

If we really want to fight against the cult of celebrity, we have to fight it everywhere, including in our seminaries.