By Joe McKeever
I know a few of those (ahem) big-shot pastors. And I know some things about them they don’t advertise.
That said, here is my list of what celebrity pastors feel that would surprise you. (These are generalizations, of course, and do not fit all megachurch pastors. However, you might be surprised to know how many it does fit! Smiley-face goes here.)
1) A sense of inadequacy.
It goes like this: “All the usual indicators say we’re going a great job, but if that’s the case, why do I feel like a failure, as though I’m missing something as clear as the nose on my face? Maybe what I’m doing with God’s call is not such a good idea after all. But what about all those people who depend on me for their livelihood and those who say they look to me as their pastor?”
2) A nagging sense of failure, even though the numbers (attendance, budget, etc) are in the Star Wars category. The pastor feels there has to be more, “something we are missing.”
Not only does the pastor feel inadequate, but he feels the ministry is missing something huge. Are we really changing people’s lives? Are we making disciples of Jesus or just friends? What else should we be doing? What should we begin and what should we cancel?
3) A fear that all this acclaim will dry up, and then who am I?
4) A sense of guilt, which takes many forms.
He worries that he is being idolized instead of Jesus.
He worries that his megachurch is siphoning off members from the smaller churches in the area, and while his ego once fed on that, these days there is this nagging feeling that something about this is not right. Some of those people were active in the leadership of Shiloh Number Two, but now that they have joined BigOne, they occupy a pew.
He feels guilty when people call him “Pastor” since, while he preaches to thousands, he actually pastors very few people.
Some of these pastors hate the acclaim they are receiving. And yet they are addicted to it. A no-win situation.
5) A strong urge to set things right in next Sunday’s sermon.
Perhaps he can say something this Sunday that will correct the imbalance or restore the ship to the proper channel. Alas, that rarely happens since he has events to promote, expectations to fulfill, funds to raise, leaders to satisfy, and a thousand items on his agenda which interfere with a major overhaul of his ministry. Besides all that, he wouldn’t know how to come clean with the congregation, to clear off the slate and start over.
So he keeps on keeping on, somehow hoping what he’s doing is acceptable to Christ and that the Lord will use it.
6) A sense of being swept along by the current instead of controlling it.
People look at him and envy him the freedom he enjoys as pastor of “that huge church on the interstate.” He himself knows freedom is the very thing he has little of. He is at the mercy of his celebrity, his advisors, his staff, his schedule, and his public. Everyone needs a little piece of him–sign this, speak here, lead this, go there, appear on this show, start this movement.
He sometimes thinks back on the time when he and his wife were newlyweds and just starting in ministry, when they lived in an apartment and ate spaghetti on Monday nights at the neighborhood cafe, and Sunday was the highlight of their week. Those were the days.
7) A craving for anonymity and privacy.
How nice it would be to sit in a restaurant with his wife and have a quiet evening without people coming over to have their pictures made with him, or telling him how wonderful he is or calling him “Doctor.” They pull at him, asking him to visit this person, call that one, speak in this church, advise that church. (That’s why the pastor and his wife usually stay home or eat in the homes of members or in private clubs.)
He remembers when he ate that up, but long ago he saw how empty that all is. Now, in his heart of hearts, all he wants is to serve the Lord Jesus and be used of Him.
8) A nagging sense of hypocrisy.
People think he is holier than they are, that pastoring that huge church somehow has elevated him to a super-Christian echelon. What if they knew he and his wife argue, that sometimes he goes a week without opening his Bible or a whole day without praying?
What if his members should find out he’s a lot like them?
9) A need for a few good friends.
Everyone needs friends, the kind of people who know you as you are and with whom there is no pretense and no need to impress. But these pastors have an intense need for a few such friends. Good or bad, it seems they end up gravitating to pastors of other megachurches like theirs for the simple reason that they’re all living the same lives and struggling with the same burdens.
10) The need to be loved for who they are.
Just like everyone else on the planet.
One final word. Sometimes even pastors will fawn over the celebrity preachers and treat them as rock stars. Not a good thing. Respect them? Sure. But it should be the same honor we bestow on any servant of the Lord who is faithfully doing his job, regardless of the size of his church or the scope of his acclaim.
In fact, we would be doing them a favor if we cut through all the trappings of their celebrity to call them “Brother” (as opposed to “Doctor”), to pray for them the same way we appreciate being interceded for (without telling them you’re doing it), and to send them a note of appreciation if and when their ministry touches you.
Treat them the same way you would anyone else who is faithfully serving the same Lord as you.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.