Only God Has No Achilles' Heel: A Critique of Celebrity Culture in the Church


In our search for security, we too easily construct cardboard thrones for our role models. We build shanties on sand to house our heroes––to simulate comfort rooted in our adoration. 

Like action figure warriors of the faith, we crowd the shelves of our souls with our favorite preachers, musicians, and even godly laypeople.

And like waves washing away huts on the sand, reality hits like a tsunami. 

Security in fallible man is a sorrowful illusion. Even the most prestigious leader with the greatest platform is a broken sinner, continually in need of grace.

Years ago, the famed pastor Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones sat in his office speaking with a congregant. After hearing the woman gush about his powerful preaching, he simply responded: “Ma’am, if you know what was in my heart, you’d spit in my face.” 

Where is that same self-effacement in spiritual leaders today? We do not need more morbidly self-centered cynicism––“I am just so wretched!”–– but something greater and more glorious.

Fame and affirmation are often our greatest traps. Prosperity pampers our hearts into complacency at best––greater vice at worst. 

It is easy for us to elevate heroes as having reached a higher plane of enlightened existence. This spiritualized fangirling consumes our minds with the dust of mortal men.

When we glorify mere people, it has two destructive ripple effects:

1. It cuts off church leaders from the life-giving transparency and nurturing they need, as all believers do. Even shepherds need shepherding. 

2. It keeps power-hungry men in lofty positions of unquestioned authority––free to spiritually abuse others, build their own kingdoms, and nurse secret sins.

Both options destroy the bride of Christ. 

The first effect weakens leaders who are simply given a role and responsibility to build up the church, pigeon-holing them and forcing them onto a pedestal where they do not belong. 

The second enables destruction of people’s souls, as self-focus drives ministry and leeches the gospel of its life-giving power. Dogma trumps grace. The Bible is used as a bludgeon to batter broken hearts.

Instead, we ought to acknowledge anything good in the people we admire as a manifestation of the lavished grace of God. 

Only God has no Achilles’ heel—no hubris, no hidden vices, no fatal weaknesses. 

Therefore, He is the only fully trustworthy One. 

A corporate understanding of leadership has seeped into the American church––twisting the role of shepherd into the platform of a CEO. 

Rather than unending idolization, we must create church cultures that even the playing field, foster open lives and open hearts––with leaders leading as servants, primarily.

We do not need more faux-biblical guilt-trips. We do not need pompous, seemingly pious men in our pulpits. We do not need more examples (and statistics) of the rampant reality of abuse in the church.

We need men and women bold enough to be broken. We need churches that embrace a holistic understanding of humility––from the pews to the pulpit. We need a renewed focus on the immense love of Christ that drives our ministry, our passion for justice, truth, and transformation. 

Only as we dwell in joyful communion with God can we fearlessly move into the hearts and lives of those around us. Our identity is not in our achievements, our ministry, or the amount of adulation we receive from functional fans. 

“Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus said.

With Him, we can do anything. But without Him, we are nothing. Let’s not prop up our insecurities with spiritual platforms and applause, busy schedules and unending ministry responsibilities. 

Christ is all and in all. His love is the fuel that gives us the fire of our identity, our purpose, our hope.

Let’s leave the platform and return to Him––together.

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