“With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.” 2 Corinthians 8:18
When I was at the 2012 Together For The Gospel meeting, there was a panel discussion on celebrity pastors. Dr. Carl Trueman was on the panel, cautioning against the perils and dangers of the celebrity pastor. While I certainly agreed with the majority of his concerns and cautions, I wanted to ask him if he taught a “celebrity” church history class. In other words, did he focus on the pastors/theologians that no one had ever heard of, or did he cover Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and the many other “famous” figures in church history? After all, he did mention that Luther was the first celebrity pastor in Protestantism. Surely he teaches about the lives and ministries of celebrities in his church history class.
The Biblical and historical fact of the matter on celebrity pastors is this: The LORD sovereignly chooses to make people great in the eyes of the world for the purpose of making His own name great and to be a blessing to the world through the Gospel.
He did so with Abraham: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” (Genesis 12:1-2)
He did so with Joseph: “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands . . . But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison . . . The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23)
He did so with Moses: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh . . . .’” (Exodus 7:1)
He did so with Joshua: “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’” (Joshua 3:7)
He did so with David: “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-9)
He did so with His own beloved Son: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
He’s done it with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and many other faithful preachers and theologians in our own day.
And He does so now with whomever He pleases: “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8)
“For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” (Psalm 75:6-7)
What should we do in light of these truths?
1. Let us remember that the LORD doesn’t need us:
“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)
“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)
“God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)
2. Let us remember that the LORD grants all mercies, ministries, and positions in His Church as He sees fit:
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)
“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ . . . But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose . . . But God has so composed the body . . . And God has appointed in the church . . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 24, 28)
3. Let us remember that the LORD delights in and lifts up the humble:
“The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6)
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15)
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
4. Let us consider all other preachers (and people!) better than ourselves:
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
5. Let us seek the LORD to build our ministry or all is vanity:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
6. Let us forget about ourselves and exult in the glory, beauty, and satisfaction of Jesus Christ alone – Who is the greatest and most famous One, but was made nothing on that cross so that we might have all in all in Him!
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)
If Christ is all to a pastor of any church, he will not be jealous of the celebrity status of others or the Gospel growth and success of other churches, but he will pray with as much passion and zeal for other pastors, churches, and ministries as he prays for himself and his own. So let us pray prayers like this . . .
Oh Father, please cause all the churches around me that preach the Gospel faithfully to grow to overflowing and become mega-churches like the church in Acts where thousands were added to their number in one day!
Please grant the faithful pastors around me to increase in influence for Jesus! Grant them to write the best-selling books that make much of Jesus, save sinners, edify the church, and glorify God! Please make these other pastors great like you made your servant Abraham great so that, like Abraham, they might be a blessing to the nations.
Please grant me to find as much joy in these other church’s Gospel success as if it were my own Gospel success! May their Gospel success only serve to increase my joy in Jesus and in the triumph of the Gospel in this world!
Oh Father, please do all this because, above all, I want Christ to be all in all in the world! May His name become great in the world, and if that happens through others and not me, then all praise be to You – just make Your name great through any and all lawful means! May Christ increase, and may I decrease! Please simply cause me to be faithful to all that You’ve called me to do!
Thank you, oh Father, for the faithful mega-church pastors and best-selling Christ-exalting authors! Thank you for the Charles Spurgeon’s, John Piper’s, John MacArthur’s, R. C. Sproul’s, David Platt’s, and Matt Chandler’s! Make more of them oh God, and spread the fame of Your great name through them! You are a Mega God! And You deserve for all peoples everywhere to bow down and worship You! Fill all Your churches to overflowing and save sinners by the billions!
Please do it for Jesus’ sake and for His glory! Amen!