Why We Must Demand Accountability of Christian Leaders and Christian Celebrities

What I want to write about today grinds my gears real bad and frankly I've wanted to write about it for a long long while. 


Last month, news broke that Carl Lentz of Hillsong, usually called "celebrity pastor" had been fired for "moral failures". I will be honest, when I first heard was like, nah I call BS. My first instinct was you mean to tell me one of the few white pastors who has been vocal and unequivocal about justice for black folks is mysteriously fired? the one white pastor who said it: "black lives matter"? the one white pastor that was critical of oppressive institutions? Okay we see you.

Eventually,  Lentz himself posted and was supposedly forthright about his infidelity and did not shroud it in vagueness and ambiguity as Christian leaders (and leaders generally) often do. I felt really bad for  his wife and his kids because I thought, lapse in judgement aside, no one should ever ever suffer this kind of public humiliation. My hope was that it would be a path to true repentance. And I left it at that.




It turns out that was just the beginning and there was much more rot behind the flap. Lots and lots of rot. There was much more to the story.  Ruth Graham did some investigative work and wrote was was basically an expose on Lentz, his obsession with celebrity culture, and the toxicity that exists in the church (or at least the New York branch). Christians would want to claim this is an aberration, and while Ruth Graham's expose may be an extreme example, this behavior is very common. There are cliques,  social strata, narcissism, and worship of materialistic possessions, and basically everything Jesus preached against abundant in churches. It sucks.


"When [Lentz] did appear on Sundays, he rarely mixed with churchgoers. On Sundays, a team of congregants working as volunteers prevented anyone without the right badge from wandering backstage, and only a few had clearance to enter the green room stocked with a lavish catering spread and changes of clothes to fit Mr. Lentz’s increasingly particular tastes.   The church seemed to go out of its way to cultivate a hierarchy of coolness...when high-profile entertainers or sports stars would try to slip into the main seating area, content to worship with ordinary churchgoers, ushers were often instructed to guide them to the special section in front, or to whisk them backstage to meet Mr. Lentz"


Lentz apparently prided himself on not being a traditional pastor, preaching in Saint Laurent jacket, ripped jeans, and so on.  But I don't want to speak about Lentz himself as much as the culture. Because truly, the problem is not that he was wearing designer things, it's the intrinsic abuse that is constant across Christian circles and why it continues to foster. According to Graham's report, Lentz leadership focused so much on personalities that soon it devolved into having a VIP section in Church, an exclusive green room...IN CHURCH. 


"But several former Hillsong volunteers described a particularly intense culture of working 12 or more hours a day and then being treated as low-status workers by church leaders. After the staff enjoyed catered dinners on Saturday evenings at the church offices, volunteers would be summoned from home to come in and clean the kitchen... and seeing a friend who was a church volunteer sitting at the edge of the room. The volunteer had been enlisted to drive partiers home in the wee hours of the morning, but had not been invited to enjoy the party himself"

In which world should the above even be allowed? As soon as I saw the above quote, I immediately thought of the Lindseys. Earlier this year, there was the revelation about the Lindseys. Which frankly seeing their Instagram pages was not at surprising. Former members of The Gathering Oasis (the church owned by the Lindseys) came out with allegations of the scale of abuse they suffered in the hands of Heather and Cornelius Lindsey. They detailed the widespread embezzlement and financial abuse at the core of their "ministry". When one of them expressed disagreement about how finances were being handled (read using church money to fund personal SUVs), he was fired. In response, the Lindseys touted a spiritual attack on their ministry. Unlike Lentz, the Lindseys own their church so the lack of accountability is even more blatant. Why did one suffer the consequences of his actions and another party continue unscathed? Accountability. 


Interestingly, this excessiveness is not new: the bullying, the spiritual and psychological abuse,  the worship of egoistic figures, the grotesque and obscene wealth (which of course always leads to greed and financial abuse), the toxicity in Churches is wild and must stop. In an interesting article about the "crisis of the Christian celebrity", David French asks why over and over again, a lot of these popular Christian figures seem to continue to "fall" in what almost always leads to shame. He credits the false blessing of the "celebrity"; the attention, the way people gawk and respond to fame; the arrogance; haughtiness; and the ego among other similar things I think the Lord hates. It's almost like they forget how deceitful the heart is, how pride always comes before a fall; like they forgot how to be honorable. Because believe it or not, sometimes you don't even need to be religious to be honorable; to set hard boundaries and stick to it. Where do you and I, the non-celebrities come in? First of all, we have to stop treating them, David French says, like Greek gods. We have to stop fawning over them. They don't know everything and they are certainly NOT the authority on God's word. When another pastor comes with the most lavish, extravagant car, jewelry, house, vacation, clothes, it is okay to wonder what a man of God needs all that for. It is okay to demand modesty and humility from them. Because even Paul said,


"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" - 1 Timothy 6:8


We must demand accountability from our spiritual leaders and ensure that they do better. The lack of oversight and deliberate vagueness in Christian churches continues to do debilitating harm to the Church of God. If we want to advance God's kingdom on earth, we have to do away with excessiveness; we must be completely transparent and modest and love inclusively as Christ would do. The Church of God is not a place for status symbols and lifting up certain figures. Status is nothing before God and as the bible reminds us, whoever wants to be great among us must be our servant. 

So please ask yourself, is your Church being transparent about its finances? Is your pastor void of accountability? Is your pastor arrogant and pompous? And with every allegation immediately cries attack from the enemy? Are you worshipping  so-called Christian celebrities who chase clout and fame at the expense of advancing the true Gospel? And have you fallen for taken everything they say hook, line, and sinker?


This post is getting really long so I will stop for now and continue in a second part focusing squarely on greed. 


Love,

I







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