Although he lived and ministered in Holland almost 100 years ago, Abraham Kuyper could already see the celebrity pastor syndrome growing in the United States. There are quite a few layers of wisdom in the following quote. I especially like Kuyper’s dig at democratic/populist religious gatherings, his emphasis on church history, and his note that pastors are temporary servants of the church. This is why, in Reformed church history, ministers were not typically called “founding pastors.” A historic Reformed/Presbyterian view of the church (ecclesiology) and her pastors prevented the celebrity pastor mindset that is widespread today. Here’s the quote.
“…All liturgy is predicated on the foundational notion that the church has authority over the minister and not the minister over the church. [One who is simply] a speaker, an orator, a convener rents a room and directs his speech, his oration, or his meeting in whatever way he deems appropriate and expects his audience to acquiesce. After all, whoever does not like it can stay away or leave.”
“But that is not the situation in the [historical] Reformed churches, nor, one might add, in most of the other assemblies of Christ’s church.”
“Only in America and in some of our own small independent churches is there such a free-reigning spirit. It is quite common in America, especially in the larger cities, for a minister to start his own church, attract whoever will come, and maintain his church from the contributions that come in. Such a church is thus literally an independent business run by the minister, without any confessional forms and without connections to other churches. It is nothing other than a circle gathering around a talented speaker….”
“But in a genuine church it is quite different, that is, in the gathering of believers originating in a historical past that goes all the way back to Pentecost in Jerusalem. Such a church is rooted in a past of eighteen centuries, in which a temporary minister serves for only a set number of years to accomplish his holy service, and then that same service continues under the ministry of his successor. That means that it is not the minister who created the church, but that the church existed long before him.”