Movements, Celebrity Pastors, and Pride (Edwards)

Celebrity pastors have been a thing in America for a long time. From the awakenings to the revivals to present day conferences and mega-churches, people have absolutely flocked to their favorite pastors in unhealthy and unbiblical ways. A man with a big presence, charisma, and fine speech can start a movement which is like a bus that people quickly and eagerly board. As someone else has said, evangelicals love movements!

Sadly, it often happens that success goes to the head of celebrity pastors and they become arrogant. And arrogance is like a spiritual cancer in pastoral ministry. Speaking of this, when Jonathan Edwards was reflecting on the revival in 18th century New England, he noted the poison of pride that can follow religious success. He called this section of the book “One cause of errors attending a great revival of religion, is undiscerned spiritual pride.” Here’s what Edwards then wrote (notice his helpful comments on humility as well):

The first and the worst cause of errors, that prevail in such a state of things, is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of religion. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. This is the main handle by which the devil has hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.—This cause of error is the main spring, or at least the main support, of all the rest. Till this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal other diseases. It is by this that the mind defends itself in other errors, and guards itself against light, by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man is full of light already, he does not need instruction, and is ready to despise the offer of it.

But, if this disease be healed, other things are easily rectified. The humble person is like a little child, he easily receives instruction; he is jealous over himself, sensible how liable he is to go astray, and therefore, if it be suggested to him that he does so, he is ready most narrowly and impartially to inquire. Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility, and so prepares the mind for true divine light without darkness, and so clears the eye to look on things as they truly are (Ps. 25:9). “The meek will he guide in judgment. And the meek will he teach his way.” …Our first care should be to rectify the heart, and pull the beam out of our eye, and then we shall see clearly.

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, pp. 398–99.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015