Celebrity pastors can vary in shape and form. There are men like Doug Phillips suit wearing homeschooling pastor to Mark Driscoll overbearing uber masculine pastor to Tullian Tchividjian hip, grace loving antinomian. But the one thing they have in common is that they destroy the sheep for the sake of their egos. Hear the Word of the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel:
“As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. (Ezekiel 34:17-24)
There is a lot going on in Ezekiel 34 that connects with the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. However, there is a focus on the condemnation of the shepherds. God hates faithless shepherds. Shepherds who destroy the sheep. Shepherds who pollute the streams the flock of God drinks from. Shepherds who push and shove. We don’t think of men like Tullian and Phillips as polluters, as men who muddy the waters. They look so nice. They are all sweetness and kindness and grace. But they scatter and hurt the sheep. Pastors can and do sin. But the response of men like these to their sin, along with too many others, shows they do not understand God, his judgment, or his grace. When David sinned he cried out to God for mercy. He begged God’s unconditional forgiveness (Psalm 51). When David counted his people in pride and God judged him he pleaded with God to lay His hand on himself and not on the sheep (I Chronicles 21:17). When Peter sinned he wept and was grieved (Luke 22:62 and John 21:17). What do we get when Tullian Tchividjian commits adultery?
I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign. Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.
This statement wreaks of self-centered pride and evasion. Does this sound anything like Psalm 51 or Psalm 6 or Daniel 9 or Ezra 9? The word “sin” is not even used in the statement. Why not? What on earth would cause a minister of the gospel to commit adultery and call it an “inappropriate relationship” or say he was having “marital issues” or say it was “sad and embarrassing?” While he does not technically blame his wife, he does throws her to the wolves. He plays the coward by mentioning his wife’s sins. What does her affair have to do with his repentance? Much like “apologies” from other church leaders and our politicians, it is damage control. It is not begging for repentance. It is not the cry of the tax collector, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” It is the calculated move of man playing the celebrity game. He talks about his “heart wrenching storm.” What about the sheep, brother? What about the sheep? What about the folks at Coral Ridge who stuck with you? What about your leaders who now have to spend hours and hours looking for new pastor all because you needed “comfort?” What about all the ministers who stood up for you and promoted you and sold your books? What about your denomination, the PCA? What about your children? What about Christ and His Name? What about using the term “adultery” instead of affair? Later Tullian tweeted “Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death…thank God grace reigns here.” Really? He views himself as walking through the valley of the shadow of death instead of standing on the edge of a cliff? Again, I say what about the sheep? Not what about your Twitter followers or your image or your future ministry or your restoration or your doctrine of “inexhaustible grace”, but what about the sheep, those whom you will give account for on the day of judgment (Hebrews 13:17)? Please give us something that shows true repentance and real concern for those you have hurt by your sin.
Pastors, we are being judged for our failure to love the flock. We have fallen in love with ourselves and the sound of our voice. We did not mean to of course, but we have. We are more politicians than pastors. We are more celebrity speakers than preachers. We long for books and conferences and tours. Faithfulness is only a means to becoming famous. I know there are many good pastors. I sit in their company from time to time. But all of us, famous or not, must kill the longing in our souls for the applause of men. We must resist the siren song of celebrityism. We must wage war against the desire to be known. We must hate pride. We must be accountable to good, but hard men who will ask the questions we don’t want to hear. And we must continue to pray that God will destroy celebrity pastors and the culture which creates them and bring us back to our work; loving, shepherding, teaching, praying for, preaching to, and rebuking the sheep placed in our care.