“Celebrity Preacher” Is a Pejorative

By | March 25, 2014

Celebrity preacher, author and conference speaker Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a blog on celebrity preachers.  Seems he doesn’t much care for the term.


I don’t know what you see when you go to his blog site, but I saw this sidebar:

Kevin DeYoung books on his blog

Nothing like advertising a bunch of books you have authored to lend credence to your celebrity status!

To his credit Kevin DeYoung allows comments on his blog site, here are two comments I agree with:

“I always find it interesting for someone who directly benefits from the celebrity culture in evangelicalism writes about christian celebrity and now tries to define it by his own terms. Just remember that Kevin DeYoung was part of the trio that released a statement on why they were silent about CJ Mahaney.”

Update:   “Crazy Busy” Kevin DeYoung has pumped out another book! There will be a big book launch hosted by Covenant Fellowship Church, a stalwart church in the Sovereign Grace denomination.  Carl Trueman, among others (dare I say celebrity preachers?) will be participating.  Nice of these guys to continue to support a denomination whose leaders see nothing wrong with covering up sexual abuse.

Screenshot 2014-03-25 22.47.11

“Instead of “celebrity pastor,” we can more accurately describe the problem by calling it what it is…. man-centered hero worship. The problem isn’t the celebrity as much as it is the easily deceived minions who heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears for “deep” theology with cultural relevance. Stop worshipping them and worship God! And if these men don’t like being celebrities, then they can easily deflect some of that glory, but they seem to love the attention. I smell the stench of false humility with many of these gurus.”

Acts 14:8-18

DeYoung writes:

“A Christian with some combination of influence, social media followers, books, a large church, and speaking engagements may be a public Christian or a well known individual, but let’s not use “celebrity pastor” unless we mean to say he relishes the spotlight, has schemed his way into the spotlight, and carries himself as being above mere mortals. Does this fit some popular preachers? Probably. Does it fit all of them? By no means.”

Allow me to “unpack” this paragraph as it relates to DeYoung:

A Christian with some combination of influence  –Check

social media followers  -Check

books  -Check

a large church  –Check

speaking engagements  -Check

may be a public Christian or a well known individual  -Check

but let’s not use “celebrity pastor” unless we mean to say he relishes the spotlight  –It would appear DeYoung does, but only he could answer this one.

has schemed his way into the spotlight  -“Schemed” sounds a bit conspiratorial, but there is definitely a proven method to work your way into the spotlight and DeYoung appears to have utilized it.

carries himself as being above mere mortals  -DeYoung doesn’t fit this one.  He seems to be a down to earth guy, doesn’t take himself too seriously and is generally quite likable.

Does this fit some popular preachers? Probably. Does it fit all of them? By no means. -The question is, does it fit Kevin DeYoung?

Back to one of the comments above – if these men don’t like being celebrities, then they can easily deflect some of that glory. This is very true, but sadly, so is the next phrase – but they seem to love the attention.  C.J. Mahaney is a prime example of this. I personally feel Mahaney should not even be in the ministry, but O.K., he has fled to Louisville to “plant” a church.  Is Mahaney content to live out his days preaching to his faithful followers who gather every Sunday at the Marriott hotel?  Apparently not.  I have written blog articles about his desperate attempt to re-establish his conference speaking career here and here.

Once you have experienced the fame and adulation that comes from being in the spotlight it appears to be hard to give it up.  If all the adulation and hero-worship were not wanted some simple steps could be taken to discourage it.  A perfect example comes from a recent podcast of John Piper’s.  The whole episode is devoted to the question of  “Why Do We Love March Madness.” First off, the young man conducting the interview is guilty of shameless brown-nosing.  Piper could have stopped the interview and told him to knock it off, then re-recorded the session.  Second, why does anyone care what an admittedly bookish theologian has to say about college basketball anyway? Piper could have declined to be interviewed about the subject, but instead he feeds the celebrity machine by sharing his thoughts, in classic 3 point sermon format nonetheless, with all his fan-boys.

So there you have it.  In my case Kevin DeYoung is correct – “celebrity preacher” is being used as a pejorative.  In my opinion, with good reason. If you don’t wish to own the title, do something about it.

“The term “celebrity pastor” is decidedly pejorative. I don’t know anyone who would be happy to own the phrase.”  -Kevin DeYoung

1 Piper March Madness


Submit Comment

newest oldest
Notify of

[…] previously blogged about an “epic” episode of “Ask Pastor John” here.  Go to the end of the post and listen to the voice recording.  Wisdom and insight for every […]

CJ Mahaney has always been an attention hound. I wanted to use another word besides hound, but I’ll be nice. It has to be killing him to be on the outside for so long. His pride lost him everything he craved, yet no contrition for his actions. He is the epitome of “celebrity pastor”, yet for the moment, somewhat of a wanna-be.