There is a disease sweeping through the body of Christ. It's an infectious sickness I call "the man of God syndrome" or "the celebrity syndrome." It rears its ugly head in the form of self-adulation and self-promotion. Thankfully, the Bible offers the antidote.
In our politically minded, vote-conscious world, we think we are in control of who gets raised up. But the Bible says the opposite: "Exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another" (Ps. 75:6-7, NKJV).
In Daniel 2:21 we read, "And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings." God is plainly telling us we are not in charge!
What does this have to do with the man-of-God syndrome? Everything.
A "syndrome" is a group of symptoms that characterize a particular abnormality. The man-of-God syndrome describes people who "think more highly than they ought" of their positions in the body of Christ.
These arrogant individuals are enamored by their perceived value. Unlike Jesus who made Himself of no reputation, they spend their lives making sure everyone knows their reputation.
This deadly disease affects the body of Christ worldwide. It's in every congregation, denomination and church movement around the planet. Leaders are stuck on themselves.
Here's a word of caution to my fellow clergy. If you're a minister who's rising in prominence and you begin to feel as if you're somebody, get on your face before the Lord. Weep tears of repentance and say to the Lord: "Naked I came into this world and naked I will return. Anything I have or have accomplished is because You have given me breath" (see Job 1:21).
Remember Herod's fate when he began believing the praise of the crowd? He died and was eaten by worms (see Acts 12:20-23). I'd rather be a worm than be eaten by them.
You see, it's not by heredity. It's not by the orders of men. It's not by politics and elections. It's not by natural succession. Nor is it by conquest and war that we get elevated in life. It's by God.
When individuals infected with the deadly celebrity syndrome enter a room, they expect others to recognize their presence and pay homage. They desire front-row or platform seats and are visibly disturbed when not given the red-carpet treatment they desire.
They feel they must speak even when not called upon simply because they believe everyone present will live in the dark without their superior knowledge. These individuals have risen above doing menial tasks around the church such as cleaning toilets, picking up garbage and tending infants in the nursery. They no longer stoop that low because now they are "somebody."
They even find it beneath themselves to spend time with a church member who is not at their socio-economic or spiritual level. The sad truth is, they avoid the very people who have elevated them to their position in the ministry.
Leaders who have been infected with this disease no longer associate with common, ordinary people. They claim: "Time just doesn't permit me to spend time with you. I'm so busy." But they seem to have plenty of time to rub shoulders, play golf and sip tea with a more prestigious crowd.
Ministers with this syndrome no longer spend time in the foyer shaking hands with congregants. They claim the church has gotten too large. Yet they have time to shake hands and dine with the elite. I call these people "white-collar clergy."
I'm not attempting to sway the mass of ministers who, in their own minds, have risen to such high levels. They would attack me with Scripture and vilify me for speaking against their "well-deserved" positions. I'd rather spend my time preventing the present generation from going down that path.
Young men and women who desire to enter the ministry are witnessing a warped concept of true ministry. And many outside the church have become repulsed by today's Christian leaders.
Stuck on Self
The world is waiting for men and women of God who are more concerned about how they appear to Christ than how they appear to the crowd. People are longing to find leaders who are stuck on helping sinners rather than stuck on helping self. They are fed up with our slick self-promotion; glitzy, eye-popping Internet, TV and radio spots; and high-gloss, self-exalting magazine, newspaper and poster ads that elevate man rather than exalt Jesus.
Some leaders have gone so far as to hire Hollywood ad agencies and secular image consultants so they'll appear one notch above other ministers. Of course there's nothing wrong with advertising an evangelistic meeting, a ministry or a church. But many have gone too far.
The church of Jesus Christ needs to send this self-promotion back to where it was birthed—in the cesspool of hell. Wasn't Lucifer the first being who became full of himself and decided he should be promoted?
The next generation of believers needs shepherds who have a "servant syndrome" not a "serve-me syndrome."
I'm not speaking only of clergy. If you serve in the church in any way—as a Sunday school teacher, deacon, choir member or children's worker—then this message should speak volumes to you.
Why? Because the same self-promoting spirit that grips those in ministry can put a stranglehold on good, God-fearing churchgoers. The same idolizing, self-adulating spirit that has invaded the lives of so many who make ministry their career can find its way into your life too.
What can you do to avoid this deception? Here's what Jesus had to say on the subject.
My first bad experience with a full-of-themselves church leader was with a prominent church leader. I was an admin assistant for a para-church organization, and we had invited him (and many others) to a function. He accepted the invitation. A few days before the function my "boss" gave me a little scolding, asked why I hadn't called that church leader to "remind him" and "reconfirm" his attendance. I was like, "why?" My boss told me that the church leader was unhappy that I hadn't called him to reconfirm, that I should do it, they expect us to remind and ask for reconfirmation, etc. To me, not only was it unnecessary, it reeked of self importance and lack of humility. Why was it MY responsibility? The invited person should make sure he has set that date apart and be responsible for remembering; I'm not his personal secretary! Besides, no one else complained!! Just because he was a very prominent leader of a very prominent church and held a high position in the church leadership in Malaysia, he expected everyone to serve him hand and foot? I had just returned from the US having worked with church leaders, and none of them was like that; on the contrary, they were humble, without airs, and took responsibility for their own appointments.
And yes, I used to go to a church where the senior pastor was nowhere to be found after the service. He's not a very approachable guy either unless maybe if you are some big guy (ie; big boss) like him too. I don't know why so many of the congregants think he is such a great pastor. A pastor is a shepherd. I don't see any shepherd in him.
I read your comment with interest and would like to disagree with you on the point equating reconfirmation and reminders to self importance. If you are aware of the nuances about Malaysian culture, events that are put on may be cancelled or postponed quite readily at the 11th hour. Reconfirmation with key leaders is a norm for any major Christian event, not to mention corporate business events in Malaysia. It is not good to cause someone to lose face if he or she shows up to an embarrasing situation. So, if you are in an administrative position or event management position, it would be in your scope of responsibility to do the due diligence.