WARNING! God’s putting His prophetic finger on a major problem plaguing the Church Jesus is building! Celebrity cult-status leaders—who act like spiritual divas and present themselves as demigods, based in arrogance, ascendancy, supremacy, and narcissism that has convinced them they are better than and above everyone else—are on the rise particularly in the American Church.
You’ve seen them…they’re so “important” (in their own minds) that, like “gangsta” subculture “homies” or mob mafiosos, they must be accompanied by an entourage of sycophants and bodyguards wherever they go to enforce their inaccessibility—even to peers, staff, and collegues—and to reinforce their self-proclaimed VIP status and public image. Unaccountable islands to themselves who can’t be bothered with the mere plebian masses. “Wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever,” Jude, inspired by the Spirit, called their ilk.
No matter how much they violate biblical ethics, and demonstrate in their attitudes and actions the polar opposite of the heart of a true spiritual shepherd, they are able to maintain their leadership positions and self-proclaimed celebrity status due to the unbiblical devotion, unspiritual deference, and idolatrous obeisance they demand and are afforded by their followers. Their manner of speech, their lexicon, their gestures, their countenance, and even their strident walk ooze with overt acendency, superiority, arrogance, hubris, conceit, and cockiness, readily visible to the spiritually discerning and especially those in whom a high and consistent level of the gift of the discerning of spirits is operating. Of course, they themselves attribute it all to “the anointing” and the position of “authority” God has placed them in.
They may speak with “smooth and flattering speech,” they may say all the right-sounding words, they may preach right-sounding sermons permeated with Scripture quotations, their messages may be spiritually accurate and Scriptural, their agendas, goals, and purposes may seem right and noble and biblical, and they may be able to drop names and talk about the well-known ministers and others who they say are their “friends” and their “affirmers,” but none of that negates or mitigates in any way the self-worship, the egotism, and in some cases narcissism that lurkes within their hearts and hinders their union and communion with God. Many of them demonstrate a “spiritual apartheid,” if you will, that affects every aspect of their life and ministry and manifests in all their dealings with others.
Some of these who obviously “think more highly of themselves than they ought” that I have personally met and with whom I attempted to establish a relationship, unsuccessfully, even look down their long spiritual nose at the notion of Fivefold Ministry being established in the Body of Christ, implying that they see themselves as even being above all that and have no desire whatever to relate and co-labor in any way with other Fivefold Ministers. In fact, one of the tell-tale signs that the Lord has taught me to look for when “testing” those who claim to be anointed and appointed by God in ministry is their attitudes regarding Fivefold Ministry and whether or not they honor and hold in high regard each of the Fivefold Ministry functions and those to whom the Lord has appointed and anointed to those offices of function. There’s a number of “TV-Evangelists” with internationally televised programs of this ilk, though virtually none of them are having even a semblance of “success,” however they measure it, that those of previous eras have had.
God is now saying, “Enough is enough! Time’s up! The time I have in My grace and mercy alloted for these savage wolves among you to repent has expired! I will not tolerate the selfishly ambitious and self-aggrandizing false shepherds and false prophets and false evangelists whose real agenda hidden within their heart is to “draw away disciples after THEMSELVES” (Acts 20:30) in My Church any longer!”
Friend, I know how much in the ruminations of your mind you have justified your unChristlike attitudes by your own arrogant assessment of your ministry “success,” but I’m telling you with all the agape-love, grace, kindness, and mercy a mere human can possess, if this is a description of you or if you are heading in this direction in your mind, I would repent if I were you — QUICKLY, because God certainly is the Chairman of the Heavenly Ways and Means Committee, and He has ways and means by which to remove you that are inescapable, inevitable, and possibly instantaneous, if you refuse Him! I strongly commend to you the following apt and timely article written by Joseph Mattera.
Then, I also strongly recommend you read another related article: Ego and Narcissism in the Ministry
The church has seen the rise of celebrity cult-status pastors who act like spiritual divas.
In this article I define demigods as those who act as little gods who believe they are above everyone else.
These leaders walk around with an entourage, bodyguards, are inaccessible to even high-level staff and peers, and are unaccountable islands to themselves.
Furthermore, no matter how much these demigod leaders violate biblical ethics, they still maintain their leadership positions because most of their followers are blinded by devotion.
Many of these leaders started in ministry for the right reasons, but because of the undealt emotional dysfunction related to their youthful experiences in fragmented families fraught with abuse, neglect, and anger, they carry these dysfunctions over into their ministries and church families.
There are some social and psychological reasons for this aberrant behavior, both from the vantage point of these leaders and their followers.
The following are some of these symptoms and reasons:
Why followers fall for demigod leaders:
1. Many Christians come from dysfunctional family backgrounds and need male hero figures to emulate as father figures.
Some folks view their Spirit-led leaders as surrogate fathers. Hence they will be protective of their leaders to the point in which their emotional connection and loyalty clouds biblical truth.
2. Many Christians have no identity of their own and live vicariously through their leaders.
Those without a healthy self-identity gravitate towards strong, confident leaders with a compelling vision to the point in which their own individuality is subsumed or fragmented. This creates a vacuum of being and essence which makes them vulnerable to charismatic leaders.
For example, this is how false prophet Jim Jones was able to lead 900 well-educated followers into committing corporate suicide in Guyana in 1978.
3. Many have a strong sense of failure and live through the success of their leaders.
Many people live boring lives without purpose and feel they have more meaning when vicariously living through a person they deem successful.
4. Many followers lack their own intimate knowledge of Christ and are ignorant of Scripture.
Unfortunately, most Christians are Bible illiterate and will believe anything their leaders teach them, even if it is heretical. Hence, their leaders can live lives or lead their churches in ways that are not congruent with Scripture, and they wouldn’t even know it!
5. Many stay connected to their leaders primarily because of their social communities.
After being in a church for several years, folks usually assimilate into that particular faith community (which is a great thing in most cases) and build their social networks around their church lives and ministries. If they leave their churches, they will have to cut off many of these social ties. Thus, many will continue in a church even if the leader is living an ungodly life full of pride, abuse, or manipulation.
6. Many are connected to demigod leaders because it gives them religious status.
There are many people I have met who attend certain churches only because those churches have many members, even if they are not being discipled or ministered to in a personal way. They remain in these churches because the celebrity status of their leaders gives them status with other Christians in their cities.
7. Many have low self-esteem and don’t recognize when they are being abused or manipulated.
Those with low self-esteem will allow others to abuse, disrespect, and even manipulate them because they don’t have enough self-dignity to disapprove, or even recognize it. Many of these folks were abused or neglected at home and live with a sense of guilt and feel an unconscious need to have authority figures who act the same way as their parents did. (This satiates their feelings of guilt in some cases.)
Why leaders become demigods:
1. They have a sense of entitlement
Some folks think of themselves more highly than they ought and believe in their hearts that they deserve better treatment than any other human being (Romans 12:3).
2. Because of their celebrity status they think they are above the law.
When celebrity leaders (who could be celebrities in small churches as well as large churches based on the adulation of the people and their own self-deception) get used to having sycophants around them, they become used to getting what they want, when they want it! Hence, they push aside boundaries and live lives that satisfy their fleshly inclinations.
3. They are unaccountable because they don’t think anyone is qualified to speak into their lives.
Some pastors and leaders think they are so spiritual and successful that they have reached a point where no one is able to speak into their lives and teach them anything.
They may ask in their minds questions like, Is this person as wealthy as me? or, Do they have as many people in their church as I do? before they even consider hearing what others have to say!
4. They are aloof because they don’t trust anyone.
Many demigod leaders are really projecting a false self of confidence and aloofness because they don’t trust anyone enough to have intimate relationships–including their spouses and children.
5. Their self-identity is subsumed by their ministry identity.
Some start off okay, but eventually their success–fueled by their driving ambition to be respected and known–becomes the primary way they view themselves. Thus, they lose their core essence and live through a false sense of success and power.
7. They become narcissistic to medicate the pain of their past.
Many demigod leaders abuse their leadership privileges by manipulating others for their own advantages, and/or are involved in substance abuse, adultery, excessive entertainment, frequent vacations, and others lusts of the flesh to medicate their undealt pain from the great responsibilities, intense life, and other pressure-cooker items that make them feel trapped with no outlet. Thus, they succumb to temporary fixes that give them a reprieve from their miserable reality.
8. They erroneously believe ministry anointing equates God’s favor.
Some believe that because they preach great messages and experience the power of God when ministering that God’s favor is upon them, even if they are not living lives of holiness.
Scripture teaches us through the life of Samson that, eventually, putting anointing before the fruit of the Spirit and walking with the Lord will catch up with us, and we will miss our destiny or have untimely ends to our ministry effectiveness.
9. They preach Christ without a cross–a gospel centered on self rather than on sacrifice.
Some demigod leaders believe and preach a rights-centered gospel that is centered upon self rather than on Christ. This results in living lives of indulgence that have no boundaries, which limit their desires for the physical amenities of life.
10. They associate with other demigod leaders who reinforce a demigod leadership culture.
The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is a truism. People tend to congregate mostly with others who believe like them and reinforce their belief systems and lifestyles, which can either be a force for good or evil.
Demigod leaders tend to associate with other spiritual divas and even have them preach in their churches because they don’t want any dissident voices that would call them to account and bring a standard of holiness.###
By Joseph Mattera
I also urge you to read: Ego and Narcissism in the Ministry
Showing here are just a few books from our recommended reading list available on the SLM-Amazon-Bookstore; check it out!