Celebrity Pastors and Hero Worship

John Piper has some helpful, biblical reflections on celebrity pastors and hero worship. In a blog post from 2009, he writes:

What is the meaning of the attention given to well-known pastors? What does the desire for autographs and photographs mean? The negative meaning would be something akin to name-dropping. Our egos are massaged if we can say we know someone famous. You see this on blogs with words like “my friend Barack” and the like. And I presume that, for some, an autograph or a photo has the same ego-boost.

However, I don’t assume the worst of people. There are other possible motives. We will see this below. But it is good to emphasize that all of this is more dangerous to our souls than bullets and bombs. Pride is more fatal than death.

When I say “our souls” I mean all of us—the signature-seeker, the signer, and the cynic who condemns it all (on his very public blog). There is no escaping this new world. The question is, How do we navigate it for the glory of Christ, the crucifixion of self, the spread of truth, the deepening of faith, and the empowering of sacrificial love?

Here is one small contribution. In spite of all the legitimate warnings against hero worship, I want to risk waving a flag for holy emulation—which includes realistic admiration. Hero worship means admiring someone for unholy reasons and seeing all he does as admirable (whether it’s sin or not). Holy emulation, on the other hand, sees evidences of God’s grace, and admires them for Christ’s sake, and wants to learn from them and grow in them.

Piper gives a list of texts supporting the notion of “holy emulation.” Read the rest here.

(HT: David Mathis)


  • Daryl Little

    I think this is wise counsel. Many will encourage the reading of biographies of saints long passed but recommend against such looking-up-to of those still among us.

    Isn’t that a bit of a double standard?

    Also, it’s not like biography readers don’t engage in hero worship as well, right. Many’s the time that I’ve heard someone refer to Luther or Calvin or Wesley or whoever as if they were the final say on a matter and that we all ought to be just like them and believe just as they did.
    We need to read men like that and look up to them as the giants they are, while realizing that they too, are sheep and failed as often as the rest of us.

    Surely there is a balance as Piper pointed out.

  • Daryl Little

    Beside…do we not life Paul up as well? I mean, I will never be like him, but, other than the letters we have in Scripture, he was no more infallible than you and I.

    And yet I think we do well to admire him as someone to be like.

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