Beware of Celebrity Pastors and Mega-Churches. By Femi Aribisala
According to Jesus, many of the so-called churches today that are large and famous are actually spiritually dead. In many churches today, pastors are preoccupied with the size of their congregation. Some take a census every church-service. Others keep statistics of the number of people who answer their altar-calls. When pastors meet socially, how big their church is determines their social status and prestige; ensuring that many are prone to exaggerate their numbers. The bigger the church, the more highfalutin and celebrated the pastor. However, the wisdom of God is contrarian, she shouts in the street; she lifts her voice in the public square: “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” (Psalm 33:16-17). Let me apply this scripture more precisely to the context of mega-churches. No man is saved by the size of a church, neither is the wicked delivered by the great charisma of a pastor. When we are preoccupied with size in churches, we are guilty of trusting in the multitude of our mighty men. (Hosea 10:13). First become last “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!’” (Zechariah 4:6-7). One of the great mountains before Zerubbabel was Solomon’s temple. Those charged with rebuilding it were concerned the new temple would not have the splendor and majesty of the old. But God is not concerned with size and other physical attributes. Through Haggai, he declares: “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.” (Haggai 2:9). Accordingly, Zechariah asks: “Who has despised the day of small things.” (Zechariah 4:10). Indeed, according to God’s kingdom dynamics, “every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low.” (Isaiah 40:4). God says: “All the trees of the field will know that I, Yahweh, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree flourish.” (Ezekiel 17:24). This indicates in the day of the Lord, we are likely to discover that the big church is small in the sight of the Lord and the small church is big. Before Zerubbabel, even the great mountain of Solomon’s temple becomes a plain. Preference for small things In the kingdom of God, good things come in small congregations. Jesus says: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20). In effect, we don’t need to be in the thousands and tens of thousands in order to feel the presence of God. But because Jesus says where two or three are gathered, and not where at least two or three are gathered, he is actually expressing a preference for small gatherings. According to Jesus, the appropriate size of a church is not “mega” or “big,” but “little.” Thus, he reassures the small congregation: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). It is the “little flock” and not the big flock that the Father has decided to give the kingdom. Mega-church pastors are akin to the Israel of old: “Israel has forgotten his maker, and builds temples.” (Hosea 8:14). As a matter of fact, the large size of a church is eloquent testimony of spiritual deficiency. Jesus says: “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13). It is the stone the builders reject that becomes the headstone. (Psalm 118:22). This prophecy is bad news for mega-church pastors because they are currently the accepted stones. Indeed, according to Jesus, “the first will become last and the last first.” (Mark 30:31). This means today’s “first-class” pastors will ultimately turn out to be “last-class.” Few are chosen Because the gospel is naturally unattractive to the large flock, Jesus says: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14). Therefore, numerical church-growth is an unrealistic index of success in ministry. When we are focused on the numbers game, we become ashamed of the words of Jesus, and readily sacrifice his doctrine on the altar of attracting a large following. Indeed, God is contemptuous of size; he prefers the mini to the mega. He says: “Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.” (Isaiah 17:12-14). David got into trouble with God because of his preoccupation with numbers. When pride moved him to conduct a census in Israel in order to determine the size of his kingdom, God responded by decimating it with pestilence, killing seventy thousand men. (2 Samuel 24:1-15). Jesus himself was not the product of a big church but of little Bethlehem Ephrathah. (Micah 5:2). Fake pastors: dead churches Speaking to his disciples, Jesus provides this simple kingdom dynamic as their mark of distinction: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). Therefore, the very fact that the world loves mega-pastors indicates there is something wrong with them. If something is very popular, it is not of God. The evil spiritual “ruler of this world” will not allow what is godly to be well-liked. Therefore, Jesus says: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26). Mega-pastors are in trouble with the Lord because all men love them. The people of this world do not like the doctrine of Jesus. Neither do mega-pastors otherwise they would be mini. If the general public like what a pastor preaches, it is a sure sign it is not of God. God and men hardly ever see eye to eye. Jesus says: “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15). This shows the true Church of Christ is inevitably anathema to the world. Jesus insists his kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36). Therefore, his Church cannot be worldly; neither will his disciples preach the world in order to attract a crowd. According to Jesus, many of the so-called churches today that are large and famous are actually spiritually dead. He declares: “To the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says he who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’” (Revelation 3:1).