the weblog of Alan Knox

We all just wanna be big rockstars

Posted by on Aug 19, 2010 in blog links, community, elders | 13 comments

We all just wanna be big rockstars

Thinking about my previous post called “Is the Church Top Heavy?“, I ran across this article by Ed Stetzer called “The Problem with Pastor as Rock Star.” Stetzer sees the same problem with too much emphasis on leadership (maybe) and especially on one man (the “Pastor”).

He says “rock star” pastors lead to problems in personal imbalance, hindering community, approval addiction, and selling out the church’s future. This is what he says about the problem of rockstar pastors “hindering community”:

If the church life revolves around one person’s speaking gift, it is incredible difficult to move to community. A community “won” to a single voice is not won to community, but to spectatorship.  Thus, when pastors say, “it’s all about the weekend,” they tend to create an audience rather than a biblically functioning church community.  This is still true if your church is an oft-criticized seeker megachurch or a your verse-by-verse preaching point.  Either way, if you get thousands sitting in rows but can’t move them to sitting in circles, true community is hard to find.

As a guy who travels around speaking, I understand how quickly it can happen. For the last few weeks, I’ve spoken at a church close to my own house while the pastor is on a short sabbatical. But even in delivering biblical messages, I’m not engaging in biblical community with those people. It takes more than a stage to create a community. The temptation must be fought that a mass of people gathered to hear one person speak is equal to biblical community.

A gifted communicator can draw a crowd, but biblical community will sustain a congregation. A great orator is fun to have at worship, but cannot build community during the other six days and 23 hours of the week. Great preaching will be used by God to bring others to faith and sanctify God’s people, but it will also encourage the body to do life together on mission.

I’m not saying that every person in the community should have immediate access to the pastor. But I am saying that every pastor should be in some accountable biblical community.

I agree with Stetzer that this is a problem. I disagree with his solution, which seems to be for the pastor to be a little less of a rockstar.

What do you think the solution is? How would a church move from emphasizing leadership to emphasizing community?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-19-2010


    I think the best way to move away from emphasizing the leader is to recognize that Christ is head of the church. It is fine for everyone to lean on one leader so long as that one leader is Christ. When the headship/leadership of Christ is emphasized then it seems like it would be easier to move toward a more communal understanding of the body who are all equally submitted to and equally equipped and called to minister to each other by the Head (Christ). Maybe I’m way off, who knows…


  2. 8-19-2010

    Most of the “solutions” I see are band-aids. Giving your pastor a day off, annual sabbaticals, sending him to conferences. None of them address the underlying problem which is the unbiblical model of “one and all the others” that restricts ministry to a tiny few. Until pastors let go and equip the people in the church as they are called to do, we will have this same epidemic in the church.

  3. 8-19-2010

    1. Allowing more than one person to speak, thus taking away the pastor centered church. This doesn’t necessarily mean participative but it does mean nonexclusive.

    2. Concenus decision making or at least congregationalism

    3. No special ministires and maybe no big time salary (a stipend could be acceptable mixed with free will giving) for “pastors”

    4. Giving other believers responsibilities that are usually reserved for pastors (visiting the sick, praying for the troubled, counseling the broken)

    Thats a few. But you have to be ready for people to pull back and even leave because they would rather pay someone else to do these things for them.

  4. 8-19-2010


    I don’t think you’re off at all.


    The problem is that pastors can’t “let go” until others also “grab on”. 🙂


    Yep. And, by your last statement, I see that you recognize the problem. The change cannot come from the top or the bottom. It must come from both.


  5. 8-19-2010

    Alan most people are taught not to question.

  6. 8-19-2010

    Argues for a strong Sunday school with small classes–10ish. I would like to see pastors train Sunday school teachers. With that a pastor is training others to join him in discipleship and more one on one, everyday Christian action. And Sunday school classes need to be in depth study and discussion. For many large/megachurches, real ‘church’ is happening in the Sunday school classes where folks know each other, know each other’s concerns, pray for each other, visit each other, help each other–i.e., church stuff! It is time for us to get back to good, strong Sunday schools and having a pastor or pastoral staff that spends their time helping the Sunday school teachers.

  7. 8-19-2010

    It seems to me that I was under the assumption that we were always questioning and proving scripture. I felt secure in “knowing” that people were already questioning, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

    Kind of turns into a smoke screen or slight of hand. “Look over here so you don’t notice what’s going on over there”. I don’t think it is usually deliberate though.

  8. 8-19-2010


    You’re right.


    I agree that in most churches the purpose of Sunday School is to carry out the functions of the church. Or, as you say, “real ‘church’ is happening in the Sunday school classes.” So, my question would be, what’s the purpose of the larger church meeting if the “real church” functioning is happening in the smaller groups?


    I think I understand what you’re talking about. We assuming that others (specifically our leaders) are looking into everything and making sure that everything we do is according to Scripture. But, many times, everyone (including leaders) is simply following what we were taught. Perhaps we need to consider why Luke praised the Bereans in Acts 17:10-12…


  9. 8-19-2010


    Both this and the previous posts really touch a nerve for me.

    I don’t believe there will be many traditional churches who would accept things be different, wanting both “stars” in the pulpit, regardless of the top heaviness that creates.

    An old study showed that only 16% of people will readily change, with some persuasion. About 16% would rather see the group die than accept change. Between them there are varying degrees of accepting change with difficulty.

    New local congregations will need to develop, who understand the damage which the traditions (and pride)of men, have done and are continuing to do.

  10. 8-19-2010

    Good question– what’s the purpose of the larger church meeting if the “real church” functioning is happening in the smaller groups?

    Is the modern ‘larger church’ an accurate reflection of the NT paradigm? Isn’t the main purpose of gathering together to teach the Word of God so as to live the Word of God (with time for corporate praise)? What is the best way to do that? How effective is it really when you have one person standing infront of thousands, delivering what someone has called ‘the rhetorical event.’ I see more effect sitting down with a small group, opening up the Word and with a good, well trained teacher, DISCUSSING it!

  11. 8-19-2010

    Aussie John,

    “I don’t want to change” is about as bad as “I’m no one’s servant”… at least as far as a follower of Christ is concerned. 🙂


    I agree.


  12. 8-20-2010

    The desire to be a rock star is there, but more fundamental is the desire to be indispensible, so as to justify being paid for the work.

    Here are excerpts from an online thread which might offer some insight into this. First, a pastor writes:

    “So, I went to lunch with a pastor friend today who encouraged me to consider taking a vacation. I let him know there was just no way. Serving a congregation, sermon prep, liturgy, counseling, admin work required too much time. And I believe in my job. Yet, I understood his concern. It is easy to burn out. So, I can sympathize with the President’s SIXTH VACATION OF THE YEAR!!!!”

    A commenter notes that the President’s job is at least as demanding, to which the pastor replies:

    “So you are telling me that his job is more pressure than the pastorate? You have no idea. And I doubt he’s sitting around all day worried about pushing ‘the button.’ All I can see him doing is pushing this nation back to the economic and moral stone age.”

    Another commenter writes:

    “Maybe you ought to consider spreading the responsibility around. I’m sure there are many capable, spiritually mature men that are up to the task. Many hands make light work!”

    And then another pastor, half a country away, writes this:

    “Though it is certainly spendy to get him (me) there, you do have a friend who loves and yet lacks opportunities to preach, who loves your flock, and who is your friend. I can help. Heck, I can even provide a place for you and your bride, or you and your whole family to stay close to the beach (where we’re going this afternoon) and many attractions.”

    To his credit, an elder writes:

    “You have the preaching of the word and sacraments/liturgy as your primary focus. But admin work, counselling ‘ought’ to be done by the elders and the deacons would be caring for the poor. Seems to me y’all as a session need to sit down and unearth the gifts present amongst yourselves.”

    My guess, though, is that the pastor is unlikely to have such a meeting, less he risk lessening his load—thereby leading to questions about how indispensible he really is, and whether he should be paid to do what he does.

  13. 8-20-2010


    Wow… thanks for the excerpts.