14 February 2013

When you become an evangelical rock-star, remember this

by Dan Phillips

A person who simply gives up on many of the current stable of evangelical rock-stars is probably a happier person.

When I say "gives up on," I do not mean not supporting the things they do effectively and well for the Kingdom of God. As you will see, that would itself create a reality-disintegrating paradox. Rather, I mean try to stop caring too much. Don't waste your life on it, to coin a phrase. They probably won't change. Not happy to say that; driven to it reluctantly, truth be told. But there it is.

So let's hope for better things from NextGen. Actually, let's do more than "hope." I believe in always trying to do all that one can do to be proactive. And that is exactly what this post is about.

We have a lot of readers, and I think it's more than possible that a few of you Dear Readers will, one day, become first or second tier evangelical rock stars.

Yes, you. It's possible. You will be invited to big conferences. Publishing companies will approach you. When your books come out, they'll instantly be broadly reviewed, commended, chatted up, made the issue, brought into the discussion. You'll be interviewed and quoted. Your name will be known and respected by good folks, and hated by bad.

Let me tell you some things that I hope you'll remember. These are thoughts that the current tier probably won't hear from their cushioning phalanx of enablers and supporters... unless they have a friend that will point them to this post.

So: Whether or not you remember me when you come into your kingdom, remember this:
  1. Do not allow yourself to be surrounded with fanboys so eager to protect your ego that they will bitterly attack and mindread and heart-judge anyone who even seems to hint at a word of criticism of your majestic self, however solid that criticism might be.
  2. The principle of noblesse oblige is probably more Biblical and far-reaching than you think. So think again.
  3. Don't create a cozy, smug country club whose members are limited to the already-arrived.
  4. Don't use your fame to promote others to whom fame will mean the proliferation of harmful doctrines or examples.
  5. Do be the "rising tide" that "lifts all boats" who sail for the same King you sail for. Specifically:
  6. Don't seal yourself off from Lesser Beings.
  7. Don't hold yourself too lofty and too important to touch the rabble beneath you.
  8. Don't regard the rabble as "beneath" you in the first place. They're really not.
  9. Do use your influence to elevate those with a sound message and a small platform. For instance;
  10. Do comment on and point folks to smaller blogs.
  11. Do "follow" smaller Twitter accounts who serve the message you serve.
  12. Do retweet sound and on-target tweets from unknowns. (Wouldn't it be great if there were more prominent proclaimers of the truths you cherish and promote?)
  13. Do suggest small names of those who preach big truths well to conference organizers. When you accept, suggest that a "small name" be added to the rostrum. When you have to decline, recommend a "small name." 
  14. When you screw up publicly — and you will, we all dorepent just as publicly. Godly leadership means not only showing people the God-honoring thing to do by doing it, but it also means showing fellow-mortals how to handle it when we fall short or afield.
  15. Leave none in doubt that you care infinitely more about the Gospel than any Coalition you might be part of.
  16. Listen to your critics. I don't say "obey" or "believe" them all; many have heads full of brawling alley cats. But do listen.
  17. Never ever allow yourself to be cocooned off from "commoners," whether in pastoral ministry (always visit, counsel, disciple "commoners," not just the strategically useful) or any other.
Perhaps I'll expand this list in time, as I have Phillips' Axioms. But this will make a start.

Dan Phillips's signature


Anonymous said...

Can I add one? I know this should go without saying, but it almost never does.
#18: Ask if you meet the Biblical qualifications to be pastor. If you don't, resign your post. Remember especially the one about being "above reproach".

I wish most of them would just ask that question. It would eliminate Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, Haggard, female "pastors", all of Sovereign Grace, and probably take care of more problems than anything else on that list.

DJP said...

Wow; one-star hater hates this post. Who could have predicted?

Cb22 said...

I was just having this conversation with a Pastor friend that those Pastors with large Churches shouldn't forsake visiting the sick, counseling, and fellowship with the people of their Church.

So, I think you're correct.

However, I do have a significant amount of grace for those Pastors who are thrust into celebrity especially if it is involuntary,but also for those who seek it and get what they were seeking. It is a pressure no one should ever have to be under.

Paul: The "above reproach" thing: Do you think that Christians sometimes conflate being above reproach with being sinless? All men have sin, even Pastors. Even Celebrity Pastors. When Celebrities mess up, its very public. Do you think anyone on your list could maybe just need some accountability ?

Kerry James Allen said...

Great post, Dan. This reminds me of Jonathan Edward's resolutions which would also make for good regular reading for leaders and followers.


And if I might add, the inevitable pull toward ignoring all of this as success comes, as with King Uzziah: ...he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction. 2 Chronicles 26:15-16

I've also heard many leaders of churches through the years that said "As soon as we reach (insert number here) people in attendance, we will be starting another church." Funny how often that is forgotten as the big show increases.

If riches (popularity, influence, followers) increase, set not your heart upon them. Psalm 62:10

Nash Equilibrium said...

Great advice. But, could a person who is inclined to wannabe an Evangelical Rock Star also be inclined to take such good advice?

Tom Chantry said...

Quick Comment just to really tweak off OSH:

Whatever "tier" Dan is (because we're all at some tier or another on this scale, aren't we) he actually lives by what he put out here. The additions put forward to this list so far are not bad, but I wouldn't add anything. This is clearly one of those posts which Dan has been thinking on for some time - and not just thinking on, but acting on.

As such, to the degree it is meant as a rebuke, it is the best sort of rebuke.

My only other thought is that there are men who think this and live it, but they are few and far between. Sadly, organizations like The Glorious Consortium do more to repress this very biblical thinking than they do to engender it. Some will say that is a function of their para-churchness, and maybe that's so. I think it has to do with moral weakness at the very top.

Kerry James Allen said...

Nash, I'm thinking Dan is casting pearls before piglets, in the hope that they do not become swine, which will then turn again and rend him!

Maybe there is a proverb in that: "May a piglet become tasty bacon rather than dangerous swine."

FX Turk said...

As I will never be an evangelical superstar, I reject all of this advice.

Oh wait: that would actually make me an evangelical superstar. Right after my video blows up on YouTibe.

Kerry James Allen said...

Frank, as you ascend to the theological stratosphere would you be offended if some of us hold on to your cape?

Tom Chantry said...

When Frank becomes King of Evangelicaldom I want to be his court jester.

I'll just talk like that kind of Puritan; that always amuses him so much!

donsands said...

Edifying words. Good words, from the Word, to eat.

Moses comes to mind, for he was one of the all time Rock Star kind of guys, but he was also "meek". Miriam and Aaron had their problems with the Rock Star from a whole different road. I need to watch out for that one as well.

Have a great day in our Savior's love. May His joy fill you from your spiritual toes to the crown of your head. We really should be the most joyful souls on earth, even with our sorrows we have to deal with.

Have a blessed Lord's Day, with the Lord's people. in the Lord's house.

FX Turk said...

Chantry: you have always been that kind of puritan.

FX Turk said...


It will never happen. I am not that cool.

JackW said...

I’m not sure that Moses was much of a Rock Star, but he sure was a rock abuser.

The only celebrity Pastor that I’ve ever met and had a decent conversation with was Alistair Begg. I was also able to talk to one of his fellow elders and watch them interact with their church. I came away feeling that a Plurality of Elder rule with parity among the Elders was very important to keeping everyone grounded and on track.

Scott said...

Great post. I'm not a "rock star" but I definitely give this a "five star"!

On the other side of the coin are not those who become an evangelical rock star but those who are obsessed with those who are the stars. They are the ones who keep the cycle rolling. They foster the Christian celebrity, rock star mentality.

Aaron Snell said...

Plus, Frank would never wear a cape.

Michael Coughlin said...

LOL - wearing a cape is the one thing I expect Frank would actually do.

FX Turk said...

With everything that has been said about me the last 7 days, the one thing said which made me the most sad was, "Plus, Frank would never wear a cape."

What kind of world do we live in?

Kerry James Allen said...

Michael is right. Embrace the cape, Frank, Superman and Batman wear them (but then, so does Mighty Mouse).

Would this be "capeworking" the meta?
Def: "The art of the bullfighter in working a bull with the cape."

Steve Berven said...

You don't have to be an evangelical rock star to have this apply. I've met a pastor or two from not to terribly large churches who felt that their position and "mandate" within the church made any criticism or correction from the congregation of form of quaint heresy.

Good list.

Aaron said...

Frank would never wear a cape. He's watched The Incredibles enough to know what an incredible disaster that would be.

Aaron said...

Oh yeah, great post, Dan. I'm a fan boy so technically my saying so doesn't count. ;)

FX Turk said...

This comment thread is proof that I have already violated #1 on this list.

threegirldad said...

If you're actually wondering whether Frank would wear a cape, you must not be one of his Facebook "friends." Otherwise, you would know about the Captain America costume that he wore to the movie theater. Including the shield.


Aaron Snell said...


Re: the cape thing - that could have been a nod to the dangers of cape-wearing (a la The Incredibles), or it could have been heavy sarcasm. Take it however you like, except as a slam against your geekhood.

And congratulations - meta officially Franked.

Aaron Snell said...


Remembering, as Tom said, we're all on some tier of this scale, this is a good list for us all. #14 is especially good.

And "heads full of brawling alley cats" is almost as good as ignoble furry ticks. Almost.

FX Turk said...

Just to be clear:

It's one thing to frank the meta

It is another to laugh at the franked meta

It's another to lie in order to insult in order to frank the meta.

Dan, and all the normal readers of this blog, deserve better than drive-by on-note trolls.

Nonna said...

"Drive-by on-note trolls." I'm trying to picture what that would look like pictorially.

Frank, I think you stirred up the ire of some folks with that entry of yours yesterday. Frankly (pun intended) I couldn't get what all the fuss was about. Your argumentation was clear, copious, and convincing.

DJP said...

Turk: no capes!

DJP said...

OK, I've been afk, now I'm caught up.

FWIW, I haven't deleted anything; others have, and that's fine.

Honestly, though, I'm tempted to delete about 90% and see if anyone does have something to say about the post. A lot of levity on a light-hearted post is great fun; even a little on a serious post can be fun

But almost nothing-but? Not what I expected or hoped for. I'm afraid it will leave the impression that the post was an offhand lark, and it was far from that.

donsands said...

I did want to say #16 is my favorite, and yet the thing I most have a problem with. I suppose it's not my favorite, but I realize I need to have our Lord help me learn how to listen to those who want to clean my dirt from my fingernails, even sometimes when I'm clean.

I suppose this could be true for any elder or leader in the Church couldn't it.

Morris Brooks said...


1. There are some posts that are so dead on that there is nothing that can be added.

2. There are those topics that only someone who has been there, fought the demons and survived could add additional insight.

This post is one of those.

Anonymous said...

@Chris Brannen

"Do you think that Christians sometimes conflate being above reproach with being sinless? All men have sin"

I've yet to meet a Christian, even nominal, who believes he or she doesn't sin. But almost as a rule, sin isn't taken seriously. The doctrine of the Depravity of Man degenerates into "don't judge me --- I mean nobody's perfect or ever will be, so why worry?". One method that is used is the basically the reverse of what Jesus did. Jesus shows how lustful thoughts are adultery. But they do the reverse. They'll say, "look, my cheating on my wife was really no more serious than any lustful thoughts you've had" or "my having my baby dismembered is no more serious than you being angry at your brother".

Tom Chantry said...

In light of #16, it is interesting to see how various blogs moderate comments. It's perfectly fair to have no comments at all. It's also perfectly fair to moderate as TeamPyro does; eliminating off-topic screeds, personal attacks, and other distracting behavior.

But it is extremely distressing to watch the folks at The Gigantic Cancer blogs consistently refuse comments that are on-topic, respectful, biblical criticisms. If you find yourself willing to post rants against your position which are easily refuted but unwilling to post arguments that require you to defend your position, then you really need to think long and hard about #16.

FX Turk said...


I have heard-tell that they have Top Men working on that.

Top. Men.

FX Turk said...

DJP: I will also fix the Hobo Suit.

Kerry James Allen said...

The Glorious Consortium? The Gigantic Cancer? I'm beginning to think I need my decoder ring to read comments from Tom Grenade Chantry.

The grenades are enjoyable once you get past his subtlety.

Cb22 said...

@ Paul Reed

No doubt. In the current evangelical culture I think we tend to take sin very lightly.

We need to make our judgments Biblically for sure.

I just don't want to be on the other side where we never forgive peccadillos of the smallest degree that have been confessed and dealt with. I've seen that in Churches too. I've seen that with Pastors as well.

One famous Pastor I know about is still accused of believing in incarnal sonship because something he said 30 years ago was thought to mean that. It mas a miscommunication. Still people call for his resignation.

I don't want to be that guy.

trogdor said...

Paraphrasing one of my elders, God effectively delivered his message through a donkey, so don't think you're anything special. We're going through the Corinthian epistles now, and they couldn't be more applicable to the scourge of evangelical celebrities who act like they deserve it. The false apostles constantly boasted about themselves and set themselves apart from the rabble; Paul the true apostle boasted in his weakness and sufferings, and how his mortal ordinariness showed the surpassing greatness of Christ.

The same attitude is on full display in Ephesians 3:7-10. Twice Paul refers to it as an act of grace that he was even allowed to speak the gospel. That attitude is directly contrary to the celebrity culture, where it seems we think God's lucky to have these special people on his team. It allows no place for pride over those with lesser skillz or fame who are granted to proclaim the same message. It allows no exaltation over the commoners, because it knows that we are all unworthy servants.

Of course, all of this is meaningless to those who believe they can learn more about how the church should work from the CEO of Starbucks than from the apostle Paul.

trogdor said...

Exodus 18 and Acts 6 cannot be thrilled about so frequently being abused by 'pastors' who want to avoid pastoring (per #8 and 17).

One Star Hater is sufficient to prove the qualification clause of #16.

Terry Lange said...

Wonder what or who would qualify as a "small name"? What about a no-name? I know I would probably qualify.

Finished seminary with two degrees three years ago, not many interviews for pastoral opportunities. The clarion call from most churches is experience.

DJP said...

So often, that's the Catch-22, isn't it? To get experience, you need a job; to get a job, you need experience.

Probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but busy yourself as fully as you can at the church you're in. If you're not pastor/elder, present yourself to the pastors/elders and tell them you want to dig in.

Unknown said...


Terry Lange said...

Thanks for the suggestions. Have been busy serving in the same church for the last 10 years. Have talked with Senior Pastor but nothing is happening... Looking to relocate later this year (keeping secular job) to DFW, maybe a change in locales and churches will provide a greater opportunity.

Michael Coughlin said...

Great post, Dan!

Michael Coughlin said...

The post AND the comments are worth revisiting.