It’s sad when it happens, but we don’t need to wait long before another prominent Christian leader falls from his pedestal. Yes, it is usually men. While their moral failings are the reason, we, too, are to blame. With ungodly fervor, we elevate our cherished leaders, hoisting them to lofty expectations that no one can maintain. Our unbridled admiration only increases their risk of failure and our profound disappointment when they stumble.
This is not just a modern occurrence, however. Two thousand years ago, the Christians living in the city of Corinth also suffer from this unwarranted celebration of its leaders. The people there exalt the missionaries who stop by: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, following them with great zeal. This adoration approaches the level of hero worship, just as often happens today when people gush with praise for well-known Christian teachers. The risk is that the fame of these superstars threatens to supersede Jesus.
While the Bible celebrates our faith’s heroes, such as in Hebrews 11, it does so posthumously. Their record has been set; they can no longer disappoint us by their human failings. We know their strengths and their weaknesses. We esteem them accordingly, celebrating what is good and guarding against what is not.
Christian celebrity is dangerous, both for them and us. May we not fall victim to it; may we keep our focus on Jesus. We need to follow Jesus and no one else.
What Christian leaders do you really like? How do you guard against putting them on a pedestal?