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elbanditoroso's avatar

Should preachers (any religion) be preachers, or should they be celebrities?

Asked by elbanditoroso (22416points) January 6th, 2014

The specific denomination or religion isn’t important here.

Some preachers do their thing – giving sermons, tending to their congregations, generally working within their communities to make the people and the community (small or large) better.

Other preachers seem to encourage a cult of personality, where THE PREACHER, not the message, and not the community, becomes the ‘draw’. Yes, people still go and worship, but not so much to pray, but rather to observe a ‘performance’ by the preacher.

One could argue that the method is not important as long as the message gets through. Others would argue that it is unseemly for a preacher’s personality to overshadow the message (whatever it is).

What’s the proper role for a preacher?

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24 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

To get people in the door , as a gateway into one’s faith. For example Joel Osteen asks at the end of every sermon to find a good bible based church.

dxs's avatar

I think this is the complete basis for Mormonism. One guy with amazing charisma.

Seek's avatar

“Preacher” should be a part-time, volunteer position that takes place on the reverend’s free time he sets aside from a job in which he actually contributes to society.

I mean, do the math. If you have a church of 100 working adults (a fairly average to small church in my area), and ⅔ of them actually pay tithes, you’re talking this preacher is making six times the average salary of one of those churchgoers. For what? Running his mouth for an hour a week?

Kardamom's avatar

This Preacher almost dragged me over to the dark side. But I would have gone with a smile on my face ;- }

KNOWITALL's avatar

Preachers should be humble, that is my worry for tv preachers. Sharing God is one of our priorities though.

josie's avatar

They are often the center of a cult of personality, of some size or another.
Preachers who have no charisma don’t really have much to offer, do they? I mean, anybody can quote scripture.

My grandma had little charisma, but quoted scripture. And while I loved her, I could not help but think that I could read it myself if I wanted to.

My father was the most charismatic person I ever knew. And he thought theistic religion was a waste of time. But if he had been inclined, he could have gotten up in front of a congregation, read a verse, expounded on it, and have them all shouting Amen.

LornaLove's avatar

I do think that they should be leaders and inspire people. Of course those that are filled with that stage-like vigour are preaching, often, to a congregation that are searching for something and those are the vulnerable ones. Some have hidden agenda’s of course and need stage presence to capture their prey.

hearkat's avatar

One of my patients can’t drive, and her pastor brings her to her appointments. He does more than give sermons, he serves the community. I am agnostic but grew up in a church, and our ministers were busy every day of the week. I drive by so many churches and other religious houses-of-worship – and someone is running them and some folks are attending.

I think the mega-church and TV preachers definitely fit the ‘cult of personality’ description, but they are the exception. The majority are meek and humble, which is why we don’t notice them as much as the flashy ones.

ragingloli's avatar

They should be corpses.

tom_g's avatar

@elbanditoroso: “What’s the proper role for a preacher?”

I don’t understand this question at all? Is there a proper role for a preacher? What could that possibly even mean?

There is a “proper role” for police officer. A preacher? Huh?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@tom_g Some theists are not proud of or approving of televangelists, especially after Jim & Tammy Baker.

tom_g's avatar

@KNOWITALL: ”@tom_g Some theists are not proud of or approving of televangelists, especially after Jim & Tammy Baker.”

Sure. But where does “should” fit into this? Jim and Tammy appealed to a large enough audience that they were successful.

I just don’t understand how we can apply “should” to this at all. As an atheist, what possible insight would I have about how preachers should best serve the people they serve. And Christians who belong to a church likely do so because they like the particular style preacher of that church.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@tom_g I guess you could apply the question (any religion) to LeVey as well as any theist…lol

Maybe it should have read “What do you think about celebrity preachers?”

thorninmud's avatar

I’m a “preacher” of sorts. Specifically, I’m a Zen priest and I run a small temple (in addition to my very different day job). This is a question that I’ve given a lot of attention to.

The dynamic between the titular leader of a religious group and the members of that group is complicated: fraught with all kinds of traps on both sides of the relationship. The “rank and file” of the group tend to idealize the leader. They may look to him or her as an example of what they hope the practice of their religion will turn them into, so their hopes for personal transformation get projected onto the leader. The leader, however, absolutely must not buy into that scheme himself, nor encourage it in anyone else.

The urge to do that can be extremely seductive, though, and may have a subtle sub-conscious effect. It’s quite true that developing a cult of personality draws a crowd, and it would be easy to think that if your goal is to reach out to as many people as possible, then why not leverage this tendency for the “good of the cause”. In these days, when it’s hard to get people to commit to anything beyond themselves, then any effective strategy for getting people in the door can be tempting.

That opens a terrible door. The leader now has to keep this illusion of supposed spiritual superiority going, and this will create a serious psychological dissonance in his own mind. If he knows (as he should) that he isn’t on some spiritual plane elevated above those around him, then he’ll be living a dishonest life, and that’s miserable. More typically, he’ll fall into the delusion of believing the charade himself. Either way is a form of hell.

The only sane course is to offer whatever guidance one can with no pretense whatsoever to being in a position of privilege. You have to truly be nothing special at all, and to make sure that everyone else sees it that way, too. That, ironically, is the only position from which one can genuinely help.

@Seek_Kolinahr makes a great point about working some other way to support oneself. Not only does that disentangle one’s ministry from pecuniary concerns, but it serves as a reality check in the ongoing “nothing special” lesson.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@thorninmud GA! I do think it’s only natural that we hold preachers/ priests to a higher standard though, since they lead the flock.

I tend to believe that having an outside job is NOT necessary, as dedicating your entire life to God’s work is holy to me. Nothing to take your mind of God and His work.

thorninmud's avatar

@KNOWITALL I absolutely agree that priests need to be held to a higher standard of behavior. That’s different from seeing them as being qualitatively different, though. It’s the same requirement we have of any person whose position magnifies the potential harm of unskillful actions: teachers, therapists, doctors, etc. Because these are positions of trust, a lot of damage can be done.

Seek's avatar

My last pastor had plenty of things to take his mind off of God’s work – a boat, a yacht club membership, several ATVs, a game room, all in a brand new 4 bedroom house he had built with the money “given to God” by his faithful tithers, most of whom were living in run-down rented trailers or HUD housing.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@thorninmud I’ll admit that some damage was done to me by one, one that I loved like a Father. It felt like the worse betrayal because he was on this pedestal for me. I guess I tend to think of priests/ preachers as different though, because they were chosen by God, a form of divinity.

@Seek_Kolinahr Really nice, geesh. Reminds me of Jesus telling his apostles to leave everything and follow him. I know that people have a problem with Catholics because of money, ostentatiousness, and I’ll admit that anytime I see a really rich church it kind of turns me off. One here, an AOG, has gold leaf on the walls, it’s ridiculous.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@thorninmud – fine and informative answer. I think that your outllook is the antithesis of the way that many preachers act—as @Seek_Kolinahr noted, there are all too many preachers who effusively display material goods – they are in it for aggrandizement, not for spirituality.

And don’t get me started on the folks who espouse the “prosperity gospel”.. ....

thorninmud's avatar

@KNOWITALL Yeah, see, I wasn’t chosen by God or any form of divinity. I ended up in this position in much the same way I ended up with my day job: I had enough of the requisite skills and was available when the need arose. Nothing more than that, really.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@thorninmud Yeah, we’re not taught that way, it has to be a ‘calling’ from God specifically to you.

In the book Up From Slavery by Bookter T. Washington he addresses this issue specifically saying that a lot of freed slaves sought to raise themselves by becoming pastors so they didn’t have to work manual labor and still got paid well. He did not condone it at all and sought to rectify that situation.

So may I ask what qualifies you to be a Zen priest? From my own studies, I’ve found Zen is not easily mastered so that’s very interesting.

thorninmud's avatar

@KNOWITALL To get into that, I should distinguish between becoming a Zen priest and becoming a leader in a Zen community. Zen ordination (becoming a priest) is roughly analogous to marriage: both a commitment and a renunciation. You take on a commitment to see the Zen path through to the end (knowing that there is no end), and you give up on the whole “Me” enterprise. There’s no particular training regimen that has to proceed that, any more than there is before a commitment to marriage; but like marriage, it requires deep soul-searching if it is to mean anything.

But in our outfit, being a priest doesn’t qualify you to lead a community. That’s an entirely different thing. Massive amounts of prior training involved. But it’s all training that just comes with being a Zen practitioner anyway. You don’t set out to become a Zen teacher. Most Zen teachers through history have been thrust into that position despite a great deal of reluctance on their part. That was certainly my experience.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@thorninmud Thanks!

“Bodhidharma said that Zen is “direct pointing to the mind.” Understanding is gained through intimate experience, not through intellect or expository prose. Words may be used, but they are used in a presentational way, not a literal way.”

thorninmud's avatar

@KNOWITALL Yep, that’s how it works.

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