Giants Among Us. Larger Than Life. Above Reproach. Super Human. Deserving of the best seating at banquets and church events, the finest food, the best rooms and accommodations. We crave their autograph, two minutes of their time, to sit near them as if, like the Apostle Peter, their shadow might grant us healing, or powers!
The idolatry of celebrity and prosperity preachers is no surprise, but it is rampant among the United Pentecostal Church, International and Pentecostal churches as a whole. But did God want us to idolize preachers, pastors, apostles? Is that the example Jesus came to setup, or Peter, Paul or the other apostles created?
The featured image of this article is from First Pentecostal Church in Little Rock Arkansas, a celebrity church in the Pentecostal world. Their building is worth millions upon millions of dollars, created by all those faithful tithes and offerings they require, and faithful ‘donors’. The hanging angel in their sanctuary (idolatry?) alone would feed many hungry people.
The most notable aspect to a Pentecostal Church is the Celebrity Seating (my term). Every Pentecostal Church tends to do this. They create on-platform, elevated seating for preachers, both local and visiting. This keeps them separated from the little people and puts them in a place of elevated honor.
And then you have the United Pentecostal Church, International., General Conference, which is a once-a-year festival celebrating Pentecost, but most importantly, her preachers. Anyone who is anyone is here and you gain your UPCI Pride Badge by attending and posting to Instagram. (Sarcasm intended)
This year – to the chagrin of some I’m sure, they decided to embrace the worldliness they shun so rabidly; Hollywood. At General Conference 2017 (hash tag #UPCIGC17) they set up the Hollywood style backdrop and red-carpet photo walk-in for preachers and their kids. This holds great significance because Pentecostalism as a whole shuns the watching of Television and Hollywood created Movies. They consider Television and Movies as the conduit of Satan. And then they do this…
I don’t claim ownership of any images. They are all found on Instagram and are property of their owners. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZoLCyYAWwr/?hl=en&tagged=upcigc17
Want to see it in action? Try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93n6scICwPc
We, of course have celebrity preachers of all kinds, the Joel Osteen’s of the world, or Benny Hinn, etc. But then we have the small town BMW’s of the world. In my home town, my old preachers and my old church are VERY well known among the community as the BMW Church/Preachers. (The Bishop, his wife, and the Pastor and his wife will only drive BMW’s, and they have special assigned parking street side so all can see)
Every year, at the anniversary Services of Abundant Life Pentecostal Church (my old church) they ship in and pay preachers of all sorts to come and preach. It’s like inviting this years Hollywood special to speak at your event.
Every year, they have special ‘ministers and their families only’ meals at the meeting, but on Saturday they have a whole-church BBQ where the regular people get served the left overs that the preachers didn’t eat at their special meals.
For years this bothered me, and then I was able to read Matthew 23 with an open mind and it all made sense;
They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their [a]phylacteries (tefillin) wide [to make them more conspicuous] and make their [b]tassels long. They love the place of distinction and honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues [those on the platform near the scrolls of the Law, facing the congregation], and to be greeted [with respect] in the market places and public forums, and to have people call them Rabbi. – Matthew 23:5-7, AMP
Enter the idolatry of Celebrity Preachers. All they do, they do to be seen of men. They are well-paid performers. They preach a Gospel of Who Knows What, just pay your tithes!. Often, when you listen to a service, Scripture is minimized, or rarely used (a verse at best), and loud, ostentatious noise is instead the focus, shouting and screaming that causes an emotional rift through the people, stirring demonic worship. The louder you can shout, and the more people hopping up and down, the more popular you become.
I feel compelled to point out something very important. It’s a modern revelation, and yet plain for all to see. This is it; When the Word talks about wolves in sheep’s clothing, it was talking about Preachers!
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; – Acts 20:29
This is the danger of Celebrity Preachers and the idolization of them. They could be wolves in sheep’s clothing. If they are, and you hang on their every word, then like me, you could be led astray by false teachers who have their end goals in mind over your salvation and well being.
Many don’t seem to know it, but their preacher is bigger than Jesus. In my article, Replacing Jesus with your Pastor, we talked about the more legalistic side of this equation, but the todays side, is you!
Let me ask you a question
Does your Pastor teach things that are not found in the Bible, and yet you find yourself following it blindly, without question, even to the point of defending it? Would you be afraid to ask him why he teaches it?
If you can answer yes, you have idolized your pastor. He is a celebrity. He comes in on a red carpet that you condemn, but you excuse it, because it’s your pastor. You can utter the words, ‘If anyone cames against my man of God…why…They will get the five folded ministry!’.
I’ve literally heard men, holding the coveted microphone say this, about Pastor Davies at Abundant Life Pentecostal Church in McMinnville, OR. He’s been convicted of Child Labor Law violations, and paid settlements in a Defamation of Character lawsuit, yet they (his followers) would defend him rabidly.
This is idolization, and it must be exposed. Our God condemned idolatry, but more importantly, he condemned his servants being held in such high regard. Consider the rest of Matthew 23, Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.
But do not be called Rabbi (Teacher); for One is your Teacher, and you are all [equally] brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth [who guides you spiritually] your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not let yourselves be called leaders or teachers(Rabbi); for One is your Leader (Teacher), the Christ. 11 But the greatest among you will be your servant. – Matthew 23:8-11, AMP
Certainly, someone who gives their life for the work of Jesus is, as Scripture declares, worthy of double honor. (I Timothy 5:17) Yet, in the regards of worthy of ‘double honor’, this was because those men were spending their wealth performing the work of God’. Not becoming wealthy on the Work of God.
*It would be worth studying the commentaries on I Timothy 5:17
In the end, idolizing and marking celebrity preachers as some grand human is idolziation, and against God’s purpose. God wanted his preachers to feed the poor, not become wealthy. God’s preachers would heal the sick, not be aloof from them. God’s preachers would spend all to reach one, not require of all to reach one more.
Recently, I visited a church where the pastor sat down with all the ‘normal’ people, and when he was called up, he came up, gave his message, and returned to the people. I was blown away, but then I realized, this was a man of the people, not a man of his Position.
Hmmm? Idolatry??? Celebrity???
Seems most who take the “Title” pastor, leader, reverend, are desiring “Celebrity.” To be well known. That simingly innocent “Title” comes with something “A Little Bit Extra.”
Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Recognition, Reputation.
ALL those things that become “Idols” of the heart.
ALL those things Jesus spoke against.
ALL those things highly esteemed among men – But…
is abomination in the sight of God..” Luke 16:15 KJV
And the Bible warns us to “hew down
“the graven images” of their gods.” Deut 12:3 KJV.
But, instead, we make the “Title“ pastor a “graven image.”
**“A Graven Image”* on Diploma’s , Denominational licenses…
On business cards handed out, books, Conference Ads, tracts…
**“A Graven Image”* on office doors, secretarys desks…
On church letterhead, on Sunday morning bulletins…
On church street signs, , etc, etc…
And anyone who reads them knows who “the pastor” is. Yes? …
“He who speakes of himself seeks his own glory?” Jn 7:18 KJV.
Honoring self? And your Honor is nothing? Jn 8:54 KJV
Looking to receive honor from men?
Jesus said, In John 5::41-44 KJV
“I receive NOT honour from men.”
“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another,
and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”
Desiring “Celebrity?” Desiring “to be known?” Idolatry?
What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.
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In my experience…
“Titles” become “Idols” (of the heart Ezek14:1-11 KJV)
“Pastors” become “Masters” ( A NO, NO, Mat 23:10 KJV)
And these “Idols,” carried in the pastors heart, are unseen to the natural eye, extremely difficult to lay down and walk away from. They become an addiction. And like any addiction, you never have enough, you always need more and more to satisfy the addiction. You think you’re in control, tell others you’re in control but the addiction controls you. You’re in bondage to an addiction, and a lie, and you don’t know it.
Power corrupts – and absolute power – corrupts absolutely.
And in my experience with “Todays Abusive Religious System.” This “power” corrupts ALL who attempt to wield this “power.” This “power” they think they have, ”to rule over others,” ”to be obeyed” ”to be someone special,” ”to be someone important,” ”to be a leader,” is leading them to, Burnout, Depression, Hopelessness, Discouragement, Failure…
This addiction to, ”Power – Profit – Prestige,”is like other addictions. It destroys those who believe they can handle it. These addictions NOT only destroy the pastor…They often destroy the pastors family.
The statistics, for burned out pastors,say…
80% of pastors’ spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
80% say pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
77% say they do NOT have a good marriage.
A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up:
for it is the land of “graven images,”
and they are mad upon their “idols.”
Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
neither let me give Flattering Titles unto man.
For I know NOT to give Flattering Titles;
in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
Job 32:21 KJV
Idolatry??? Celebrity??? Titles???
WE, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests, His Saints, His Servants, His sins, His Friends, His Ambassadors, His Ekklesia, His Called Out Ones, His Body, His Church, His Disciples…
Live in a world of “Titles and Idols.”
”Idols” of the heart.
That do NOT exiest in the Bible…
For one of His Disciples.
1 – Pastor. 1a -Pastor/Leader/Reverend.
2 – Shepherd. 2a – Under Shepherd.
3 – Senior Pastor. 4 – Lead Pastor.
5 – Teaching Pastor. 6 – Executive Pastor.
7 – Youth Pastor. 8 – Singles Pastor.
9 – Worship Pastor.
10 – Reverend.
11 – Holy Reverend.
12 – Most Holy Right Reverend.
13 – ArchBishop. 14 – ArchDeacon. 15 – Canon.
16 – Prelate. 17 – Rector.
18 – Cardinal. 19 – Pope. 20 – Doctor. 21 – M.Div.
22 – Chief Executive Apostle.
NO kidding. There really is a, ”Chief Executive Apostle”
Saw him with my own eyes. 😉
Houston – We have a Problem…
Titles – Titles – Idols – Idos…
Everywhere – Except in the Bible… 🙂
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I was just going to comment that the 1st clue is these churches hold sacred the tithe although we are not under the law this one they keep fervently and will justify it and even use the curse of Malachi 3:8 to scare people with.
It’s discusting because they know the tithe was completely different then. Then I see your blog below. Right on brother.
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Great article, nobody should solely rely on the preacher!
Really interesting article and having been brought up in a pentecostal environment, i totally understand it.
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Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate the feedback.
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It was really interesting.
If you ever get crossed with of the great ones, your life and ministry is surely ended. You may end up losing your family and church friends as well. You are easily divided from those you love because you do not sign contracts, or endow them with your best gift. They expect you to see them as high priest and have no qualms with splitting your family up based on their condemnation / with thier position. Yes, a few good men, but still are misled by imposed tradition, claiming ownership and authority of control over your life and your family. Many of those people have simply become puppets with hardly any mind of their own for they’re told their word, and their decisions are less than that of the pastor. Do not go against the pastor or his decision. God only honors his opinion, and his decisions and you do not question it. That is the #1 error. But the submissive (taught) nature of the saints authenticates this mindset. Free will is basically given up after you fully choose this religion and its teachings. (To more or less degree.). This based on personal experience .
I stumbled across this article by accident. After reading your article/opinion, I can absolutely understand where you may be coming from. Especially after seeing the photos of the last General conference. That is the type of things that can cause people to look at the UPCI and say “Hypocrites”. Especially if you grow up in Louisiana, as I have. Going to the camp-meeting can sometimes make you wonder why some became preachers.
However, we must be careful in our judging of others, because everything that I read is exactly what you and some of the comments that I have read are doing. You refer to scripture on several occasions, as will I. I am a preacher. I never preach anything without using a number of scriptures to build around my “Big Idea” as do most all preachers I know. Being a TBC grad you understand where I get the “Big idea” from. 1 Tim. 5:17 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.”
1 Thess. 5:12, 13 “12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
Hebrews 13:7 “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
These are just a few scriptures that teach us to honor our leaders. As leaders in the Truth Doctrine, Ministers and their wives are attached from the enemy more than most others because of the life they chose to live for the kingdom of God. Yes there are many that grew up looking up to and idolizing certain preachers and wanted to be like them, that is why they became preachers. However many do it for the calling of kingdom work. So, for you to put the UPCI preachers in a vacuum, is completely wrong. The UPCI is not perfect, as is no large organization. However, it is the best thing going. You want to talk about the large churches and the money they spend on their buildings. But, did you also ask what they gave in missions to go over seas to help other nations in need, or what they gave into their community. Maybe, just maybe God blessed that church in Arkansas with that building because of all the giving that have done. Remember what Matthew 7;1-2 says. “1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
God bless. I hope you nor anyone else allows your selves to get so caught up in others, and looking at how they are living that you miss out on you. Remember God will deal with them in judgment if they are wrong, not you or I.
I have always found it interesting that Pentecostal preachers use the Word to justify their own abuse and behavior, and then say that whistleblowers are simply ‘being judgmental’ and should ‘stop’. I am not indicating you are a spiritual abuser, but this is a party line response. I remember on multiple occasions, the leader of the cult I fled, saying, “If I’m teaching something outside of this Book [holding up the Bible], then you just need to obey anyway and let God take care of me, but you will be cursed for being disobedient to me.” This is antithetical to Scripture, that tells us we are to ‘try [challenge] every spirit[motivator]’, speaking directly of elders and teachers.
That premise [blind obedience and just shut up] is the gist I captured from your comments friend. Perhaps not what you intend, but it is the party-line from Pentecostal pastors that I’ve spoken to through my Blog and YouTube channel. And while I appreciate your comments, I can neither agree with it or let it go without a response. To quote Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, “The words you speak would sound like wisdom but for the warning in my heart.”
It is not ‘judging’, which is the magical word abusers use to shroud their practices, to call out both false doctrine and authoritative abuse of both the Word and the Flock of God. By way of example, ‘What is the single group of people Jesus ‘judged’, or criticized in His earthly ministry?’ Was it the Adultress of John 8? The harlot? The thief? The lost? The sinner? The poor? The wealthy? I’m afraid not, it was the self-righteous Pharisees who got wealthy by controlling people with the (abused) Word of God.
You say, “Maybe, just maybe God blessed that church in Arkansas with that building because of all the giving that have done.” Can you justify that in Scripture friend? For when I look at the commands Jesus gave his ‘preachers’, he expressly told them not to do it for wealth. The prosperity doctrine of the Charismatic Pentecostal movement is literally antithetical to the message of Scripture. Why would we teach a message that God’s going to pour out money to those who give? We turn God into a slot machine, and this is why poor elderly women on Social Security would sacrifice a rent payment, hoping God will ‘make up the difference’. That is not the principle God taught us.
Where can you find that in Scripture, that we have the right to demand money (tithes, which is NOT an NT Commandment and the poor in the OT NEVER paid Tithes)? Oh, we all know the misinterpreted and abused Malachi 3 narrative of ‘pour you out a blessing’, but to indicate that God’s blessings are financial…we might as well go preach with Benny Hinn and be like the famed Marjoe evangelist in the 70’s, sitting in the backroom counting bills singing Glory be To Jesus with well known Pentecostal preachers, laughing about what they took in from the people. (If you have not watched the acclaimed Marjoe documentary – then brother, you need to!)
I cannot, and will not agree with your premise that to call out hypocrisy is simply ‘judging’, and that are not to call it out. We were commanded to call it out. And finally, why is calling out abusive pastors ‘judging’, but those pastors screaming into microphones things like, ‘Aint no flusy in makeup and pants going to heaven’ is applauded and ‘brings down the Holy Ghost’, people jump. shout, jabber in tongues for condemning people to hell for their outward appearance, completely ignoring where they may be in their spirit. That isn’t judging?
Yes, the UPCI is a hypocritical stain on Christianity, it is listed #10 in the Top 10 Cults for very good and specific reasons. I’m beyond thrilled Anon, that you began your remarks, as many recent UPCI pastors have with me, recognizing the hypocrisy within their own organization and hopefully, taking a stand against it. But, if you really want to understand what mars the UPCI – I would encourage you to read the book, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”. You don’t have to agree with it, but it will beyond a shadow of doubt cause you to see why the UPCI is on the aforementioned list.
Blessings to you as well, in Christ alone,
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The thing is, the doctrine of salvation is wrong and “another gospel”. Do the research on the beginnings of the message. I did. No matter how much scripture you include, it’s always the Acts 2:38 slant. Show me one example of someone baptized in the titles, and then re-baptized in ‘the name of Jesus’. Not there. Never happened. To imply that God’s grace and Jesus’ blood wasn’t enough, and that you have to ‘do other stuff’ … it’s wrong. That’s why we walked away. We couldn’t ‘amen the preaching’ anymore. Oh, and most, if not all, of the money that we gave over 35 years in it, was simply used to further the doctrine. That’s not ‘feeding the hungry, (no, nowhere does that mean spiritual hunger) or visiting the sick (without blasting it all over Facebook or IG). I’m sad to say that we were sucked in to this cult of UPCI. I’m sad for the folks still too afraid to leave or question authority. Great article Ralph! Wake up..people- please. I wish we would’ve left sooner.
Wow to the comment “Obey them that have the rule over you”. Since when are ministers rulers?!? The title itself would seem to call them to ‘minister’ to the people. We read in Galations that gifts are given for service not status. The current oneness pentecostal churches have become kingdoms with Grandpa being the Bishop, Dad being the Senior Pastor and Sonny being the Pastor. All supportedby the poor, the widow and yhe orphan god expects these ‘ministers’ to care for.
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“Every year, they have special ‘ministers and their families only’ meals at the meeting, but on Saturday they have a whole-church BBQ where the regular people get served the left overs that the preachers didn’t eat at their special meals.” Hmm..that does sound familiar (lol). I’ve seen it all in 29 years spent in the UPCI.
Lord have mercy on your soul!!! This so called idolatry church is my church! Yes, First Pentecostal Church of North Little Rock, Arkansas. If you attended one or two services at our church, especially Campmeeting; you have csme to the so WRONG opinion. I say opinion because this article is your opinion!!! Our church is not RUN by the Pastor, nor is it owned by the Pastor. We are s body of Believers who worship Jesus Christ. We are oneness in the Godhead and believe the Acts 2:38 scripture.
It amazes me because our church is huge and on the interstate that it is criticized so unjustly. Look around at the huge Catholic Churchs, Little Rock has one that covers serval city blocks behind a huge fence yet no one ever criticizes the Catholic!!! Cult, did i read cult, what is the Catholic Church, ever read their history??
The Bible states that your own by your fruit? How is your fruit? Have you had 19 Baptisms in one week? Have you stayed after services to Baptize a new convert? Well, we have, we do snd I Thank my Jesus for men of the cloth who seek the Word, the Holy Ghost and Prayer!!!
Yes, we go ALL out for Campmeeting or any other function we host!!! We give everything we have to welcome, make our facilities comfortable and feed the men if God and their families. We have over 3000 people come to Campmeeting and most of them are peachers and their congregations from ALL over the world.
Yes, there is an angel hanging in our sanctuary but we dont bow down to it!!! We dont worship figures. That angel is spoken about in the Bible. Angels walk among us as does the devil. If you hve the Holy Ghost you know what i mean!!
Pray Brother Pray