More ruminations of celebrity pastors by Tom Chantry has Carl Trueman commenting on the danger of ministers becoming too big to fail. He even thinks it plausible for a pastor in a celebrity context to do things that are otherwise unjustifiable:
It is always interesting to speculate as to why otherwise good, intelligent and thoughtful people end up doing crazy things, even breaking the law or justifying wickedness. Often it can occur in a corporate context when the needs of the whole organization are seen to outweigh and even negate the needs of the individual. Churches with powerful brand names at the helm, or churches which are simply powerful brand names (if not in the wider Christian world then at least within the chosen constituency) can prove remarkably vulnerable to such because there you do not simply have the power of corporate branding reinforced by community, you also have the rhetoric of piety and forgiveness to cover a multitude of sins.
What I continue to find remarkable about the phenomenon of celebrity pastors and the teflon they enjoy is that most of these fellows are married. And if married, where are their wives? I mean, more wives have done more good to domesticate and train husbands than any mother has. (Which reminds me of the Stan Evans’ joke: “behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law.”) In other words, wives generally don’t let their husbands get away with much. I know conservative Protestants believe in wifely submission and all that. But the b-s detector in most homes is the wife.
So if celebrity makes pastors unaccountable to regular ecclesiastical oversight, what happened to the accountability that should be happening at home? Could it be that celebrity is an elixir that also damages celebrity pastors’ wives? Kathy Keller’s interview with the co-allies makes me think it does:
As Redeemer has transitioned from being a church plant to being an established church, how has your role and work as co-founder changed?
At first, Tim preached, and I was the staff. I typed and made sure the bulletin was printed, bought the hospitality groceries, kept the nursery, hired the musicians, and more. As we grew and added staff, though, I gratefully let go of piece after piece, until there were no pieces left. I then had to ask, What do I want to do? What do I feel called to do? The typical (if there is such a thing) pastor’s wife role did not apply, as most people had no idea who I was. (This was a plus, especially for our kids.) Words are my best thing, so I chose to oversee Redeemer’s communications and media. When that became more digitized, though, I found myself out of my depth. So I hired a director to take my position and became the assistant director of communications and media. Unofficially, I am the Keeper of the Memory and the Quality Control Officer.
Here’s the problem. It looks like celebrity pastors’ wives become part of the ministry and therefore part of the brand. And once this happens, wives lose their capacity to detect b-s. I mean, if the missus were an editor of Old Life, a research assistant on my book on Mencken, graded papers for the courses I teach, my success and stature would be a big part of what defines Mrs. Hart’s success and stature. As it is, though, she has a life and can look on at the blog, writing, speaking, and teaching as so much background noise for trying to pay the bills, be active in the local church, feed the cat, and get her own work done. Sometimes what I do is clever or notable to the missus. But she’s hardly hanging on to every square inch of every word.
Postscript: having a person who works in the Redeemer Church network of agencies interview TKNY’s wife is not exactly Katie Couric putting Sarah Palin on the spot. Some might call it puffery, at best it belongs in the feature section of the newspaper. But it is hardly all the news that’s fit to print. Do the co-allies never see how much their alliance resembles the Chamber of Commerce? Talk about accountability.