I was introduced to Tullian Tchividjian’s message back in 2013. At that time I was dealing with some significant disappointment in my life and needed a spiritual course correction. I took the unoriginal path of buying a few books to read, one of which was Tullian’s Glorious Ruin. Upon reading the book I found his message of the freedom found in God’s inexhaustible grace to be a catalyst for spiritual growth in my life. I then checked out his sermon podcasts and quickly became engrossed in his content. While I wouldn’t say I idolized Tullian, he was certainly influential enough to cause me to tell others to check him out.
Last summer news broke of an extra marital affair Tullian had in the wake of his wife’s infidelity (come to find out in March of 2016 he had a previously undisclosed affair years prior). His credibility as a theologian took a major hit and of course, he was removed from his post as lead pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Seeing the news articles and blog posts covering Tullian in his disgrace was sad. Here the life of one of the few pastors I was actually inspired and challenged by was undergoing drastic and irrevocable change. Despite my disappointment, I oddly didn’t find myself shocked.
Tchividjian, like most mega church pastors, held a position of immense influence, considerable wealth, and relatively few obstacles. Companies spend millions trying to amass the type of social media following Tullian had. He lived a fairly glamourous life in South Florida; hanging out at the beach, going to EDM concerts, having great seats at Heat games (during the Lebron years) and wearing fashionable clothes. I have to believe that he didn’t hear the word “No” very often. His church was growing, his homegrown conference and blog were booming, and he was selling books by the hundreds of thousands. I won’t speculate on the circumstances of the failure of his marriage, but I have to believe that the power and fame he wielded had a bit to do with it.
I get that we live in a fame obsessed world. Social media in particular has grown that obsession and made the attainment of celebrity status appear more in reach than ever before. While this might be tolerable or even acceptable in fields like music, sports, or politics, I question the presence of this effort to cultivate large followings in the realm of Christian ministry. I tend to doubt if A) it’s healthy, B) it draws us closer to God, and C) it even pleases God. Give the current state of Tchvidijian’s career in ministry, a strong case could be made that it’s simply not fruitful in the long run. You might even go as far as saying that a conscious effort to attain fame is a defacto attempt to dethrone God or at least to derive affirmation and security from earthly sources. After all, it does say in Philippians 2:3, “do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
I don’t have a solution. After all, there may not be one. I simply would like to know what the world would look like without pastors and churches trying to expand their influence. Perhaps, things like cataclysmic moral failure or materialism would undergo significant reduction.