My good friend Rev. Kevin Efflandt recently did a post on the cult of personality.  His post captures the problem well.  Take time to read it.  I posted on this subject almost two years ago now (wow, where does time go?).  Here is an updated version.

In working through Preachers and Preaching with one of our seminary students, I was recently struck by something Martyn Lloyd Jones warned against.

The preacher has to guard himself against the terrible temptation to be a 'character'. People like a 'character', and if a man has certain elements in him that tend to make him a character--something out of the ordinary, something which people regard as attractive--he has to be careful. His danger is to pander to this and to play up to it; and in the end he is just calling attention to himself. Some men like to be quaint or odd or different, and to get people to talk about them. This is the danger, so beware of this; and, again, especially watch your strong point.

Every minister is guilty of this to some degree or another. Let's face it, the pressure is immense. The pastor is tempted to think success is marked by numbers. Add to this fact that the average churchgoer, when searching for a church today, is primarily concerned with the likability of the pastor. Is he down to earth? Does he share personal stories from his own personal experience? Is he just a fun-loving guy who can relate, who connects with the youth? Is he friendly? Then come the aesthetics: the programs, the buildings, the jumpy things for the kids, and a pastor who sits on a bar stool making things "practical" for the people?

Let me describe how great this problem is for a faithful minister who is actually preaching the law and the gospel. The following is a story taken from Preachers and Preaching. Lloyd Jones writes,
I knew a lady who left a certain chapel after listening to the preaching of a new minister for about a year. She gave her reason for doing so. She said, "This man preaches to us as if we were sinners." That was terrible! She was made to feel uncomfortable and forced to examine herself and to see herself truly; and she did not like it. She had been attending that church for nearly thirty years; but she showed that she was antagonistic to the Truth when really faced with it in a direct, personal way. She liked general expositions of Scripture, and sermons based on the Scriptures for believers; they did not hurt her, they did not trouble her, they did not examine her, they did not convict her. She revelled in that but she did not like preaching when it became personal and direct.
What Jones describes here is something every faithful minister will experience. The law is absolutely crushing, and the gospel is absolutely liberating, but people today do not want either. Herein lies the dilemma. If the minister is faithfully fulfilling his mandate, the law will confront the hearer in a direct personal way. It will daily kill him. After preaching the law to the conscience, the minister then seeks to lift the sinner up in the wonderful, powerful, and comforting news of Christ's person and work. The most liberating, heart-warming message is heralded--God is for you in his Son! Look to Christ, trust in him, your life is hid in him! The churchgoer, then, is faced with a choice; he can receive such direct preaching for what it is, preaching that has brought an end to him, and raised him a new in Christ, or, he can begin to look over the fence in search for something less pressing--general soft expositions.
The churchgoer, disliking direct, confrontational preaching, might look to another faithful church feeling convinced that he is finally receiving "refreshing" preaching, when in all actuality, he has simply adapted to a different personality while receiving the same message. The only real difference is that the face behind the pulpit is new, better suitable (at least for a time), and not associated with the offense of what was experienced elsewhere. But, more often than not, the churchgoer will defect to a more tolerable personality, a pastor who preaches neither the law or gospel, but rather, ironically, a sort of neo-nomianism or law-lite. This of course is all an exit strategy from the church, but for the time being, the churgeor has fully convinced himself that he has finally broken away from all this "legalism".

From the perspective of the minister, such departure is heart-breaking. The minister bleeds in his heart for the salvation of all his congregation, and has a deep profound love for those to whom he preaches. God has burdened his heart for the salvation of the sheep. The pastor believes that sincere love is most demonstrated when the full force of the law and the gospel is preached, as difficult as the former may often be. The difficulty here is that the congregation doesn't always understand this. This produces a sort of psychological dilemma that the pastor often faces. He longs for his people to know Christ's love, and the wooing power for the gospel, but if this cure is to be properly given to the people--a cure that required the death of God's beloved son--then the disease has to be exposed for what it is, in all of its ugliness.

Every pastor goes through this inward struggle. I find it fascinating that Paul had to call God as his witness to the fact that he prayed for the Romans. Why would he say this to them? "For God is my witness that I pray for you." As we read through the epistles, Paul was constantly doing this, calling upon God as his witness to his love for the saints. It seems to me that had gained a bit of a reputation of being hard in preaching. Why do I say that? Well some of the people in Corinth didn’t like him, he was hard hitting, direct, and dogmatic. And I am sure he often heard, "Paul we need more love." In fact Peter said, "Paul has written to you something that hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction." Paul was hard hitting.

It seems to me that Paul struggled to demonstrate a soft affectionate love for the people of Christ, and yet maintain a direct, confrontive approach in his preaching to draw out genuine repentance. This is a hard balance. Law should be crushing, exposing, and penetrating, and gospel preaching should be wooing, comforting, and healing.
Donald Grey Barnhouse faced the same dilemma. Barnhouse wrote,

For all my life I have faced the same psychological dilemma. When God established the genes and chromosomes of my make-up there was not put into the mixture anything of effervescence. It is impossible for me to wear my heart on my sleeve. There is a little of John in me and a lot of Paul. There may be many Christians who have been accused of pride, or arrogance, or dogmatism, who know deep down in their hearts that they are seeking every way possible to have the Lord Jesus Christ magnified in their being. They love with an intensity that hurts and which manifests itself in a hardness of attitude, though at the same time, like Paul, they may say, I love, I pray without ceasing for you God is my witness.

The people in the pew need to understand that the man proclaiming the Word is one sent by God himself. The preacher is sent with someone else's message, along with a method already predetermined. Through the messenger, God is exposing the lives of the sheep directly. He is uncovering the sins of people's hearts. This is ministry. A pastor who avoids doing this is compromising his calling. The great goal of ministry, therefore, is to drop prideful sinners to their knees that they might find life in the glorious gospel of Christ and him crucified. And this is not a one time shot; the gospel drives the Christian's sanctification as he is daily cast upon Christ when confronted with his sin.

The cult of personality may be the most dangerous cult alive in the church today. If your pastor is preaching faithfully the law and the gospel, without compromise--thank him, encourage him! Praise the Lord, such a man is rare. As difficult as the messages may be, you are being brought to an end to yourself. But listen carefully to whom you are being pointed. The goal is to present Christ in all of his holiness, beauty, and saving power. In hearing him, you are receiving the most liberating, comforting, life-imparting message that could be given to weary sinners. If you are hearing self-help, moralistic, man-centered messages from a "personality"--flee to the mountains. There is only one name given by which sinners may be saved. May we all with earnest long then to hear the preaching of Christ and him crucified.


  1. Is that a picture of T.D. Jakes?
    Who has had some affiliation with our local "CTK"...
    T.D. Jakes ...if I understand correctly would fall into a oneness theology, teacher.
    Not a fan of the " Trinity ".
    If we all use the name of Jesus, as Lord.
    But, we all picture,in our theological " minds eye "
    A different Jesus....is that okay?
    How much liberty is okay, to remain in the fold?
    When we understand, that most if not all cults...begin with the wrong view of who God, is.
    It seems to me it is some what of a big deal...

    And so..with my comments on the "crystal Cathedral goes bankrupt " article....
    the comments beg the question.
    " what are the Fundamentals of Christianity? "
    Dose God not care about what you believe about Him?, as long as you are sincere?
    That would seem to echo "Billy GRAHAM " or even The highest thinkers "theologians " in Catholicism.
    What really divides us from our Catholic Friends?
    Dose anyone know, or care anymore?
    seems like spotlight Scholars like "Chuck Colson " doesn't ...
    More concerned about the ecumenical movement, then the question " what is Truth". And how do we know. Simply belief, or which teacher we prefer?
    Can we set these issues of what is Truth, aside.?
    And simply agree to " all love Jesus"!

    Which if you think about it.
    That would involve a lot of people.
    Think of the unity we could have?
    But that would of course, include not only our " Catholic " brothers and sisters.
    But also our "Jehovah witness " and "Later day saints " brothers and sisters.
    Just think....you could be united in worship, with Glenn Beck! A " Mormon", or even "Sean Hannity" and "Bill O'Reily".
    Doesn't that sound good!
    " There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" ( Proverbs 16)
    " the Gate is WIDE, and the WAY is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it." ( Matt. 7)

    I think to portray God as tolerant of all forms of worship is to deny the God of Scripture.
    To disagree the " BILLY GRAHAM " in the comments he made at the "crystal Cathedral ".
    I believe we must conclude that,
    Christianity, if true at all.....is exclusively true.
    With that said...
    The content of our faith is what is crucial! Not. NOT. Our sincerity!
    Do we all agree?
    Obviously not......
    We are drunk, with " pluralism " and " diversity "!
    AMERICA! Land of free indeed! !!!
    "DO WHAT THOU WILT." " Shall be the whole of the Law."
    To quote ...Alester Crawley
    So where do we stand?
    Where do you stand?
    With the exception of a few cults that blatantly renounce the Trinity, almost everything taught in the name of Christ is accepted by evangelicals.
    From Roman Catholicism, (which denies that sinners are justified solely by FAITH)
    TO the extreme charismatic "Word Faith" movement ( which both corrupts the doctrine of Christ and makes temporal health and wealth the focus of salvation .)
    Do we simply get along, for the sake of unity?!
    Is Faith in Jesus enough?
    Is the content of faith, a matter of individual preference?

    Smoking flax...

  2. I think the problem is bigger than that, smoking flax.

    Supposing we had perfect doctrines for everything, written down and spoken. So we think our worship is perfect, and we properly confess our sins, and know that we are miserable sinners, and receive God's forgiveness. And then Jesus says to us, sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come and follow me. But we don't.

    OUr trust, our belief, our following, goes only so far. Concentrates mainly on worship, one day a week, and doing it "right".

    But, we will go on in our pride and self-conceit, thinking that because we know all the right words, have all the answers, know everything that we should, that therefore somehow we are more worthy. Well, we know we are most unworthy, and that is what makes us worthy.

    Jesus helped the Samaritan woman, talked to another, healed the woman with the sickness, healed the blindman, healed the man at the pool, and the centurion's servant, with no dependance on correct theology in every single detail.

    How much "correctness" is enough? Read scripture, and see.

    Confessing the right doctrines is important, but as sinful humans, we inevitably don't follow them all.

    The main commandment, to Love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself (as the Samaritan did), should be the starting point. While false teachings should be condemned and corrected, it is not our primary purpose. The commandment does not say, "Love God, and have all the right doctrines, and be perfect in your theology, and condemn those who are not." It says, "Love your neighbor." That is a hard thing to do, because, as sinners, we are always inclined to do the opposite.

  3. John Z.

    O good.
    Glad to hear you say that.
    " Love God"
    And " Love your n
    Neighbor, as yourself".

    That truly, broadens my perspective.
    to: All our brethren on TBN.
    and all our Mormon and Jehovah witness, brethren.
    Not to forget our "CATHOLIC " brothers and sisters!
    Might as well include our Muslim, brothers and sisters, who Love God. AND. Love the neighbors.
    And our Hutterites, brethren.
    Our "Christian science " brethren.
    O and now I think I will send my children to Toronto !
    There is a wonderful, childrens camp there!
    Put on by the "Vineyard " movement!
    The music is so soothing!
    And they can play animals all day long, as worship!
    My teenagers can get " Drunk in the Spirit " .
    It will keep them out of mischief!
    I will so enjoy hearing them speak in the tongues of angels!
    So glad Gods mercy is wide!
    I will fly to India, next summer!
    I want to see "Benny Hinn" raise the dead! In the name of Jesus!!,,
    Most of my money will go to the 700 club.
    Pat Robertson, speaks truth. He loves God! And his neighbor.
    Copland ministries, has been a blessing.
    He heals so many people.
    Wealth is my right as a Christian! I can't wait to claim it!
    Jessie dulantuis says I need to claim "Dominion" upon this earth! His rallies are full of the spirit!
    Been there!

    Smoking flax...

  4. To john z.
    You know what?
    Come to think of it.
    There is a neat little church, just across the boarder.
    They strictly follow the teachings of " BROTHER BREHAM".
    thank goodness, for the AZUZA prophets.
    CHRISTIANITY would have been lost without it.
    O, how they love God. And love there neighbors.
    I wish I lived in California. So I could attend the "Crystal Cathedral ". So what if they are going bankrupt!
    Shuller inspired thousands, maybe millions!
    When he taught that the REFORMATION, was not a good thing. Unesessary.
    I might as well Aline myself with JESUITS.
    As the book "Jesus freaks" suggests.
    They died for there belief in Christ. O. and they Loved there neighbors.

    Smoking flax...

    P.s. thanks Paul crouch, for making it clear.
    Unity comes in the APOSTLES CREED.


  5. John z...
    I don't mean to come across so abrasive or. Vengeful.
    These are real issues that swirl in my heart.
    I know where I stand at the moment.
    But how about tomorrow?
    Or the next day.?
    We tend to simply be products of our teachers ...
    Products of our experience.

    I guess after all my hot air...
    My heart simply wonders.
    and if so...
    How much.

    Smoking flax...

  6. In the book of Acts...
    Was Paul and Peters, disagreements trivial?
    Should the outcome of been...let bygones, be bygones....?
    Was Paul right?
    was Peter?
    How nitty gritty, does one get?
    Can we know the Truth?
    How about now?
    IF Paul was right,...should we adhere to everything he taught?
    Even to Timothy?
    Even about " women covering there heads, for the sake of the Angeles? "
    Was that only for that time...in History?
    Was it meaningless teaching?
    Who judges that?
    A teacher?, a scholar?
    Did not Paul and Peter Love Jesus?
    so....."let it be"....
    Or did Scholars, hundred of years later, finally get it right?
    Now its all good...
    Well, we can choose ....
    Is Truth a choice though?
    Is it a constant?
    How was it possible, for the church to stray so much in the first 1,000 or so years?
    Did they know?
    Do we?

    Which teacher do you believe?
    I am sure it has no contention, on where you were born?......
    Who was your pastor as a child?


    Smoking flax...

  7. Smoking, I am not against having and defending good doctrines. Not at all. Jesus said, I am the way, the Truth, and the light. Jesus himself is the truth. And, he came to testify to the Truth, which is, to bear witness to the Father. So Truth is obviously important.

    But one main truth, is that God told us to love our neighbors, as well as God. Jesus re-inforce this, and the epistles of Paul re-inforced this (I Cor 13 is just one example). And the epistles of John really emphasized this.

    But not only are we to love our neighbors, Jesus specifically told us to love even our enemies. Loving our enemies doesn't mean we have to agree with them on everything. But it is certainly the opposite of hating or despising them.

    Even our church discipline must loving, and firm, and firmly loving.

    If we forget this, then we have missed the main doctrine, which is that God loved us enough to send His Son, and to Die on the cross for us even when we did not deserve it. And if we forget this, then we have also not discerned the body of Christ.

    We must not only be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word.

  8. I'm always in a hurry to get things done; I rush and rush until life's no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, but I'm in a hurry and I don't know why._Alabama.

  9. read thru your comments rather quickly just on a break from work.
    I struggle in my life to have a balance of grace and truth tilting the scales one way to far on either side causes us to be in error.... I do know what 1 Cor 13says...without love we are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal....I also read that Jesus washed the feet of Judas knowing full well his intentions and He asked forgiveness for those who hung Him on the cross.
    2 Peter tells us how we are to deal with false teachers we certainly are not to hang out with them...I believe that we are to speak the truth in love to the JWs and Catholics, and unbelievers etc...that is if we want to follow our Lord's example....even when Jesus was harsh to the religious leaders He never was cynical or unloving He spoke the Truth in love He is the perfect Son of God and we are fallen creatures....we are never going to do it all perfectly we just have to keep looking to Christ as our example.
    Romans 8:29 God Bless Jan

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