A new reality show is focusing on the lives of six mega church pastors who are living the high life. And that’s not a religious reference to personal piety. These guys are driving luxury cars and living in mansions. Here’s a trailer for the new show.
It would be helpful for anyone on the outside of faith looking in to know this is an extremely biased sample of Christian ministers. All of the pastors are from the Los Angeles area and, from what I can tell, a part of what is commonly referred to as the “Prosperity Gospel” movement, which emphasizes monetary riches as evidence of God’s favor.
This isn’t to say that believers cannot be blessed with wealth, the New Testament gives multiple examples of benefactors who used their resources to serve the less fortunate and advance the gospel. But Scripture provides no support for focusing on money as an end unto itself, or for boasting about a decadent lifestyle. And while the Bible does provide a basis for the financial support of gospel ministers, I’m not sure this entitles a preacher to live in the 90210 zip code.
I wish the show would include stories about pastors like John Piper who moved his family into the inner-city to better serve his community, or even Rick Warren who has given back every penny his church has ever paid him and no longer takes a salary due to the success of his book. As someone who attends a small church plant where our pastor doesn’t take a salary, I find the lavish lifestyles portrayed in the trailer video not only unfortunate, but also an obstacle to authentic conversations about the gospel.
The show will be another highly visible reminder that the Christian church is not without blemish nor beyond the reach of public criticism. I’m sure it will provide public skeptics additional resources for ridiculing the religious community. And who can blame them? If all I knew about Christianity came from religious broadcasting I’d likely throw in the towel and join them.
But this is also an opportunity for Christians to remind a watching world that our faith is not in found in a Ferrari driving televangelist, but in a lowly carpenter from Nowheresville, Middle East, who became a servant and died outside the city gates of Jerusalem to demonstrate the audacious love of God. And his humility continues to be the standard to which Christian leaders are called.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)