Here I Am To Worship (My Celebrity Pastor)

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This is a podcast episode titled, Here I Am To Worship (My Celebrity Pastor). The summary for this episode is: <p>America loves celebrity culture, but how did the church get there too? This week on Truth Over Tribe, you'll hear the first in our new series on celebrity pastors. In this episode,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/patrickkmiller_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Patrick</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/KeithSimon_/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Keith</a>&nbsp;discuss Carl Lentz and Hillsong Church as a case study, dissecting why we love witnessing the creation and dissolution of celebrity pastors and churches. Later, they explore the cyclical process of celebrity church culture: how Christians demand it and how the media then creates celebrities, consumes them, and ultimately, builds public distrust in the local church. Listen now!</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode?</strong> Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! πŸ™</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Plus, the conversation is just beginning! </strong>Follow us on <a href="https://twitter.com/truthovertribe_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChooseTruthOverTribe" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/?next=/truthovertribe_/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Instagram</a> to join in on the dialogue! <strong>If you disagree with anything in this episode, </strong>we'd love to hear your thoughts <a href="https://choosetruthovertribe.com/dissent" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">here. </a> <strong>Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe?</strong> Visit our <a href="https://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/subscribe?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">website</a> and subscribe to our weekly <a href="https://choosetruthovertribe.com/?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20-%20website" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">newsletter</a>.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Revolt-Public-Crisis-Authority-Millennium/dp/1732265143" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium </a></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Time-Build-Community-Recommitting-Institutions/dp/1541699270/ref=sr_1_1?crid=SEFJ9E2FYOCN&amp;keywords=a+time+to+build+yuval+levin&amp;qid=1654614210&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=a+time+to+build+%2Cstripbooks%2C92&amp;sr=1-1" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream</a></p><p><a href="http://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/blog_subscription" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Subscribe To Our Blog</a></p><p><a href="http://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/how-tribal-are-you" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Tribal Are You?</a></p>
Background on Carl Lentz and the Hillsong Church
03:58 MIN
Why do we love witnessing the dissolution of celebrity pastors?
01:21 MIN
How America came to love celebrity culture
03:48 MIN
Patrick coins the term "fauxthenicity"
04:07 MIN
Step 1: The creation of celebrity
01:57 MIN
Step 2: The fall of celebrity
03:16 MIN
Step 3: Celebrity is consumed by media
03:07 MIN
Step 4 & 5: Christians lose faith in their own church, then turn to other celebrity pastors
04:05 MIN
"The evangelical industrial complex"
01:56 MIN

Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?

Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.

Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.

Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?

Speaker 5: If they don't like it here, they can leave.

Speaker 6: You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?

Speaker 7: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican party? And the answer is absolutely not.

Speaker 8: From certainly a Biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.

Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.

Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.

Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.

Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon and we choose Truth Over Tribe.

Patrick Miller: Do you? Keith, on today's episode, we're talking about celebrity sex scandals, Christian media and the demolition of trust inside the church. You buckled up?

Keith Simon: Wow we are really going for it. We're going to pick on all the hard topics and the sexy topic.

Patrick Miller: That's the headline.

Keith Simon: Truth Over Tribe going under and so this is our last ditch effort to try to get listeners.

Patrick Miller: Inside Edition, Truth Over Tribe. No, no, no. I want us to do today, a meta analysis of a phenomenon that's actually happening over and over and over again. And we're going to take a different angle on it, frankly than I've heard anybody else take at this point. To do that though, I want to start with a case study and I want to start with Carl Lentz. Not everybody's going to know who Carl Lentz is. Carl Lentz is the guy who founded Hillsong Church in Brooklyn in New York. And if you don't know what Hillsong is, well, Hillsong is this church planting network but you probably know it for the music.

Keith Simon: Yeah, you've probably never heard their preaching to be honest. I couldn't tell you one pass outside of the ones that are in scandals but you have heard their music. They became famous for these big anthems. Songs like Oceans.

Speaker 9: (Singing).

Keith Simon: Or What a Beautiful Name.

Speaker 9: (Singing).

Keith Simon: Or you would go down the list. There's so many other ones that they've produced and high quality music. I don't know if it's your thing but high quality.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. I'm not a big CCM guy but let's go back to Carl Lentz. Carl Lentz is this guy who goes to Hillsong's leadership academy in Sydney, Australia. Hillsong starts in Australia. It's not really an American phenomenon. And while he's there, he's identified by Brian Houston, who's the guy who starts Hillsong. He's kind of the big celebrity pastor behind it in Australia, which again is a name we're probably not going to recognize here in the States but in Australia, everybody knows who Brian Houston is. And when he finds Carl Lentz, he realizes he's struck gold. Here's this charismatic guy. He's a strong speaker. He's really attractive. He's married to someone attractive but perhaps the most important thing is that he bleeds authenticity. Now he's actually a gen X guy, Carl Lentz is, but he looks like a millennial and he talks like them. He cries when he talks about his heart for people to know God, he gets onto talk shows and he's weeping over his desire for people to know Jesus. He's really open about his own personal struggles in his life. He talks about his sexual past. He exudes transparency. He seems like the kind of guy that you just hang out with and get close to.

Keith Simon: Boy, he's got all the characteristics of a fun guy, sharp guy, tattooed, good looking.

Patrick Miller: Fun glasses.

Keith Simon: Wears kind of edgy clothes. Very trendy, hip, stylish.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Hillsong is already this church network that's planted lots of giant churches but he's the guy that Brian Houston calls to go and plant the first Hillsong church in America and it's in New York City.

Keith Simon: Oh really? I didn't know that. First one?

Patrick Miller: Yeah. It's the very, very first one. This is in 2010 and when he starts it, this thing is hugely successful. It grows massively. They have to have their church in multiple venues because it's in New York City, there's not many spaces to meet.

Keith Simon: A few years ago when my boys and I were in New York City, I tried to find it because I thought it'd be kind of fun to go to, I hate to say this but I'm the pastor who never goes to church out of town. Never. But I wanted to go find.

Patrick Miller: That's my role. When I bought vacation, I don't go to church.

Keith Simon: No, I feel bad saying that because I think it says something bad about me but I'm authentic. I could cry when I tell you that. But anyway, we tried to go find it. We couldn't find it but I wanted to see Hillsong in action because all the cool kids go there.

Patrick Miller: Well, that's kind of what happens. It not only grows massively, he starts becoming Instagram famous, getting hundreds of thousands of followers. And the thing that really puts him on the map is that he becomes best friends with Justin Bieber. And so on his Instagram, on Justin's Instagram, they're hanging out all the time and very quickly his church becomes a church for celebrities. And so there's people who are showing up not to hear about Jesus but they want to see Justin Bieber show up or Jay- Z show up or Oprah Winfrey show up or whatever celeb is going to be there that day.

Keith Simon: Yeah. A crowd attracts a crowd and celebrities attract celebrities. And so you would see Carl Lentz and Hillsong associate with people like Drake and Kevin Durant, big names. And I don't know, I'm not going to be quite as cynical as you, maybe they wanted to hear about Jesus. I don't know.

Patrick Miller: Well I'm saying this and we'll get into this just from interviews and people who went to the church, look, Carl Lentz had the afterglow of celebrities because he was around these people. It wasn't just them. He himself was becoming a celebrity.

Keith Simon: Somebody's got to reach the celebrities, Patrick. Somebody has to reach those on the private planes.

Patrick Miller: That's right. That's right. That's not my worry here. And so as his fame starts elevating because of the celebrities, he ends up getting into all of these media outlets. He's on the Today Show, he's on the Morning Show. There's profiles done of him in GQ. He's getting lots of media attention for his look, for his relationships. And it's actually really interesting because everybody knows where this is going. The scandal is coming up but what's really interesting is to watch, if you go back on his Instagram and you look at how his message developed, you really realize he just had a pulse for what was happening in the culture and speaking to it. ] And so for example, in 2020, after the pandemic and the George Floyd protests all start up, he does this wild 180 from being a pastor who kind of sounds a little health and wealthy, prosperity type stuff, to suddenly he's become this activist. Everything is activism. Everything is about George Floyd. Everything is about, we need to be out there protesting. Pictures of himself out there. And I simply say it to say he just had this ability to know where the press was going to be and how to get himself into the press. Because by doing that, he starts getting interviewed on all these shows as being the pastor whose pro Black Lives Matter.

Keith Simon: Well, I think the criticism of Hillsong had been that it was kind of a soft prosperity gospel and maybe not all the way of someone like Joel Osteen.

Patrick Miller: No, not to that extreme.

Keith Simon: Definitely had a feel good message. And maybe they shaped that message. This was the criticism, they shaped that message to fit the crowd. And so if you want celebrities to come, you're probably not going to get a big crowd of celebrities by saying," Hey, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." You're going to get a bigger crowd by saying," Jesus is the one who's happy with your wealth and success."

Patrick Miller: Lay down your cross and follow the celebrity.

Keith Simon: Well, right. And so then they go to the Black Lives Matter and all that kind of racial stuff and the question is, how much do they actually believe any of that? Or was it just that they knew where the crowd was going and so they jumped in front of it?

Patrick Miller: Well, and that seems to be what happened. And at the exact same time, Carl is becoming a celebrity. He's rolling up to all of his performances, I mean sermons, and he's coming out in a limo, he's got an entourage, he's going around wearing$ 10,000 sweaters. He's now taken on kind of the look and the persona of a celebrity. Now comes the scandal. Let's go to 2020. This is late 2020 and it comes out that he'd been cheating on his wife with a woman that he met in a park while they were exercising. She was out exercising, he just starts talking to her.

Keith Simon: You believe that story? I read that story.

Patrick Miller: That's how she tells the story.

Keith Simon: Oh really.

Patrick Miller: Because he tried to cover up who it was and she's like," Nah, I'm going to tell everybody what happened."

Keith Simon: Well, because she wants to be a celebrity.

Patrick Miller: She wants to be a celebrity too.

Keith Simon: It came back to bite him.

Patrick Miller: It really did. And so he was committing adultery for about five months before this period.

Keith Simon: Did he end up on PreachersNSneakers?

Patrick Miller: Or oh yeah, he was all over PreachersNSneakers.

Keith Simon: He was one of the originals?

Patrick Miller: Yeah. He actually called the guy who runs PreachersNSneakers and tried to buddy buddy up with him and say," Hey, I'm trying to reach these people. I'm not trying to do anything bad. I hear your critique." And the PreachersNSneakers guy kind of laid off him.

Keith Simon: Huh. I interviewed that guy.

Patrick Miller: I know. I know. It's a funny world. But isn't it interesting, PreachersNSneakers has its own way of creating media attention.

Keith Simon: Celebrities.

Patrick Miller: In creating celebrities because he's showing people who the big, bad celebs are in his mind.

Keith Simon: Yeah. Maybe you want to be on that. I don't know.

Patrick Miller: Anyways, what ends up happening is someone finds some emails on his computer and they reveal because he's communicating with this gal that he's been sleeping with her. They take that to Hillsong, Hillsong ends up telling him that he needs to leave. There are further investigations and they uncover that he had a string, a long history of consensual and maybe non- consensual affairs, both inside and outside the church.

Keith Simon: What's a non- consensual affair? Is that rape? Or is it kind of the relationship he had with his nanny? Where it was manipulative, power dynamics involved?

Patrick Miller: Exactly. I'm your boss. You work for me, you're in my family. I'm also going to kind of use my power and my prestige to manipulate you into giving me the things I want sexually.

Keith Simon: Yeah, okay. It's not rape but it's dark, evil wrong.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. I think some people call, I don't know, that's what they discover. And on top of that, there's accusations of bullying, of him over working staff, of him abusing power in lots of different ways. And Hillsong comes out and says," Oh man, we really had no idea that any of this was happening."

Keith Simon: They aren't even even keeping a straight face. Really?

Patrick Miller: No, this is the best part. They leak a video of Brian Houston privately telling people," Oh, I had no idea about this." And it comes out as a quote unquote leak. As it came out, people said,"This isn't a leak, this is a press release."

Keith Simon: Press release.

Patrick Miller: And as you can imagine, after the scandal happens, this gets picked up by the media big time. All of these exact same magazines, newspaper, morning shows, they're all talking about Carl Lentz but it's how the pastor who talked about," Hey, you can still be sexually pure. You can still follow Jesus in your sex life," was actually sleeping with everyone, manipulating people with his power. See, we knew that the celeb pastor thing wasn't real. He's a faker and he becomes the biggest news story in the middle of the pandemic for probably about a month afterwards.

Keith Simon: Didn't they do a documentary or something on this too?

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And so that is the next step in this progression. Let me see what we're not doing. There are lots of things out there that talk about how celebrity cultures inside of churches can lead to abuse. That's a really important topic. That's not our topic. We're going one step above that. We're going to kind of do a meta analysis and that's where Keith is going right now. About two years later, the Discovery Channel comes out with a documentary on Hillsong, which really focuses in the first two episodes on Carl Lentz. And so now, this is interesting. You're watching the media that made Carl Lentz into a celebrity, suddenly consume Carl Lentz and use his story to get clicks, to get interest because these stories sell. People want to hear about celebrity pastors who fell, who made terrible decisions. And if you watch a documentary, it's actually interesting because a lot of it is interviews with people who don't even know Carl Lentz and don't even really know what happened. It's clear that what they're trying to do, because they couldn't get people close to the scandal to actually talk about it, it's clear that what they're trying to do is just make a little bit of a buck off this awful story of something that happened in New York City.

Keith Simon: It sounds like you've actually watched this documentary.

Patrick Miller: Oh, I watched it.

Keith Simon: You watched the whole thing. And so it sounds like that the media that built him up really didn't care about him. They cared about profit. They cared about clicks. They cared about eyeballs. And so then as soon as he fell, they turned around and consumed him. And they just used him both on the way up and on the way down to accomplish their objectives.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And this is not the first nor will it be the last case of this pattern that we're talking about.

Keith Simon: Oh no. It might sound very familiar to those who've listened to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

Patrick Miller: Which is what we need to talk about next. But I want to ask this question, why do you think people love these documentaries or podcasts that detail the dissolution of celebrity pastors? By the way, I hope people are getting this. Keith and I are not on here defending Carl Lentz.

Keith Simon: Oh gosh no.

Patrick Miller: I think what he did was awful. We're not pro celebrity pastors. What we're trying to do is I'm the guy who watched the Discovery Channel thing. Why is it that I want to watch that?

Keith Simon: Well, I think that part of what you're saying is that we as Christians and as a community, feed the beast that builds up and then tears down these pastors for our own personal enjoyment. And so to some extent, I think we like to watch these documentaries or the fall of someone, in a similar way that we like to watch other reality television shows like maybe The Bachelor. You see a guy come on or a woman come on and have all this potential for good and they get to meet all these people and date them and yet it all falls apart. There's a meltdown and we like watching the person being built up and then the person falling and making fun of them.

Patrick Miller: I think part of it is that we all have longing for justice and so there is this part.

Keith Simon: Oh no, it's zero of that. It is self righteousness. We feel so much better about ourselves because I feel better about myself because I'm not Carl Lentz.

Patrick Miller: That's exactly right.

Keith Simon: And I'm not the latest bachelor to fall or bachelorette or whatever. I feel better about myself and my life.

Patrick Miller: But where I'm going is this is the justification. Why do we need to have these podcasts? Why do we need to have these documentaries?

Keith Simon: Oh I see.

Patrick Miller: It's because we need to uncover what's happening in churches. We need to do justice to the victims of these people because they were taken advantage of in public. We need a kind of public shaming.

Keith Simon: We need tell their story and bring power to account. But really the people producing this are just trying to make money and manipulate you to get it.

Patrick Miller: The cynical Keith thing. I think there's actually something there that we really have to wrestle with. And that's what we want to actually talk about in this episode. But let me say the next step that happens. People are going to watch this Discovery Channel documentary, which to be honest with you wasn't even very good. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill was 10X better than this documentary was. And I think it's because it was made by people who weren't Christian so they kind of missed the tune at times that a Christian would pick up on. But the question then becomes, what happens after people watch this? And we know just anecdotally what happens. They start losing trust in their own churches because they're really close to their church and they know their pastor. Man, he's not perfect, maybe he's kind of like Carl Lentz and they start becoming cynical and skeptical of what's happening behind the closed doors at my churches? Are they trying to cover things up like Hillsong? Is there darkness there? Of course you could be right or you could be wrong, but that's what ends up happening.

Keith Simon: Yeah. Our church is so different than Hillsong that I haven't heard many people reference it in relationship to their lack of trust in the local church. But The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, which we'll get to is right up their alley. They've listened to it and they are more suspicious of me because of what they heard about a church in Seattle. It's insane.

Patrick Miller: And it's ironic. Because here's what happens. I love the celebrity, the celebrity fell, because he fell I'm skeptical of my local church that I know better because I know its little faults and foibles and problems and so what do I do after that? I turn to another celebrity who looks perfect. Who seems so authentic. And he's not like my pastor, he's not like that guy. We saw this happen. We were on Twitter asking people about celebrities and we were saying," Give us a definition that tells the difference between maybe a Tim Keller and a mark Driscoll. And one of the responses that was really well meaning on there was someone saying," Well, there still are some really good celebrities." And he gave a list of celebrities that clearly these are good guys. And I kind of responded, I go," Well, I don't know their hearts and what's going on but what in the world makes you think that you know these people well enough to say that they have the right motives or the right heart? But you're convinced that you know these people."

Keith Simon: And yet those same people when that new celebrity falls or the past ones who fell, come into my office and say," How do I know that you're not like this person? What is our church doing to hold you accountable?" And I think in some sense, that's valid question.

Patrick Miller: That's a fair question.

Keith Simon: There's no problem with asking that question. It's just that the celebrity falling, undermines people's trust in their local churches and that causes them to turn to more celebrities and it recycles the whole process, disengages people from their local communities and is bad for people spiritually. It makes people more jaded, more cynical, less connected, less involved. It's a miserable cycle.

Patrick Miller: It absolutely is. And so we want to ask, why is this happening? As Keith just alluded, you might think we're taking a really cynical take on the media. When we come back to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and we look at some of the things that happened, just we'll look at some numbers. It will make you ask some serious questions about what's the motive behind Christian media that are promoting some of these falls? What are they getting in the deal? And is it worth the cost? But I think the fundamental reason why we're having this conversation is acculturation. The church has become like culture. We live in a celebrity culture and now we have a church culture that demands its own celebrities.

Keith Simon: Okay. Let's take a step back for a moment and just ask the question, how did America come to be in love with celebrity culture? How did celebrity culture rise in our country? Because when the culture loves Kim Kardashian and other celebrities, then that kind of celebrity culture is going to find its way inside the church. There is a direct connection between our culture's love of celebrity and the church's love of celebrity. And there's a guy on Twitter named Paul Putz who listens to Truth Over Tribe and he writes on sports history and teaches at Baylor. And he put us onto a book called Self Exposure by a guy named Charles Ponce de Leon. And so what he does is he takes us back to a time before celebrity culture kind of took over. And back in the day, we didn't have celebrities, instead we had heroes and heroes were defined by what they did, by their accomplishments, by their achievements. Celebrities became people who were just famous for being famous. They were more well known for their inner life, their private life. They were well known because of the media attention they got, not because they were people who had actually accomplished much.

Patrick Miller: The celebrity is a function of the media. Without media, there is no such thing as a celebrity, without mass media. So if you go back to the era before the printing press, just think, how did someone become famous? Well, they had to have enough power, wealth and prestige to literally project their image, whether that's through statues, through inscriptions, through political power. That's the only way everybody would know who you were back in the day. Now, once you have printing presses, all of a sudden you are able to distribute mass media and as literacy increases, that also increases. An interesting figure to go to is Elizabeth I. Now I know this is really going to bore everyone because who even knows who Elizabeth I is but I was an English major.

Keith Simon: Private school Patrick does.

Patrick Miller: I was an English major. And if you go back to this period, you have authors like Sir Walter Raleigh or Christopher Marlowe and they're all writing these love poems that are just gushing over Queen Elizabeth. And you kind of wonder why? And the answer is that Queen Elizabeth understood the printing press. She got that if I could get a cadre of artists and creators around me to write all of these amazing pieces about how magisterial and powerful and lovely I am, the public would buy it. The public would agree with it. She created a celebrity image of herself. She's one of the first people to do it.

Keith Simon: And isn't this back in the day when biography is more hagiography? They told the best version of a person and how different that is today when biography is kind of do better if they expose the flaws of the person.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And you're hitting that there's also kind of a dark side for the powerful and prestigious when it comes to mass media. Louis XIV, he wanted just like Elizabeth I, to make his name great and wonderful but the opposite happened through mass media. Mass media essentially began to publish all of the gossip, all of the court intrigue, all of the bad things that were happening amongst him and the other aristocrats as a way of discrediting them and it literally leads to revolution.

Keith Simon: It's kind of like what happened to Carl Lentz, the same media that builds you up is the same media that can also tear you down.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And what's also interesting here is that it's during this period, the 1700s, that people begin to come up with the concept of private life and public personas. Benjamin Franklin, he wrote about this shockingly in a really frank way, Franklin way? That'd be a good pun. Anyways, let's keep going. What he said in his autobiography is that it's important if you want to be a public figure to present yourself in a particular way. This has to do with how you dress. He wore animal skins to kind of project this frontiersman, I'm an American, I'm tough. I live in the wild.

Keith Simon: But really he was a big pansy, you're saying.

Patrick Miller: Well, it's not true, he wasn't a frontiersman. But he acknowledged, hey, you have to create a public persona. But if you have a public persona, what does the public want? Well, they begin to want to know the spilled tea on your private persona and the person who really first capitalizes on this is Jean- Jacques Rousseau, another Frenchman. He writes a book called The Confessions where he claimed that he's letting people into the deepest, darkest secrets of his private life. Now of course that's not true. It's a very curated image of who he is but by saying it's his private life, it lended it a validity.

Keith Simon: Well, hopefully you're already starting to see the connections between the celebrity pastor and the history that Patrick is laying out for you because that's oftentimes what celebrities do. Now, it could be politics, it can be religion, it can be in any arena but what a celebrity pastor does is he makes you think that you are getting to know the real him on stage but the truth is you don't know the real him at all but you think, you know him because he's told you all these stories about his personal life. But as soon as he walks off that stage, then what's he really like? The reality is that you don't know but you continue to consume his books or his podcasts and of course this relates to men and women and Christian leaders other than just pastors but you get the point.

Patrick Miller: And it's only exasperated by the way, by social media, because social media is this very intimate experience. That close up shot of someone talking into a phone, doing a little Instagram Reel. You're in their house. You're seeing them when they haven't shaved that day. And so you get this feeling that all of a sudden, I'm really close to this person. I'm seeing the most intimate details of their life. And again, Rousseau, Franklin, they all understood that there was such a thing as a public persona and a private persona and the better you were at shaping both of them, the better you could be at controlling your own press.

Keith Simon: Well, it sounds like what you're saying is that people put off an image that they thought would be appealing or attractive at their time. For Franklin, it was, I'm a rough outdoorsman. For Carl Lentz, i am a tenderhearted warrior. I don't know. I don't get it. Or I'm a sex star or I am very vulnerable and open about my past. But what they're doing is curating an image that is consumed publicly that may or may not have anything to do with who they are in their private world.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And that's exactly right. The private life is often tuned to whatever the culture in the moment wants. Whatever kind of private life the culture wants you to have, that's the private life that you project for the culture. Carl Lentz isn't on there saying," I'm a serial adulterer. I am mentally and physically abusive. I'm whatever these other things are that I've done." Of course he's not being authentic. But let's keep going because we still haven't even gotten up to the present. Coming into the 1800s, we see in America the growth of newspapers. And I think this is really funny. The very first newspaper that ever was printed in America was printed once a month and it might be less than that because it really just depends on whether or not there's any news to report. Think about that. He's saying," There's not enough news to report more than once a month and there might be less."

Keith Simon: Years ago, I read a book called How The News Makes Us Dumb and its whole point was that the newspaper and now it's not just a newspaper, it's media, websites, it's all this. They have to sustain their own business and so they have to create news to cause you to come back. And it's not just about reporting the news, it's about building their corporation. And so there's a need to manufacture news. And as soon as there's a need to manufacture news, there's a need to manufacture celebrities and there's a need to manufacture events that they can tell you our news to keep you buying their product.

Patrick Miller: You're beginning to see the cycle. As newspapers grow, especially in the late 1800s, that's when they really begin to proliferate in America, there's this increasing need for news. And by the time you get to the early 1900s, you have some newspapers that are releasing seven newspapers a day. Just stop and think how much news do they need? And so Daniel J. Bornstein in his book, The Image, this is exactly what he's talking about. He says to help these newspapers succeed, people had to create what he calls pseudo events. These are events that aren't really news. They aren't really newsworthy. They're entirely crafted. They're entirely invented for the sake of creating news. And it's a win win. The newspaper gets a news story and the person throwing the pseudo event, they get publicity, they get press.

Keith Simon: I think in that book, he mentioned Joseph McCarthy kind of the red scare and what he would do is he would call a press conference in the morning to tell everybody that he was going to have some big news that evening and then the evening would come and if he didn't really have any news, he would say," Hey, we're really close to having something but we don't quite have," whoever the new communist that they were going to go after was," come back tomorrow morning." And so it just became this cycle where they each benefited the other and you can't help but think that's not somewhat similar to the relationship that Trump had with the news media, that they encouraged one another and helped one another build one another's business model and celebrity status.

Patrick Miller: Well, yeah. That's why the New York Times subscriptions, they went from something like 2 million to 7 million subscribers during the Trump presidency because they were in a reciprocal relationship. And I love the story you just said because the news was, there's going to be news. We are fabricating events that aren't really newsworthy but the newspapers have to have something to report on. And in the exact same way they need someone to report on.

Keith Simon: They started doing these feature articles or human interest stories about people. Now there was really nothing newsworthy in those articles. It just told the story of someone through an interview, someone famous, someone well known and that person got to project their public image through the media in a carefully curated way. Now the newspaper or the media doesn't want to be too hard on these people because otherwise no one's going to sit down with them and share their story so they try to present mostly a positive picture of them.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And obviously that changes over time as you get into more celebrity gossip, although again, you have to ask the question how much of this is leaked and released? But this is what Daniel J. Bornstein calls the pseudo person. The details of this person and their life, their public persona and their private persona are all highly curated and they're created so that the news has now someone to report on. Now everything this person does can now be considered news because they're a celebrity, because they're well known. And so again, you're seeing the reciprocal relationship here. This comes to a head in 1955 when two men, Earl Blackwell and Cleveland Amory release what's called The Celebrity Ledger. Now we probably don't realize this, but up until this time, it was normal to release something called The Social Ledger and was a book which kind of said the who's who in society in the United States of America. And it was a way of trying to quantify someone's social standing like, oh, they're from the Hearst family or they're from the fill in the blank, the Vanderbilt family. And it was a way of saying who's important, who's who.

Keith Simon: Based on their family, kind of aristocratic in some ways.

Patrick Miller: And 1959 marks a shift from us thinking about who's who being an aristocratic thing to being a celebrity thing because they create what's called The Celebrity Ledger.

Keith Simon: Here's a quote from that book," We think we have a better yardstick than The Social Register or who's who or any such book. Our point is that it is impossible to be accurate in listing a man's social standing, even if anyone cared, and it's impossible to list accurately the success or value of men but you can judge a man as a celebrity. All you have to do is weigh his press clippings."

Patrick Miller: It's scientific.

Keith Simon: Yeah, it's an objective standard. How often does this person appear in the media? And they are therefore part of The Celebrity Ledger, they're important, they have value. And so you can imagine that a person wants to stay in the media so that they can be thought of in this way.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Now all of a sudden social standing equals attention.

Keith Simon: Hmm. That's really big.

Patrick Miller: Now all of a sudden, authority, if you want to be the authoritative scientist on this issue, equals attention. You have to be the scientist who gets the most attention. All of a sudden importance equals visibility. This is a major phase shift because we're moving away from having people get the attention you might say, who deserve it because of their work, because of their expertise or whatever else, to the people getting attention who already have attention. Those who are most well suited to creating pseudo events and being pseudo people.

Keith Simon: Would you say then that this is how you go from having presidents who are qualified because of their work experience and the situations they've been in, their education to having presidents who are celebrities? They know how to get into the media, stay in the media, project a media image, which I would have to say is kind of common these days. We don't have presidents who are really prepared for the moment, we have presidents who are famous.

Patrick Miller: And obviously we could look at Donald Trump but you can find examples of this on both sides.

Keith Simon: Well, it worked for Obama too.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. I would actually say, if you go back to Obama's presidency and his campaign, it was the definition of creating pseudo events and at times being a kind of pseudo person, a projection of a certain kind of person that people wanted to vote for.

Keith Simon: Obama and Trump were very different in so many ways but I don't know.

Patrick Miller: They had some similarities.

Keith Simon: Either one was really prepared to be the president.

Patrick Miller: Okay. Let's go ahead and fast forward to the present because we're telling the story of how we became a celebrity culture. If you fast forward to the present, all of a sudden you have magazines that are all about celebrity gossip. You have news shows like Inside Edition, you have blogs, you have reality TV shows, you have podcasts and social media accounts all dedicated to celebrity news and celebrity gossip. But we also in this era have a new kind of celebrity who grabs a new kind of attention, and that's the influencer. Now influencers are literally people who are famous for being famous and their authority is incredibly quantifiable because you can just go look, how many followers do they have? How many people are watching their videos? How many likes and comments do they get? It is no longer newspaper clippings that matter, that you put into the weight scale, it's followers, it's likes, it's clicks.

Keith Simon: How do you get to be an influencer? I assume that it has.

Patrick Miller: You're trying?

Keith Simon: Everything to do with, no, physical attractiveness. Is that true? Do you know any influencers that are just normal looking people?

Patrick Miller: To be honest, I'm going to sound like I'm being righteous, I don't follow any influencers so I honestly don't know much about them.

Keith Simon: Well I'm not on Instagram, isn't that where they all are?

Patrick Miller: That's where a lot of them are, on TikTok. But I think that's right. From the little I've seen, yes, there's something about attractiveness. But let's just stop. What's the appeal of an influencer? I would say it's a seductive mix between distance and intimacy. The distance is, look how famous this person is. Look how many followers they have. And the intimacy is, I'm in your hand. Your face is right up against that camera and I feel like you're talking to me personally. I'm in your house, I'm seeing your kids, I'm seeing your spouse. And so there's distance, you're this amazing powerful person because you have all this attention and attention is value, attention is authority now. But also I feel intimate with you. Isn't that intoxicating?

Keith Simon: I think it sounds really lonely. Your friend, your buddy is somebody you see through this screen and yet it is the way that a lot of life comes mediated to us through that screen and you do feel closer to people that you don't know than people that you do know. And it seems like that's been the case for a while but the pandemic and people being disconnected and at home consuming the content of these influencers has really accelerated it.

Patrick Miller: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I think you're right to point out that this is all in a lot of ways fake. They are exuding authenticity. I'm here letting you into my life and I'm being so transparent and so approachable and so real but it's faux authenticity, which is why I'm going to start calling it fauxthenticity for the rest of the episode. I'm making fauxthenticity happen, Keith.

Keith Simon: You're going to go for it. Well, you're right, it's curated authenticity. How authentic is something that you've rehearsed, that you've done several takes on, that you maybe put some makeup on, you checked the lighting? How authentic is that?

Patrick Miller: You can see the ring lights in their eyes.

Keith Simon: It's obviously not. They're telling you what they want you to know.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, absolutely. It's all fake. Nothing authentic has ever happened on the internet, period. End of sentence. I defy anyone to prove me wrong.

Keith Simon: Well.

Patrick Miller: What?

Keith Simon: I would say that things that are captured live. In other words, things that are not rehearsed, not practiced, not rerecorded. Let's take another take on that. I think there are probably some things on the internet that are.

Patrick Miller: Here's my point.

Keith Simon: Real, that are genuine.

Patrick Miller: Okay. If what we're saying is that footage has been captured that's put on the internet. Okay, I take my point back. There's footage that's been captured of all different kinds of things. The minute you put, and I know this, because we've had cameras in our faces. The minute you put a camera in front of you, you change, you are now performing.

Keith Simon: Yeah, 100% that.

Patrick Miller: And so it doesn't matter.

Keith Simon: As soon as you know that, as you call in the cameras and you set up the lights, then there's nothing authentic about that.

Patrick Miller: Let me change my statement. Nothing authentic has ever happened on the internet to someone who knows that they're being filmed.

Keith Simon: Correct. Correct.

Patrick Miller: Is that a helpful qualifier?

Keith Simon: Or even a picture that's taken. Forget the internet, just if somebody takes a picture, what do you do? Well, this is my good side. Is that my bad side?

Patrick Miller: Do have a good side and a bad side?

Keith Simon: Can I hide that zit on my face?

Patrick Miller: I don't have a good side and a bad side.

Keith Simon: You think that. No, you don't.

Patrick Miller: They're both bad sides. All right. Let's try get some big takeaways from this very brief history. Again, go read Self Exposure and pick up The Image by Daniel J. Bornstein. But let's do some takeaways from these books and from this quick overview. The first thing is this, the celebrity is a creature of attention. They are known for being well known. Now this doesn't mean that they haven't accomplished anything or done anything. It means that they have gotten into the media and they have become in a sense, a pseudo person who is skilled at drawing media attention to themselves.

Keith Simon: And therefore the celebrity is dependent upon media, newspapers, websites, podcasts, videos. The media creates celebrities and they have this relationship where they help each other. It's a mutually beneficial relationship where the celebrity gets people to come to the media, the media puts more attention on the celebrity, like Carl Lentz, just to go back to him. They build them up and then they watch them fall. And the media doesn't care. It gets it clicks either way.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. The media can destroy celebrities in two ways. It either ignores them, that's one way to destroy a celebrity.

Keith Simon: Oh, that's true.

Patrick Miller: Or it scandalizes them and it consumes them for profit, for the eyes that want to watch it happen. The next thing I would just say this, is that the celebrity is a creature of fauxthenticity. The celebrity is faking. They have a public persona that's a performance, they have a private persona that's a performance. And we're drawn into them because of that tantalizing paradox of distance and intimacy all at once.

Keith Simon: Andy Crouch was writing in The Gospel Coalition and he's talking about these Christian conferences that he goes to and he's a speaker at. And he says if you go back in the kind of the waiting room, sometimes they call it the green room where people are waiting before they go out. Everybody is kind of to themselves. It's very buffered. People aren't communicating, talking, there's handlers in the way, they're in their own zone and then they walk out on stage and they're very authentic.

Patrick Miller: Schwarmy.

Keith Simon: Or smarmy.

Patrick Miller: Smarmy. Or as Patrick's calling it, fauxthentic? Is that what you say?

Keith Simon: Fauxthentic.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And so they're sharing all these personal, intimate details. Maybe they're emotional and then they walk off stage and they're back to their buffered, privatized, stay out of my way, I don't really want to talk to anybody self. And that's that dynamic that you're talking about, the fauxthenticity is that it's curated for a specific time and a specific people but it's not really who they are when the spotlight isn't on them. The last thing I would say is this, before we go to look at how this is really infiltrating the church. It's simply that celebrities are creatures for consumption. They exist because the public wants them. The public wants to see them rise, the public wants to see them fall. The reason why we have celebrity pastors is not because of celebrity churches or narcissistic pastor. That's part of it and people have detailed that. Remember this isn't about how these institutions create fertile ground for abuse. What I'm saying is there is no such thing as Mark Driscoll if there's not a public who wants Mark Driscoll. There's no such thing as Mark Driscoll unless there is a Christian media apparatus that needs news about Mark Driscoll. That's why they exist.

Keith Simon: And we can have a whole nother conversation about why is it that we want them? And maybe we will eventually but there's something fun about saying that you are a follower of this big name guy in Seattle, Mark Driscoll or Carl Lentz in New York. That your pastor is the pastor of Justin Bieber. There's something that gives you a sense of pride or identity if you can link yourself to these famous people. There's even one guy in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill who says," What am I without Mark Driscoll?" He has so attached himself to this speaker, that he doesn't even really know, this pastor he doesn't even really know and he gets his identity from it. And I think also one reason that we in the church want to follow famous pastors is because they don't know us either and so they don't get into our lives. They don't call us on things that we are struggling with. They don't rebuke us or correct us so we get to keep them at a safe distance.

Patrick Miller: Distant and yet intimate. Here's the deal. We've shown a little bit of the history of how America became a celebrity culture and we've already argued that the church has been acculturated. The church has become a celebrity culture. Now I think it'd be a really interesting episode to do the history of how that happened and maybe we'll do that in the future but that would be way, way, way too long. I think I can simply state it and everybody agrees, the church has a celebrity church culture. And to understand how it functions and how these dynamics that we already show existed out there inside the secular culture, to see how they are coming and working inside of the church, I want to look at one more specific example, which is Mark Driscoll and The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

Keith Simon: Okay. We'll get back to the show in a second. Hey, when we started this podcast, we had this theory we were going to have a dissents page in which we were going to interact with people who disagreed with this but we've never been able to get it off the ground so could you help us?

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Just tell us how you disagree. I've asked so many people," Hey, here's this page, go tell us how you disagree." And no one will tell us how they disagree even though I know they do. Now, I know it takes a little bit of time to write a dissent but if you do it, we may share that in an upcoming newsletter. You can reach all of our listeners who heard all of the awful things that we said and tell them all the ways we're wrong, isn't that fun?

Keith Simon: It's your opportunity to tell everybody what idiots we are. And here's the deal, I promise that I will be charitable. In other words, we don't want to embarrass you or try to dunk on you. We want to interact with you. Now I don't know what Patrick will do to you but I promise, I promise I'll have velvet gloves on.

Patrick Miller: Click the link in the show notes if you disagree with what we're saying or what we've said in the past and share your dissent.

Keith Simon: Otherwise we're going to kill this whole dissents thing so please help revive it.

Patrick Miller: Keith, I want to look at how this celebrity culture and the cycles that it creates have been acculturated, they've been brought into the church. And I want to look at one specific example because I think it epitomizes it in a really fascinating way. And that's a story of Mark Driscoll. And so I've thought about this as kind of being a five step process and we're going to look through each one in pretty quick fashion but I think once you see the numbers and the details are going to be a little bit shocked how true this is. Step one is that you have a celebrity who's created by the media. Step two is at that that celebrity fails, there's a scandal. Step three is that the celebrity is consumed by the media. Step four, is that Christians lose trust in their own churches, which leads to step five, they turn to more celebrity pastors.

Keith Simon: It's a self perpetuating cycle, right?

Patrick Miller: Bingo.

Keith Simon: And how do we get out of it? Maybe that's not a conversation that we can have right now but we just need to explore it first.

Patrick Miller: Well, I'm hoping that by doing an analysis on this, by talking about it, that might actually help people pull themselves out of the celebrity pastor system. They don't realize what's happening.

Keith Simon: By their behavior, they're getting more of what they say they don't want and yet they're the ones creating the very thing that they hate.

Patrick Miller: Well and we're saying they, let me start with me. This is me. I loved Mark Driscoll. I listened to most of his sermons. I was a massive Mark Driscoll fan from basically about 2006 to maybe 2011 when I think I just got too busy, I don't know what was going on. It wasn't for any particular reason. And so this is me. And so when he fell, I very much so got sucked into the consumption of Mark Driscoll. And so I've had to reflect on this for myself. This is going to sound condemnatory, how did these people not see? No, this is me 100%.

Keith Simon: Did you go around kind of threatening to beat everybody up?

Patrick Miller: No.

Keith Simon: Like Mark Driscoll did?

Patrick Miller: But I really did idolize Mark Driscoll. I thought he was the ideal pastor. I thought he was the right way to be. I thought his sermons were God's gift to mankind. I'm not kidding. I'm just being honest. Let's start with step one, which is the creation of Mark Driscoll. If you don't know who he is, he plants a church in Seattle called Mars Hill but this church has no real institutional connections. He has no seminary training. He's entirely self taught and the church begins to grow relatively quickly. This is my point that a lot of times celebrities do come out of people who are doing some real life things but why does it grow? Well it's partially because of Mark Driscoll's style. He's kind of this grungy gen X, standup comedian type. He's irreverent. He talks about sex. He talks about drinking. He's not buttoned up, he's fauxthentic.

Keith Simon: And he comes along at the exact time, if Mark Driscoll and all of his gifts and talents had come along 30 years earlier.

Patrick Miller: 10 years earlier.

Keith Simon: It wouldn't have made a splash at all but he comes along at the time that new media is beginning to offer people access to the common individual. He took advantage of that through blogs or through podcasts, he distributed his sermons and had all these people like you and to be honest, me, who were listening and consuming his sermons from afar. Nobody else was really onto this at the time. He hired some really sharp and talented people who presented an image of him through media.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And so this is happening between 1999 and 2005 and he's getting more and more attention but he's creating it. Again, he's one of the first people to realize that in the internet era, you don't need the press to create attention. That makes sense to us now because we live in the social media era but he got to it before any other pastor. He's one of the only people on podcasts, like you said. And so he's building his own celebrity. And again, it's kind of this virtuous cycle because the more that he becomes well known, the more people are coming to his church, the bigger his church gets, the more attention he gets, the more authority he has. It's a cycle that helps him to grow. Between 1999, 2005 Christianity Today, which is the premier Christian media organizations, that's why we're using it. It's also the organization that will later publish The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, the podcast that eviscerates him. Between 1999, 2005, they have five references to Mark Driscoll in the news magazine.

Keith Simon: But during this time, his church is growing.

Patrick Miller: Growing.

Keith Simon: It's becoming really big. It's just that he's figured out a way to circumvent the normal means for doing that. He is appealing directly to the individual Christian. He doesn't have to depend on the normal media avenues that Christians used to depend on but eventually Christianity Today does start paying attention to him.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. When you go to 2005, this is when TGC, The Gospel Coalition, launches. And as an article in Christianity Today said in 2006, it was a group of quote unquote, high profile pastors trying to create some unity amongst a church. That they weren't being divided by denominational differences that often separated others. And Mark Driscoll is brought into this group, to The Gospel Coalition as one of their key figures. And he's kind of like jet fuel to them because he was so popular. But from that point forward, from 2006 all the way to 2013, so we're going to look at another roughly seven year period, he is in the media a ton. All of a sudden he goes from the previous seven years, only five references to him, to between 2006 and 2013, 109 references to him in Christianity Today.

Keith Simon: And you have to go back and ask, why did The Gospel Coalition bring Mark Driscoll in? Because he was so different than any of the other people in there.

Patrick Miller: No seminary training, no denominational credentials.

Keith Simon: All of those people had education, maybe some were professors. They were people who had established ministries and connections and ties. And you have to think that the reason they brought him in is because he was popular. Because what has happened now is authority is no longer found in education or denomination or ordination. Authority is found in who can get the most attention. It's an attention driven economy and your authority comes based on your followers and his sermons were being consumed, like we already said, by tens of thousands of people.

Patrick Miller: He's topping out podcast charts.

Keith Simon: That's why they brought him in. But when they brought him in, they got a little more than they bargained for.

Patrick Miller: Well, it's not just that. I just want us to see the reciprocal nature. Mark Driscoll created his own attention and he's one of the first people to get the internet stuff right. Gospel Coalition is a little, five years after him, is kind of figuring out how to do the internet blog thing. And they come along, what do they want? They want the attention, I think that mark Driscoll had because that feeds their thing. But when they did that, they also gave him more attention because now he's associated with Tim Keller, with John Piper, with these big names, D. A. Carson, have a lot of credibility. What does Christianity Today need? Remember what does the news need? They need pseudo events and pseudo people who they can report news about. And now all of a sudden, because Mark Driscoll has so much attention that he can bring to them by them talking about him, my point here is they create the celebrity which is Mark Driscoll. It's reciprocal. Were they just reporting on the news and what's happening? Maybe. Or was the news that they were reporting creating who Mark Driscoll was?

Keith Simon: And Driscoll was fantastic at keeping himself in the news.

Patrick Miller: Which is a pseudo person, the pseudo event.

Keith Simon: Right. He was known as the cussing pastor, the drinking pastor, the pastor who liked to talk about sex, the comedic, fun, irreverent pastor. And he would also tell all these stories about his personal life that you thought, man, you talking about these kids and how he was going to discipline his kids and how he was going to protect his daughter when she got older. And I think that's one of the points where I started to back out because my kids are older than his and I started thinking, he has no idea what he's talking about as he talks about his personal and private life, his marriage. But there was something about it that was really attractive. That fauxthenticity drew more and more people into him.

Patrick Miller: Well, and it's because you look at these celebrity churches, there's always a founder's myth. There's this story of kind of this charismatic figure who's called by God with a vision to build something that couldn't have been built otherwise. That's for sure true of Mark Driscoll. And if you listened to him, he talked constantly about God's call in his life and how he took him, no seminary training. It was kind the classic American self made person story.

Keith Simon: Oh, it fit the whole American story because he said that their church at the beginning could fit in a phone booth. That there were Mormon families that were bigger than his church.

Patrick Miller: He was so funny.

Keith Simon: He was funny. He had all these ways of describing how they just started small and scrappy and love Jesus and now here in the most unchurched city in America, Seattle, they have planted all these churches and people are coming to faith and he did it all by himself on the vision and call of God. Turns out, none of that's true.

Patrick Miller: The thing again here is he was just skilled at keeping himself in the media's attention and he did it with this kind of fauxthenticity, appearing to be the kind of authentic, like you said, irreverent, gen X pastor. He begins publishing books that become bestsellers, which again, gives him more attention. And what we're trying to say is this is a virtuous cycle. The more attention Mark got, the more authority that he had. The more authority he had, the bigger he could grow Mars Hill and say," See, God is fulfilling this call. Clearly, this is what God told me to do." And the bigger his church and his presence got, the more attention he got from media, which gave them attention, him attention, more authority. It's a virtuous cycle that produced the celebrity who was Mark Driscoll. Big picture, 1999 to 2005, five references to Mark Driscoll in Christianity Today. 2006 to 2013, before his first scandal, 109 references to Mark Driscoll in Christianity Today. Now let's fast forward to the post scandal Mark Driscoll. Between 2014 and 2021, which is the rise and fall of Mars Hill, he was referenced in Christianity Today 128 times. What we're trying to show here is that after he falls, he's consumed by the media. Now between the creation of Mark Driscoll, that's step one and the consumption of Mark Driscoll, that's step three, there is a step two, which is the celebrity failure.

Keith Simon: The fall of Mark Driscoll is probably best taken in by The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, which is a property of Christianity Today and part of the way that they are consuming him. We can give you some of the highlights that stood out to us. And we watched this happen in real time, as well as then listened to it on a podcast several years later. But one of the things that was most troubling about it is the way that he treated women inside the church. I just had a friend the other day text me because she had just listened to that episode and I think it's episode five or six of the series, Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and how she was incredibly, I don't know, concerned about it.

Patrick Miller: Disturbed.

Keith Simon: Disturbed, I think that's the right word because he was telling people, he was speaking at conference. Driscoll was speaking at conferences, telling women that they should be doing things sexually with their husbands that made them feel personally uncomfortable but even more than that, he was saying that that's what God wanted them to do and so to not do it was to be at odds with God and sin against God.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Whatever your husband wants, you better give it.

Keith Simon: With pretty much no boundaries.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, none.

Keith Simon: And then he changed the structure of the way the church was governed so that the people who were part of his elder council were people who were paid by him, paid by the church that he had control and authority. There were very few people around him who could say anything difficult or hard to them. And part of that is because they needed him to succeed in order for the church to succeed, in order for their ministries to succeed, in order for them to get a paycheck.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And he viciously bullied the people who tried to stop this from happening. They were shunned. They were kicked out of the church. And as it turns out, the bullying of staff members and manipulating of staff members, this was just part and parcel of how Mark Driscoll ran the church. It's one of the biggest issues. What really blew the scandal up, it was kind of a process. The first thing that actually happened was it was revealed that in his books, he did two different things. Well three, if you want to count them. One, there was plagiarism in them. Entire sections stolen from other authors. Two, he didn't actually write the books, they were all ghost written. He didn't give credit. That's maybe the least important of them but the most important one is that he used church funds to buy copies of his book, to get it onto the New York Times. He hired a company that basically buys books from all over the country to make it look as though your book's a bestseller and he gave them hundreds of thousands of church dollars so that he could say," My book is a bestseller." You want to talk about someone creating media? You want to talk about someone creating attention and celebrity? That's the first thing that breaks. The second thing that breaks is on his chatboards. It's revealed that he went into this persona called William Wallace where he just said awful, terrible things to people. Just, I won't repeat any of them because they're just so bad. And then this leads to an investigation which uncovers the bullying and all the things that we're talking about. And before he's kicked out of the church, they actually try to give him a process of restoration, he just resigns.

Keith Simon: Because God told him that it wasn't going to be best for him. And so he played the spiritual trump card and left and then went and started another church down in Arizona. But I just want to go back to the William Wallace thing.

Patrick Miller: How dumb do you have to be?

Keith Simon: That's like the original burner account. He creates this burner account in which he says all these horrible things and we see that even happen today. It's his way of being anonymous. And when he got uncovered as he was the guy behind that, well the things that William Wallace said, no pastor should be saying in private or in public.

Patrick Miller: Oh it's bad. Step one, the media creates a celebrity, which is called Mark Driscoll. Remember he's not a guy until CT and TGC start talking about him and making him a guy that absolutely everybody knows. He made himself.

Keith Simon: Well, he was a guy that you were listening to because we said he had lots of listeners. It's just that they gave him credibility and stature and brought him inside the respectable fold.

Patrick Miller: They grew him.

Keith Simon: Into some voice out there in the wilderness.

Patrick Miller: But it was a mutual relationship. He created news for them by being controversial and they gave him attention and credibility and then he falls. That's step two. And then step three is that the celebrity is consumed by media. Again, so let's just go back to the numbers. When he's celebrity Mark, he gets a 109 references over seven years. When he's discredited celebrity pastor Mark Driscoll, from 2014 to 2021, there are 128 references to Mark Driscoll in Christianity Today. In other words, he's talked about more after his fall, the consumption is better for clicks, it's better for them getting more attention. Consuming Mark Driscoll, that's better for them than it was even to make him into a celebrity.

Keith Simon: Well, and I think that's important to say, it wasn't good for Mark Driscoll, but it was good for the media company that benefited from his fall. They benefited more from his fall than his rise.

Patrick Miller: Well and it's not unironic that CT changed their slogan to Beautiful Orthodoxy during this period. It's kind of a response to these guys who were supposedly orthodox like Mark Driscoll but lived ugly wise.

Keith Simon: Well, and I'm sure we'll get to it in a little bit but it's just so ironic that it turns out that Christianity Today had its own sexual harassment scandal going on simultaneous to researching and publishing The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. The very thing that they're criticizing, they are themselves guilty of.

Patrick Miller: The guy who came up with that phrase, beautiful orthodoxy, was the guy who was accused of sexual misconduct.

Keith Simon: Is anything real?

Patrick Miller: I don't know.

Keith Simon: I'm going to lose my faith in the middle of this podcast.

Patrick Miller: We all are. What is so interesting to me is that it's exactly what we saw outside of the church. Media creates celebrities, pseudo events, pseudo people, fabricating news so that news organizations have something to report and it's a virtuous cycle. And what do we love? We love getting into the private life and watching the fall and the destruction of people. And that's really great for business. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill comes out in 2021. And I listened to an interview with Mike Cosper and he kind of had this aw shucks response," I really had no idea that this was going to be so big." And I don't think he knew it was going to be a top podcast. I don't think he knew.

Keith Simon: It was top podcast of all podcasts.

Patrick Miller: In the nation.

Keith Simon: Not just Christian podcasts, all podcasts for a season it was hitting killer numbers. And you know it was making them a good chunk of money.

Patrick Miller: A ton of money. It had to be. I think Mike Cosper's probably a great guy who has all kinds of mixed motives, just like I do. We're trying not to get into the motives of individuals.

Keith Simon: Oh no, I've heard he is a great guy.

Patrick Miller: But to say that this isn't part of Christianity Today's strategy, to both create celebrities and then consume them for attention and clicks, just doesn't fit the numbers.

Keith Simon: Well, because there's scandals in all kinds of smaller churches. There's all kinds of.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, they don't talk about those.

Keith Simon: Right. There's a reason that they chose The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Now, obviously it was a dramatic story but it's because there were so many listeners, so many people that knew the story of Mark Driscoll, so many articles that they had published to build his fame, that they knew that they would get a lot of clicks if they told his story. That's why they chose him and not some unknown pastor in another church who had a similar story.

Patrick Miller: It's exactly right. And obviously it was public and so all of those things, Mike Cosper in 2020, just two months before The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill had 14, 000 Twitter followers. By one year later, he had 31,000 Twitter followers. Now I don't think that was his goal. I don't think but to ask the question, in an attention economy where what you give your attention to shapes you, informs you, where what you give attention to, you give it authority. He got a lot.

Keith Simon: He got a lot of authority.

Patrick Miller: He got a lot out of the story.

Keith Simon: By telling the story about a guy who tried to gain authority through followers.

Patrick Miller: Yikes.

Keith Simon: Mike Cosper and again, great guy. He built a platform by criticizing Mark Driscoll for building a platform. On a podcast, he told stories about how Mark Driscoll tried to make a name for himself by developing podcasts.

Patrick Miller: He takes down Mark Driscoll for having a brand around himself and his church, while he's working for the brand, Christianity Today, that has made a lot of money off The Rise and Fall of Mars hill, not just the podcasts but throughout its own history. And I remember Keith, as you and I were listening to it, we were a little bit bothered because we're sitting here saying," Look, I don't know if there's anything actually wrong with having a brand. I don't know if there's anything wrong with having a podcast." That's kind of just the world that we live in but for you to come along and condemn it while doing the exact same thing, to condemn him for getting attention while you're using this thing to make a lot of money and get your own attention, it feels a little bit disingenuous.

Keith Simon: Well, it bothered me a lot because what it ended up doing is saying that every pastor or every ministry, every Christian leader who had a podcast should now be suspected. Were they really doing this for the right motives? Maybe they were being like Mark Driscoll and just creating a name for themselves. Maybe they were getting too big for their britches. Of course, Mike Cosper's doing this on a podcast that is the highest rated podcast in America.

Patrick Miller: And obviously, Keith and I, we're talking to you on a podcast. We have a podcast. We don't have any problems with podcasts but we're sitting there like, oh my gosh. He really throws pastors who have podcasts under the bus while he's doing the podcast. Now here's the thing that actually frustrates me. We have issues here. This is the main thing. Think about the winners and the losers in this situation, in this whole Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. For a little bit, Mark Driscoll was a winner. Now Mark Driscoll's a loser. But who was the big winner? Christianity today, they were the winner when he was a celebrity, they were a winner when he was the discredited celebrity, they were the winner when they created this podcast that does the in depth celebrity gossip thing and goes into his life and does all the details. You know who else the winner is? The American public because this is what they want. This is what Christians want.

Keith Simon: They're entertained.

Patrick Miller: They get the entertainment. They wanted a celebrity.

Keith Simon: Self righteous, I'm not like that. I don't go to a church like that. I'm not a pastor like that. Whatever it is. But think about the people who are hurt. Here are people who are hurt by Mark Driscoll because he was cruel to them, bullied them, pushed them out of church, isolated them. And then those same people told their story on a podcast and maybe they felt a sense of justice. Maybe it was good for some of them to be able to say," Hey, this was wrong and I don't want it happening again." But they were used again. Mark Driscoll used them and then the procedure used them.

Patrick Miller: Christianity Today did. It's hard to escape. And again.

Keith Simon: Everybody made money off of it, except the poor people who were hurt.

Patrick Miller: Who were actually hurt.

Keith Simon: Every people got fame, everybody got fame, everybody got more social media followers, everybody got whatever it is they wanted except the people who were the true victims, that were really hurt.

Patrick Miller: Christianity Today gets what it wants. The Christian public who loves celebrities, they got a celebrity, they got to watch a celebrity fall. They got what they wanted.

Keith Simon: It was just like the National Enquirer. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. I'm not saying it was the same thing, it was much more quality journalism. I'm just saying it appealed in our hearts in the same way that the National Enquirer does. That you see this person fall and embarrassed and humiliated and there's something dark inside of all of us that enjoys that.

Patrick Miller: I listened to the whole thing. I'm out here saying, you know who's in this Christian public listening and loving it? It's me. I want it. I want the celebrity pastor. I want to consume their fault. But do you know who else loses? And this is the thing that really bothers me, local churches. They're the real losers here. And this takes us from step three all the way to step four because step four in this process is that Christians lose faith in their own church. As a result of Christianity Today, these other organizations creating celebrities and then consuming them as they fall, the average everyday person begins to trust their own church less.

Keith Simon: And maybe some of the questions that Mars Hill caused people and churches to ask are good questions. Hey, what system of accountability do we have here?

Patrick Miller: Let's ask that.

Keith Simon: Those are good questions, fair questions, reasonable kinds of questions. But what unfortunately it did I think in a lot of ways is it caused people to be suspicious, to put on glasses that said," I don't trust the motives. I don't trust what my church is doing." And of course every church is doing lots of things that they can't fully explain and so you can always put on the glasses of the critic and find holes and find problems and the reason it's so easy to do that with your own local church is because you're there on the ground and you know the people and you know their weaknesses, their frailties and you know what the problems are firsthand. It's not hard to find problems in any organization, whether it's a PTA or a business or a school or a church. And when you're sitting there and you've got the glasses of the critic on or you've got suspicious glasses on and then all of a sudden you see the normal things that a church does, you assign negative motives to the church or the pastor, whoever and it causes you to disengage from your church. Maybe you still show up but your heart's not in it as much. Maybe you don't serve anymore. Maybe you've got your eye on a different church that you could go to because you think it's better or even better yet, maybe you've got your eye on a celebrity pastor who doesn't even live in the same town you do. And so you don't really know that person. You really don't know their church. You don't know their weaknesses and their problems and their frailties so therefore you can idealize them in your mind. And you could say," Well, I want to go to this big church in a different city, in a different town. I'm going to listen to their podcast. I'm going to read their books. I'm going to consider that person my pastor and instead of the local church because I know its problems."

Patrick Miller: You just said so much today, that's hard to unpack.

Keith Simon: And you create another celebrity cycle because now all of a sudden this person that you don't know is getting more attention, more readers, more viewers and they're going to be built up but you know what? They got all the same problems that every church has and so eventually they will come down. I hope not but they might.

Patrick Miller: Here's the irony I'm feeling, celebrity is the intoxicating mix of distance and intimacy.

Keith Simon: Yeah. I love that.

Patrick Miller: Your local church is the unintoxicating mix of closeness and intimacy because you are close to your church, you know it's not perfect. You know that your church has done wrong things. They mishandled a situation. That pastor said or did something he shouldn't have said. And because you know that, you're just simply more prone to think there must be worse things happening here. Why? Because we all narrate our reality. We all have a story that we're reading. And if The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is your story for how churches function and you don't even go to a celebrity church, shouldn't you say, maybe this isn't the narrative at my church. Maybe my church is different than this church?

Keith Simon: Is it fair to say that church of pornography, that you have this image that's photoshopped, it's not real but it looks good. And that's the celebrity pastor. And then your spouse is the person who's normal and ordinary, maybe just going through the normal aging process, man or a woman and has this own set of problems. He or she talks with her mouth full. They snore. They have their odd things that you don't like about them and you fall in love with some idealized person on the internet. You fall in love with this old high school flame that you don't know and you lose interest in that person that really cares about you and knows you and has extended grace to you all these years and loves you in humble sacrificial ways but you lose interest in that person. And that person, your spouse, is representative of your local church. You lose interest in your local church because you go for the pornographic picture of the perfect church and the perfect celebrity pastor. And it's just not real. And we know that when we're looking at Photoshop, at least we kind of know it, but we fall into the same trap when it comes to churches.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. It's exactly right. Church porn is a good way of framing.

Keith Simon: Church porn.

Patrick Miller: That's what it is.

Keith Simon: Let's title this podcast Church Porn.

Patrick Miller: Church Porn, that'll be the name of it. No, it's exactly right. I have not met a single person who listened to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill who said," You know what? This made me trust my local church better."

Keith Simon: No, it didn't even make me trust my little church and I'm a pastor of the church.

Patrick Miller: Right. I'm just saying, I don't know a person who said that. I know people at big churches, little churches, medium churches, everything in between, we've got all three bears here. And what I'm trying to say is it didn't cause anybody to trust. What we want you to see here is the irony, that podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, should make you lose trust in the media organization that produced it.

Keith Simon: Yeah. It should make you lose trust in celebrity pastors. Or just having pastors that don't know you and you don't know them, that you don't have real relationships in the same community, that's what it should do. Instead it had the opposite effect. It caused you to lose trust in your local church. The people you know and instead trust more the media organizations and the celebrity pastors in other towns that let you down.

Patrick Miller: Exactly. You should trust celebrity pastors less. That's the lesson you should take away from The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, not trust your local pastor less. And you should trust Christian media organizations less. They might sound, might cost or might sound like a guy who's got it all figured out and put together. Again, it's kind of that distance and intimacy thing happening again. But remember, he's working for the organization that helped create Mark Driscoll and then made a lot of money devouring Mark Driscoll. I'm not trying to make people overly cynical. I'm just pointing out that the same pattern and celebrity culture that exists outside the church where news has to be created, so we create celebrities and we create pseudo events and then we consume them for entertainment, it's happening inside the church. You should start doubting those things, not doubting your local church.

Keith Simon: Okay. Skye Jethani has this phrase he's used before, it's called the evangelical industrial complex. And I've read it a few different places but I think he's the person who originated it and he takes it off of Dwight Eisenhower's military industrial complex.

Patrick Miller: Okay. Explain that.

Keith Simon: Back in the 1950s, before Eisenhower leaves office, and remember he's the general who led the Allied forces in on D- Day, he's the general who came back to save America and was president during the 50s. He said in one of his departing speeches, he said," Hey look, we need to be careful of this military industrial complex that needs war in order to profit." And he was specifically thinking about the military manufacturers, those who made weapons and tanks and all this stuff saying," Hey, those people need wars to happen in order for governments to buy more planes, tanks, bombs and bullets and all that stuff and so we have to be careful that people don't have a profit motive in encouraging us to go to war and military expansion." Now remember, this is a general of Allied forces on D- Day saying this. He knows the inside scoop and he's going," People have incentives to lead us to war but they may not be looking out what's best for the country. They might just be doing what's best for their own pocketbook." Skye Jethani comes along and says," Hey, maybe we have an evangelical industrial complex made up of publishers, big media, conference circuit, people who put on conferences. They have a profit motive in building up Christian leaders so that people want to come and read their books and attend to their conferences and maybe instead of platforming people who have good character and who have sound theology, they're platforming people who have lots of followers and get lots of attention because more people will want to come to that conference, more people will buy that music, more people will buy the magazine, more people will listen to the podcast.

Patrick Miller: More people will follow you online, more people will read the blog, more people will sign up for the newsletter because that person's there.

Keith Simon: And so we have maybe created a system in which people are incentivized to build people up, not because that's really what's best, not because those people are honorable and have a message that needs to be said but because it lines their pocketbook.

Patrick Miller: Well Keith, you said something to me the other day, you said maybe 10, 11 years ago, you had a little deep dive on some of these celebrity pastors. What is it in their preaching that is really working for them? And the thing that you discovered, this was so interesting. You said none of these guys were saying anything particularly original. It was all kind of warmed over Baptist stuff that had been said somewhere else. You said what made them unique was their performance.

Keith Simon: Was their personality.

Patrick Miller: No, it's their performance. Because remember you're not seeing their personality, it's their performance.

Keith Simon: Yeah. You're right. I go back and I wanted to improve on my preaching ability.

Patrick Miller: Keith was trying to become a celebrity pastor.

Keith Simon: This is longer than 10 years ago. I thought, I need to get better so I'm going to listen to people that have a good reputation of being really good preachers, speakers. And I just listened to them and I thought, well, this person can tell a good story. This person knows how to be revealing about themselves. This person has good hand gestures. This person is attractive or whatever. And what I found was it had to do with their, like you said, their performance, the way they did things. It wasn't about the substance of what they said. If you listen to a celebrity pastor, I don't want to name names because some of these are really good guys. If you just read what they said, you'd be kind of bored by it but they've got a great delivery. They've got a great look. They've got a great shtick that goes with it.

Patrick Miller: And juxtapose that, for example, to someone who, I don't know if he's a celebrity pastor or not but Tim Keller. I'm just going to be honest. I don't think Tim Keller is the most engaging, interesting preacher to listen to. I could find better preachers out there but, but but but, he does have a lot of interesting, original, thoughtful, worthwhile content, which is why I love his books because he's saying things that other people aren't saying. He's saying it in a way that other people aren't saying it, that helps me a lot as a Christian in our present moment. And so that's an interesting juxtaposition of two different ways of maybe being a celebrity.

Keith Simon: It's interesting that you bring up Tim Keller here because it shows that you can be a celebrity pastor and be a good guy.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Manage it well.

Keith Simon: Be good for the church. Be honoring to God. When we talk about celebrity pastors, it's a mixed bag. We're not saying that all well known pastors are bad. Not at all.

Patrick Miller: That's right. I think the bigger picture that we want people to see is this evangelical industrial complex. That there is a system which is a total reflection of what you see inside of culture, which is vested in creating celebrities not for the right reasons, creating celebrities around people who again, have unique performances, who have this fauxthenticity about them, who are great at gathering attention, who get attention by being celebrities, by being around the right people. And so that's the kind of person that they're looking to bring in and this is causing some of the problems.

Keith Simon: Well, we've experienced some of this just recently. We have a book coming out in the fall and when we were looking for a publisher and looking for an agent to help us with the book, what we discovered is one of the big questions they were asking is," How big is your platform?" It wasn't, how orthodox is you're teaching? Or what's your character like? Do you live what you are preaching? Does that match up in your life? What they wanted to know is how big at the church? How big is your podcast? How big is your social media presence? And I understand why, they're making money off of this. They have to sell a product. It's not just done out of goodwill. They're employing people.

Patrick Miller: You can publish out of goodwill but all of your employees will go hungry.

Keith Simon: Well, they'll shop at Goodwill. We've had personal experience with this. Now we ended up with a great publisher who's really behind it, enthusiastic about it.

Patrick Miller: Well, and to our publisher's credit, by the way, I don't know if you remember, they showed us the little graph on how they raise. It wasn't just platform. They had six other things they were looking at. Our platform was the weakest one. They took a flyer on us and they said," Okay, we'll give you guys a chance, even though you don't have much of a platform."

Keith Simon: The point isn't us or a particular publisher or whatever. The point is that the evangelical industrial complex is a system that is self perpetuating and unfortunately it can be bad for the church because it sets incentives for people that are not in line with what's in the best interests of the church.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. And my guess is that if you went to some of these publishers and he said," If you could live in a world where you picked the best book or the person with the most attention," they would all say.

Keith Simon: Oh, they'd love to do that.

Patrick Miller: "Iwant the best book." I don't live in that world. And the same thing goes for probably a lot of these organizations but we're in this system. How do we get out of it? We don't have any silver bullets. Here's a few quick ideas. Number one, stop consuming celebrity Christian culture. It is amazing to me, the people who were the most viral consumers of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, a lot of my millennial friends are also the people who read exclusively celebrity pastors and they see no contradiction.

Keith Simon: It's kind of the heart, isn't it? Because aren't the celebrity pastors the one who get the book deals because they have the big platform as I just said?

Patrick Miller: You and I both read a lot of books in a year. How many of those books are by celebrity pastors?

Keith Simon: Well, I don't read a lot of traditional Christian living kind of books so I would say Tim Keller, I'll read something he writes. He's probably the only person who qualifies a real well known pastor that I read.

Patrick Miller: I think there's other people who write Christian living but David Gibson, there's a good example. That's not a guy that anybody knows. That's a great book for anybody listening to his podcast that would help them in their heart, that's written on a popular level.

Keith Simon: He's not a celebrity.

Patrick Miller: That's my point is you actually have other options. Well, how do I find those? Maybe go to your local church pastor who you're connected to, who knows your life and knows what might actually be good for you, who probably reads more widely than you do because that's part of his job, ask him what you should read. Stop consuming the celebrity culture. You don't have to listen to the Discovery Channel show or the Christianity Today podcast, stop consuming it. Don't participate in it.

Keith Simon: How about this one, stop asking for authenticity.

Patrick Miller: Oh please.

Keith Simon: You just don't want to share the details of your private life, Patrick.

Patrick Miller: I do not. I will not. I shall not. I cannot. This is what drives me nuts. I'm like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am. I will not. I will not eat those green eggs and ham. When I hear pastors talking about their kids and their family and their wife and their sex life and all these intimate details, what often goes through my head is that would be miserable for my wife. This is going to embarrass my kids. And at the end of the day, my relationship with my wife and my kids is more important to me than me performing as though as I'm authentic to whether it's millennials or gen Z. This is my cohort by the way, who demand it of me.

Keith Simon: Okay. You're not saying, I don't think, maybe you are, I'd be interested to see. You're not saying that you can't share personal stories about family, kids.

Patrick Miller: Oh no, I share lots of personal stories.

Keith Simon: Spouse, whatever. You're saying that there's an appropriate line that you don't cross and there's a sense of vulnerability that you just don't pass over in front of a big crowd. And if you're consuming that, understand that the person has written this, the person has rehearsed this and therefore it's a curated version of what they want you to know. Now take the illustration for what it is and hopefully learn a good biblical truth and apply it to your life but don't think that you now really know that pastor because you don't.

Patrick Miller: No, you really don't.

Keith Simon: And you want that pastor to have friends that they are sharing their life with who they really are being vulnerable with. You want that in appropriate boundaries, in an appropriate group but not in front of thousands of people sharing embarrassing things to their family.

Patrick Miller: Can I say something? I don't know if this is actually true. One of the reasons why I don't want to be fauxthentic online, this fake, performed authenticity where I tell people things, is that what you end up doing is you have your public persona, which is the guy on stage, then you have this private persona, which is the Instagram person revealing their private life. Well, my guess is that with your friends, they probably also know that private persona person because that's who you project. You kind of want your friends to think about you the same way. By not having a private persona online, it actually allows me to have intimate friends who I'm sharing intimate details of my life with because I don't feel like a liar. I've never pretended to be something else. My public persona is what it is but I don't have a private fauxthentic thing going on.

Keith Simon: Be consistent. And want your pastor to be consistent.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Here's a few other really quick things. Another one is this, look for pastors and churches who see themselves as stewards, not proprietors. By that I mean, a pastor is a steward of his church. He doesn't own his church. I don't go to Keith Simon's church.

Keith Simon: When you start talking about a church in terms of person's name, and that's what Mars Hill was. It was Mark Driscoll's church. You weren't a part of Mars Hill, you're a part of Mark Driscoll. And that's true unfortunately, of a lot of places that the pastor has become bigger than the church.

Patrick Miller: And I think you want to look for churches where the leadership is focused on the long term not the short term. Everything is not about short term gains, what's going to work right now. They want this institution to outlast them. And along the same lines, you want to go to churches where the pastor sees himself as a representative not a self expressor. By this I mean, I'm here to represent Jesus to the congregation. That's part of my role as a pastor. I'm one of his representatives, I'm his ambassador. But a lot of these fauxthentic celebrity guys, they're just on their Instagram accounts, they're on the stage doing the self expression thing. It's always about them. It's about their founding stories. It's about their vision. It's about their wisdom. It's not about Jesus.

Keith Simon: And then when it comes to Christian content and what you consume, think about this if you're maybe a donor, somebody who gives money to projects, maybe you should stop giving your money to the big celebrity pastor. Maybe you should start investing in things that are lesser well known but you know the people involved and they have a track record of credibility and what they're saying is really needed in some sort of niche market. One of the reasons celebrity pastors have so much visibility is because they're able to attract funds. And if you, as a donor will give your funds to people who maybe don't have the big reputation then maybe we can have a diverse set of content creators instead of a few really well known names.

Patrick Miller: You know what I call this? The donate to ugly people fund.

Keith Simon: Are you trying to raise money for you and me right now?

Patrick Miller: Just me. In all seriousness, to change a metaphor, think about substack.

Keith Simon: Oh, that's good.

Patrick Miller: Substack is slowly eviscerating these major newspapers that are a part of this media apparatus that we've been talking about. And why? It's because people are beginning to invest their money in what I would call, it's kind of a weird term, I got this from another podcast guy named Michael Wittle, but I would call them middle class creators. And it's because they're not these high level celebrities who have no attention. They're also not the content creators in poverty, no one's paying attention. They're kind of living in this middle level and they've drawn an audience themself because they're saying things that audience connects with, that is worthy of that audience's attention. Their work is kind of the proof of concept. That's why people are going to them. And so that's why people are leaving behind their New York Times subscription to go and subscribe to Barry Vice's podcast and what she's doing there or the same thing with David French in the Dispatch. I wonder if we could help the same thing happen in the Christian world. Here's why it won't happen, Christians aren't good at paying content creators. They might pay for Christianity Today.

Keith Simon: A book.

Patrick Miller: Or they might donate to The Gospel Coalition or one of these other organizations. They might buy a book but because of the church model where I donate to support it, they don't think I need to go pay this Christian content creator so that they can make more good stuff.

Keith Simon: But isn't there a danger there almost that when you become dependent on subscribers, you then want to tell the subscribers what they want to hear and you have to create more content and so then you start falling trap to the pseudo celebrity, the pseudo event and you start down the same road that has produced the culture that we find ourselves trying to escape at this moment?

Patrick Miller: Absolutely. There's no silver bullet out here but here's what I would propose. The difference between having 300 celebrities that everybody's buying stuff from and listening to and paying attention to, a large proportion of which will go through these scandals and we'll see the cycle, wouldn't it be better to have 30, 000 people who are making pretty reasonable incomes off of their work? Yeah sure, that's going to happen in some cases but my guess is it happens less frequently and the cost of it, the consequences are less exponential because their audiences are smaller. Let's close this thing down. It's clear Keith and I don't have the answers. We're all caught in the same system. We're caught in this system. It doesn't matter who you are, it's hard to escape from this evangelical industrial complex but maybe here's why we did this podcast is you have The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill showing the problems with celebrity pastors. There are serious issues with that. If you want to go listen to that fine but we wanted to turn the mirror around onto the Christian public, on people like you and me who consume and listen to these things and say, is this actually good for my heart? Is this helping me trust my church more? Is this helping me grow in my faith? Am I being sucked into a system I don't even realize that's t's churning through celebrities, it's churning through me, it's making me skeptical of my church, it's making me skeptical and cynical about Christians and it's doing it for a profit, it's doing it to my disadvantage? Why? Because I demanded it. And so maybe my hope is this podcast makes you a little more cynical, honestly or a little more skeptical maybe of those podcasts and those media organizations that are producing these things. And maybe more skeptical of yourself and cynical about yourself of why do I want this? Is this really because I want to see justice because I think this is what's best? Or is it because I want to consume a celebrity and watch their rise and fall?

Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.

Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.

Keith Simon: Stop. No. Just be honest. Reviews help other people find us.

Patrick Miller: Okay. Okay. At the very least, you can share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.

Keith Simon: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter @ truthovertribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.

DESCRIPTION

America loves celebrity culture, but how did the church get there too? This week on Truth Over Tribe, you'll hear the first in our new series on celebrity pastors. In this episode,Β PatrickΒ andΒ KeithΒ discuss Carl Lentz and Hillsong Church as a case study, dissecting why we love witnessing the creation and dissolution of celebrity pastors and churches. Later, they explore the cyclical process of celebrity church culture: how Christians demand it and how the media then creates celebrities, consumes them, and ultimately, builds public distrust in the local church. Listen now!


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