In the wake of the fall of some celebrity megachurch pastors, evangelicals must start becoming much more suspicious of who they trust, a prominent Baptist theologian is warning.
Roger E. Olson, professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, wrote in a blog post last week that America’s megachurch model “isn’t working.”
“My suggestion is that people (and I’m talking primarily to evangelical Christians) be much more suspicious than they tend to be — about powerful, celebrity spiritual leaders who are not accountable to anyone but themselves and their handpicked boards (‘yes men’),” he wrote.
He argued that America’s “obsession with celebrities, ‘bigness,’ entertainment, and ‘success'” is one of the underlying problems.
“This obsession has obviously filtered into American religion and, sadly, even into American evangelical Christianity,” he warned.
Olson pointed out that in recent years, “several founders and leaders of evangelical, independent mega-churches have fallen off their celebrity-pastor pedestals hard. It’s happening again, right now, at perhaps the best-known and most influential of them all.”
His comments were made a day after the entire elder board of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois resigned over accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse surrounding founder and former senior pastor Bill Hybels.
Hybels, who has maintained his innocence, has been accused by several women of inappropriate conduct, including suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss, and invitations to hotel rooms. Most recently, a former employee accused him of groping and oral sex.
The Willow Creek elder board initially cleared Hybels in an investigation, but later admitted that they made mistakes and that he had “fallen into sin.” They apologized to the women they had not believed.
Besides moral failings, fraud has also been a big concern for large churches.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Stoyan Zaimov