Superhero Pastors, Super Critics, And Social Media: Everybody Loses

Social media is two-edged sword. It can be used for great good or for great evil. Some churches and pastors use social media to great effect. Many are reached through this wonderful tool. On the other hand, we have seen its seedy underbelly too. In light of supposed scandals involving mega church pastors (which led to the resignation of one high profile pastor recently) there seems to be no end of willing participants in mud slinging. I am appalled at the vitriol and unchristian attitudes that many so-called Christians toward pastors and churches.

The Problem With Superhero Pastors

If you have ever watched a superhero movie the plot goes something like this. An evil problem threatens the people. The greatly misunderstood, emotionally conflicted superhero steps in and uses his superpower to defeat the problem. This action normally destroys his family and personal relationships. The people worship the superhero. If the movie is successful at the box office, then the process is repeated until the masses grow tired of the story and find another superhero.

Unfortunately, this plot line describes many pastors. The superhero pastor solves all the giant, evil problems in his own super strength. He becomes emotionally unhealthy and often pays the price in his family and personal lives. He is conflicted but enjoys the worship of his people so he keeps repeating the scene until he fails miserably or the people grow tired of him and find another superhero. 

Pastor, you are not a superhero. In our celebrity culture it is easy to fall into the trap of personality-driven ministry. Not only is this approach personally destructive to your life it is also damaging to the church. The New Testament describes this kind of ministry philosophy as the sin of idolatry. When we worship anyone or anything other than God it devastates us. 

As a pastor it is tempting to take the credit when things go well and the blame when they do not. It is certainly true that pastors need to work hard, have a strategy, and lead well but we must remember that Jesus builds the church. He is the hero. He has all the answers, not you. That means that it is OK to admit your weaknesses and not be the hero of all your stories. Admit your faults and let everyone know that you are not perfect. God never expected you to do church alone anyway.

The Sin Of The Super Critic

Social media not only helps create superhero pastors but it also lends a platform to sinful critics. A critic that lovingly offers constructive criticism is valuable. Any leader who wants to lead well must have honest critics in private. But the critic offering constructive criticism and honest feedback is not what we find in most social media today. What we find are sinful critics. Troublemakers. Discord sowers. Hate mongers. Jealous snipers. According to the Bible God detests this kind of behavior. 

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him…a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16, 19 (ESV)

“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” Proverbs 16:28 (NLT)

Sinful critics sow discord, revel in the ruin of others, damage the cause of Christ, and besmirch the motives of those they criticize. Is it not ironic that they fail to see that their own sin is just as great? After all pride is the mother of all sins. Strange how pride causes the sinful critic not to see that what he accuses the fallen superhero pastor of is the exact thing he is guilty of.

Pride causes pastors to live an unsustainable life. It makes super critics feel morally superior and throw “I-told-you-so” in the face of wounded soldiers in God’s army. Everybody loses when that happens.

I encourage you to take a step back and stop the downward spiral in social media. Pastor, recognize your limits, set boundaries, and get honest people around you who will tell you when you begin to believe your own press. For the critic and the casual observer, your time will be far better spent praying for your pastor and for other pastors. Smugness is ugly and benefits no one. Blasting people you don’t even know on social media is not only silly it is also sinful.

My prayer is that we use this amazing tool of social media to spread the Good News. Anything less than that is not worthy of our time.