Why Are There So Few Mainline Celebrities?
The cold relationship between mainline Protestantism and the popular marketplace has become a stable feature of the previous’s self-understanding. Reprinted from Faith & Management.
Millions of Americans once tuned in to see Will Willimon preach at the Crystal Cathedral for the “Hour of Power,” among the most popular Christian programs at the height of the televangelism age and an icon of modern-day faith. They viewed him rise among the most popular pulpits in the nation, clear his throat and seriously thank the host, the always-smiling Robert Schuller.It was a strange little piece of theater, which Willimon was loath to do, because Schuller wasn’t even there. The notoriously showboating host had other locations to be, and Willimon was needed to thank an empty chair. Later on, Arvella Schuller (Mrs. Robert Schuller )would splice in video of Schuller nodding sagely in recommendation.” However you’re popular, Will!”I opposed when he informed me.” I’m not popular,”he stated wryly.”I’m mainline popular. “Willimon is the author of 70 books who has lived lots of lives– as a bishop, a preaching teacher, an editor-at-large of The Christian Century and the dean of Duke Chapel. He has dined with Billy Graham and Desmond Tutu. Willimon is a family name in the United Methodist Church. And he is right.No one seems to call anyone well-known in the mainline church.As a historian of the largest churches and ministries, I have been coming to grips with this dilemma: why are there so few mainline celebrities? And when I find them, why don’t they desire to be called celebrities?I have spreadsheets of the biggest mainline churches in every denomination– Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and so on. Even
with lots of mainline megachurches, there are few familiar names amongst them. Today’s era of increased concentration of people in big churches is not always developing the same design of self-promotional management that has actually made Joel Osteen or Steven Furtick into identifiable faces.I just recently talked to a young pastor of a Presbyterian megachurch about the benefits of becoming a star.”I am not thinking about becoming a celebrity,
” he said.” Even that word makes my skin crawl.”Mainliners did not constantly feel that method, specifically about among the most crucial vehicles for fame: tv. Mainline preachers had been staples of spiritual television in the postwar duration up until the Federal Communications Commission(FCC)changed the guidelines that subsidized their airtime in the 1960s and 1970s. It was religious conservatives who outbid them in the years that followed, ready to pay higher and higher rates for the direct exposure that television would bring. Gradually, televangelism became equated with a certain sort of theology– a kind of Pentecostalism called the”success gospel”for its assurances that health and wealth would pertain to any exemplary believer.All the largest Christian tv networks were owned by prosperity preachers(except, naturally, the Catholic network owned by an extraordinary entrepreneurial nun in Alabama called Mother Angelica ). Televangelism was believed to be slick, credulous and fun, while mainline culture still sought to be unvarnished, respectable and serious. Not to discuss that no mainline pastor would attempt to imitate Jim Bakker’s powder-blue matches– not even to jazz up the Easter morning breakfast.Anyone who has actually ever seen a Catholic priest break out his guitar to sing”On Eagle’s Wings” knows that every American spiritual tradition has cultural episodes of attempting to appear more appropriate. The cold relationship in between mainline Protestantism and the popular marketplace has ended up being a steady feature of the mainline’s self-understanding. The more that evangelicals and Pentecostals dominate megachurches, television, publishing and almost other means of gaining popularity, the more that mainline pastors appear disinclined to get in the fray.There are numerous great reasons for the mainline concern about the features of celeb. The design of charming management embodied in most megachurches has actually raised questions about the results of allowing the requirements of the show business to dominate church life. Mainline megachurches are likewise wary of the pitfalls of minimal governance that can lead churches to pack their boards with loved ones members.Perhaps the much deeper ambivalence in historical Protestant denominations is also about exactly what it would mean to try once again and maybe fail. The popular marketplace is controlled by those who master brand-new media and know ways to utilize a hashtag. It is ruled by “pastorpreneurs “who want to give up a little etiquette if it implies bigger audiences. It relies on abilities that are not usually encouraged in academies or built into pastoral calls.
There is a little bit of pride that must be reserved to sign up with individuals who want to be both a pastor and a brand.Sometimes, being mainline well-known methods you should want to climb into an unusual pulpit, gaze into an empty seat and thank it for existing.< img src=" https://www.faithandleadership.com/sites/default/files/kate_bowler.jpg" alt =""line up= "left" > Kate Bowler is assistant professor of the history of Christianity in The United States and Canada at Duke. Her first book,”Blessed: A History of the American Success Gospel “(Oxford, 2013), traced the increase of Christian belief in magnificent promises of health, wealth and joy. She investigated and took a trip Canada and the United States talking to megachurch leaders and everyday followers about how they make spiritual meaning of the good or bad in their lives. She has actually written commonly in scholarly journals such as Religious beliefs and
American Culture and popular venues such as CNN, The Huffington Post, and The World and Mail on topics varying from the success gospel’s music, gender politics, economics and political faiths to its racial and denominational differences.Stay in touch! Like Patheos Faith and Deal with Facebook: