Warning Signs on 'Ministry Divas' Renews Online Debate

Media consultant and Christian commentator Phil Cooke recently revisited an oldie, but goodie on his website with a blog post posing the question: "Do We Have Too Many Ministry Divas?" Based on new reaction to the years-old post, the answer remains a resounding "yes."

In his post, Cooke writes: "Today, we’re seeing a real rise in what I would call 'ministry divas.' These are men and women who are pastors, or ministry or spiritual leaders who’s focus is more on themselves than the people they serve." 

Cooke, also an author, director and founder of Cooke Pictures, rehashed the 2009 post originally titled "Warning Signs of a Ministry Diva," which attracted comments expressing agreement as well as suggestions for the given warning signs. 

The "new" post republished Dec. 11 with the new headline "Do We Have Too Many Ministry Divas?" has attracted even more comments, with readers' opinions showing that not much has changed in the eyes of some Christians who believe there are too many "personalities" and not enough shepherds in the pulpit. 

The list of warning signs of a "ministry diva" includes 10 items of note, which are:

  1. He doesn’t participate in worship. He only comes out to preach.
  2. He’s escorted on and off the platform so he doesn’t actually have to mingle with people.
  3. He has multiple assistants – or what some call "armor-bearers" to carry his cell phone, Bible, man-purse, etc.
  4. He doesn’t travel that much, but needs a private jet when he does.
  5. When he visits other churches, he naturally assumes he’ll get either a seat on the platform or a front row seat.
  6. When he promotes his books, he always calls it a "best seller" even though it wasn’t.
  7. He makes ever growing demands on the church for more free time, bigger perks, larger personal staff, etc.
  8. He spends more on his wardrobe and cars than the church spends on the children’s program.
  9. Divorce is OK for him, because of the ministry pressures he’s under. So when it happens, he doesn’t need to step down or submit to counseling – he doesn’t need it.
  10. When he advertises a conference in magazines or other places, his picture is the biggest thing on the ad.

One reader named Steve commented, "I'm not sure what churches you attend? Sounds like you are [describing] NBA players! Where are the church counsels and elders in these situations?"

On Twitter, Jonathan Arneault, pastor of The Rock church in Gulf Breeze, Fla., shared Cooke's post with his follwers writing, "@PhilCooke lays it out, but doesn't go far enough (ie, having too many "ministries" that aren't)..."

Another commenter, sharing a personal experience confessed: "I can admit that I as a [parishioner] was once a part of the problem? How? I stayed in a megachurch for 13 years where the pastor acted like a diva. I should have left when the signs first popped up. I am now a member of a small church where the Pastor is humble and encourages [parishioners] to put God and family first. He doesn't need a bunch of 'armor bearers.' "

The reader continued: "When he has out-of-town commitments, he [flies] commercial airliners. He's friendly and he and his wife greet first-timers and members every Sunday after Church. I've even witnessed him playing [basketball] with the teens right after service. I never want to be at another church where the Pastor is arrogant and thinks he's too good to mingle with the [parishioners]. My Pastor is not rich (with money) or well-known, but he sure is humble before God."

A comment from another reader took the issue future, insisting that parishioners who fail to "follow sound instruction and doctrine" are the driving force behind "ministry divas."

The reader added: The real issue, especially in the American Church, is the simple fact that Christ is used and preached to build the ministry, not HIS Kingdom. It's all about what Christ can do for us, not what we are COMMANDED to do for Him, or even the thought of the fact [that] we are His children and should bring glory to His name, not the ministry's."

Not everyone who read Cooke's list was pleased with the question it posed.

" 'Ministry Divas' are almost as big a problem as judgmental Christians pointing fingers at one another and sinners instead of being known by our love for one another. We need more servants, and fewer people who know how 'right' they are," wrote Mike Noviskie of Sealy, Texas.

There were some readers, like Rose Jamison-Klous, who pointed to the "diva" warning signs as to why she no longer attends traditional church.

"And this why we don't 'do' church. I would rather send my money to Voice of the Martyrs or Gospel for Asia. I have no use for spoiled so-called pastors who are nothing like Jesus or the Apostle Paul. It's all about money and support, or money for big fancy buildings. I will meet in my home with like-minded people," she wrote.

Readers of the original 2009 post used the list as an opportunity to offer humorous takes, with some suggesting warning signs such as: they act as though half the world is reading their Twitter entries; has a golf cart to take him from his office to the pulpit; In a 24 hour period, can ask three long time staff members to take a cut in pay because funds are low, then jump on a private plane to next engagement.

As did a few other readers, a commenter named Brendan attempted to ground the conversation, although he was "in complete agreement that 'divas' do a great [disservice] to the Kingdom of God."

"Let's call stuff out, but with a prayerful edge rather than a sarcastic one. I wonder how many of us took a moment to pray for these ministers/ministries?" he wrote.

He continued, "There are a lot of good things happening [Body of Christ in North America], and a lot of great leaders rising up. Let's pray for the 'diva's' that they will see what's going on and change."

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