LeBron James and Celebrity Ministers

January 10, 2012

Bob Kellemen

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Bob Kellemen

LeBron James and Celebrity Ministers

In 2011 there was a lot of talk in the Christian blogosphere about “celebrity pastors” and “mega-star ministry leaders.” I’ve blogged a bit about servant leadership here, here, here, here, here, and here.

I hadn’t thought about it much lately until I read a recent piece in Sports Illustrated by photographer Walter Iooss, Jr. He tells some great war stories about famous athletes.

Of particular note was his story of doing a photo shoot with LeBron James.

I first photographed LeBron James in 2003, when he was a rookie in Cleveland. He was pretty raw as a teenager; he didn’t have any of the smoothed edges he has now. When I shot him six years later, in 2009, the difference was amazing. He walked in like a king that day, and he took over that room.

Times change, and sadly, LeBron became a villain to many after The Decision. I’ve seen a lot of entourages, but none like his. In July 2010, I got an assignment from Nike to shoot LeBron right after his TV special announcing his move to the Heat. We rented the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where the Lakers and the Clippers used to play, and there were 53 people on my crew—including hair and makeup artists, production people, a stylist. I had $10,000 in Hollywood lighting. It was huge. When LeBron arrived, it was as if Nelson Mandela had come in. Six or seven blacked-out Escalades pulled up, a convoy. LeBron had bodyguards and his masseuse. His deejay was already there, blasting. This for a photo shoot that was going to last an hour, tops.

This is how crazy it was: I wasn’t even allowed to talk directly to LeBron. There was a liaison, someone from Amar’e Stoudemire’s family. I would say to him, “O.K., have LeBron drive right,” and then he’d turn to LeBron and say, “LeBron, go right.”

LeBron had guards in the portals on the mezzanine level, talking into their hands. Really, what was going to happen? And then at the end of the shoot they all got in the Escalades. I’ve been around Michael Jordan, but with him nothing even came close to this. Unimaginable.

My Wish for Christian Servant-Leadership in 2012

My wish for Christian leaders in 2012 is simple:

Let’s strive to be more like King Jesus than King James (LeBron James).

The human ego is such that if you feed it too much, it grows to monstrous proportions.

I vividly recall the time when I introduced my mentor to a somewhat well-known Sr. Pastor. The Sr. Pastor took over the introduction and described himself to my mentor as, “I’m somewhat of a ‘Swin-Carthur.’ People tell me that my preaching combines the best of Swindoll’s creativity and application to life with MacArthur’s exegetical and theological depth.”

That smacks more of LeBron than Jesus.

But there’s a lot of “King James Christian Celebrity” going around these days.

The entourages.

The slick packaging.

The personal assistants.

I don’t mean an administrative assistant. I don’t mean just one personal assistant. I mean multiple personal assistants.

I know. If you try hard enough, you can conjure up reasons why it needs to be. Here’s the problem. You can’t conjure up a single verse that shows Jesus with any personal assistant. Instead, Jesus was the servant-leader who washed the feet of His twelve disciples.

Instead

“Instead” is a good word. Rather than a snarky blog post that takes easy swipes at the “celebrity pastor” target, here are a few random “instead” thoughts for servant-leadership in 2012.

  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012 (blogging, writing, speaking, personal conversation), let’s talk more about Jesus and others than about ourselves.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s serve the people who work alongside of us rather than demanding that we be catered to.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s invite constructive feedback rather than demanding positive strokes.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, lets respond humbly to criticism rather than reacting defensively.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s treat others as equals—valuing their time as much as ours, their gifts as important as ours, and their ministries as significant as ours.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s be more concerned about serving others than about how deferential people are to us.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s be more concerned about living for an audience of One, than about how slick we come across.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s be less concerned about how bright our mega-star brand is shining, and more concerned about being salt and light for the Light of the World.
  • Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s be less concerned about advancing our agenda and building our kingdom, and more concerned about finding and following God’s will and being a team-player in Christ’s Kingdom plans.
  • Instead of King-James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s live Philippians 2:2-15 because we serve the servant-King Jesus of Philippians 2:5-11.

Join the Conversation

What additional ways would you finish this sentence:

Instead of King James-like arrogance, in Christian ministry in 2012, let’s…

Note: This article was first posted at RPM Ministries and used by permission of Bob Kellemen. You can read the original post at LeBron James and Celebrity Pastors.