Don't know much about art, but I know it when I see it

Over at the Gospel Coalition, the Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile has a post on definitions.  His argument is a thoughtful one and he calls for the abandonment of talk of `celebrity' and 'rock star' pastors because, as he rightly points out, defining these terms is hard.  He also sees me as one of the main culprits.  So it seems apposite to thank him for his provocative and gently expressed thoughts and to offer a few in return.

I am tempted to say `I don't know how to define art, but I know it when I see it.'  Except, other than understanding that Thomas Kinkade is not art, that statement would not be true.    I am told Jackson Pollock is art but that, as they say, is clearly above my paygrade.  

But let's bring it closer to home: most pastors I know would acknowledge that internet pornography is the number one pastoral problem among men in their congregation.  Yet no pastor I have ever spoken to has been able to provide a fully adequate, stable, universally agreed definition of pornography which covers all cases any time any where.   By the above logic, we should therefore stop all talk of pornography as a problem.   We do not know how to define the term; we should not use it.

The problem is: semantics notwithstanding, pornography is a huge problem; and pastors who cannot define the p word know its a problem, recognise it, and take action to help those struggling with it.  Frankly, pastoral time spent debating exactly what it is is pastoral time completely wasted -- time which might otherwise be spent tackling the issue.  

Thus, the issue with the celebrity culture surrounding certain pastors and organisations is not ultimately one of linguistic definition or of those who use the term with a certain amount of elasticity or even incompetence.  The issue is that there is a real problem -- in fact, many real problems -- to which some are trying to draw attention.  There is a problem with the yob aesthetic, the arrogant stage swagger, the stand-up routines, the obsession with talking about sex in sermons which puts some of these conference headlining pastoral role models about as far from Paul's vision of leadership as possible; there is a problem with pastors who tell their people they will only visit them in hospital once they have been placed in a body bag; there is a problem with pastors who make videos which ape the aesthetics of the mainstream media and focus on the pastor, not the pastor's God; there is a problem with churches of thousands of people, few of whom ever get to meet an elder, let alone the pastor; there is a problem with church planting strategy that is so wedded to the cult of the one man that he has to be skyped in to the community; there is a problem when a man has to phone the librarian at Westminster Seminary with a pastoral issue because nobody at his home church of thousands has the time to speak to an ordinary church member about his crisis of faith. 

Call it what you like.  I call it the culture which grows up around celebrities.  Maybe I am hopelessly wrong in my choice of terms.  You may certainly choose others which fit better.  But like  internet pornography, I would rather spend time exposing the problems for what they are than debating semantic qualifications.