Many people know that celebrity Christian authors rely on ghostwriters, researchers and now, their church or ministry marketing team to turn them into “bestsellers.”
The bestsellers’ racket has become so distorted and corrupt, the gold sticker or printed designation on a book’s cover doesn’t mean so much these days. In other words, “bestseller” can mean anything someone wants it to mean. A single author can call his new book a bestseller because that particular project sold more than his previous books.
Now, we find in the sleazy world of celebrity Christian ministry that authors like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick have learned how to rig the system in order to have “bestseller” in front of their names.
I’ve read two of Furtick’s books – “Sun Stand Still” and “Greater” – and I don’t think I could stomach another. The latest, “Crash the Chatterbox,” is another in a long line of tree killers that purport to help the reader “hear the voice of God.” Never mind that you can do that by reading a hotel-room Bible.
James Duncan at Pajama Pages has done a terrific job chronicling the unsavory aspects of celebrity authors. Aside from a horrific few months PR-wise (lavish home, rigged baptisms, etc.), Furtick has been exposed as a guy who cravenly uses Elevation Church as his personal marketing firm.
Notice how quickly, after release, books by guys like this drop like a rock in the North Atlantic. That’s a strong hint that they are mediocre. But then, quality doesn’t drive much of what passes for mainstream Christian publishing today.
But it’s Driscoll who may be having the worst first quarter.
Even as charges of plagiarism still swirl around the Mars Hill (Seattle) pastor, it has now been revealed that $210,000 of the church’s tithe offerings were used to hire a marketing firm to ensure that Driscoll’s new book, “Real Marriage,” would shoot up the bestseller lists.
A hallmark of the celebrity pastors is refusal to answer inquiries into their more troubling activities. Predictably, when Driscoll was caught red-handed plagiarizing various actual authors, he decided to double down. A radio show host who outed Driscoll for plagiarism herself became the story, a “nice” sleight of hand these pastors have learned: Crush your critics, and by all means, switch the subject!
Driscoll has enriched himself greatly through Mars Hill. His speaking fees, book deals and networking provide him a measure of fame and insulation that pastors in bygone eras would have marveled at. After they’d vomited.
These celebrity pastors have also opened a can of worms they might regret very much.
According to Duncan: “Sermon series are postponed until a book’s commercial release to drive sales by members of the author’s congregation. Pastor-authors are earning money from the church’s regular tithes and offerings, then supplementing that with the royalties that flow to them from book sales. We know that churches are careful not to overpay their pastors with tax-exempt charitable donations, so they use the profits from book sales to boost the pastor’s total compensation package without drawing unnecessary scrutiny from the IRS.”
I do not believe these celebrity pastors will ever come clean because it’s the right thing to do. If they ever do “come clean,” it will be because someone they fear is after them.
Until then, the sleazy book deals and marketing schemes will continue.
If you’re waiting for anything else, anything moral to come from them, you’ll be waiting ’til hell freezes over.
Or the sun stands still.