Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Demigod Leaders by Joseph Mattera

The church has seen the rise of celebrity cult-status pastors who act like spiritual divas.

In this article I define demigods as those who act as little gods who believe they are above everyone else.

These leaders walk around with an entourage, bodyguards, are inaccessible to even high-level staff and peers, and are unaccountable islands to themselves.

Furthermore, no matter how much these demigod leaders violate biblical ethics, they still maintain their leadership positions because most of their followers are blinded by devotion.

Many of these leaders started in ministry for the right reasons, but because of the undealt emotional dysfunction related to their youthful experiences in fragmented families fraught with abuse, neglect, and anger, they carry these dysfunctions over into their ministries and church families.

There are some social and psychological reasons for this aberrant behavior, both from the vantage point of these leaders and their followers.

The following are some of these symptoms and reasons:

Why followers fall for demigod leaders

1. Many Christians come from dysfunctional family backgrounds and need male hero figures to emulate as father figures.

Some folks view their Spirit-led leaders as surrogate fathers. Hence they will be protective of their leaders to the point in which their emotional connection and loyalty clouds biblical truth.

2. Many Christians have no identity of their own and live vicariously through their leaders.

Those without a healthy self-identity gravitate towards strong, confident leaders with a compelling vision to the point in which their own individuality is subsumed or fragmented. This creates a vacuum of being and essence which makes them vulnerable to charismatic leaders.

For example, this is how false prophet Jim Jones was able to lead 900 well-educated followers into committing corporate suicide in Guyana in 1978.

3. Many have a strong sense of failure and live through the success of their leaders.

Many people live boring lives without purpose and feel they have more meaning when vicariously living through a person they deem successful.

4. Many followers lack their own intimate knowledge of Christ and are ignorant of Scripture.

Unfortunately, most Christians are Bible illiterate and will believe anything their leaders teach them, even if it is heretical. Hence, their leaders can live lives or lead their churches in ways that are not congruent with Scripture, and they wouldn’t even know it!

5. Many stay connected to their leaders primarily because of their social communities.

After being in a church for several years, folks usually assimilate into that particular faith community (which is a great thing in most cases) and build their social networks around their church lives and ministries. If they leave their churches, they will have to cut off many of these social ties. Thus, many will continue in a church even if the leader is living an ungodly life full of pride, abuse, or manipulation.

6. Many are connected to demigod leaders because it gives them religious status.

There are many people I have met who attend certain churches only because those churches have many members, even if they are not being discipled or ministered to in a personal way. They remain in these churches because the celebrity status of their leaders gives them status with other Christians in their cities.

7. Many have low self-esteem and don’t recognize when they are being abused or manipulated.

Those with low self-esteem will allow others to abuse, disrespect, and even manipulate them because they don’t have enough self-dignity to disapprove, or even recognize it. Many of these folks were abused or neglected at home and live with a sense of guilt and feel an unconscious need to have authority figures who act the same way as their parents did. (This satiates their feelings of guilt in some cases.)

Why leaders become demigods

1. They have a sense of entitlement

Some folks think of themselves more highly than they ought and believe in their hearts that they deserve better treatment than any other human being (Romans 12:3).

2. Because of their celebrity status they think they are above the law.

When celebrity leaders (who could be celebrities in small churches as well as large churches based on the adulation of the people and their own self-deception) get used to having sycophants around them, they become used to getting what they want, when they want it! Hence, they push aside boundaries and live lives that satisfy their fleshly inclinations.

3. They are unaccountable because they don't think anyone is qualified to speak into their lives.

Some pastors and leaders think they are so spiritual and successful that they have reached a point where no one is able to speak into their lives and teach them anything.

They may ask in their minds questions like, Is this person as wealthy as me? or, Do they have as many people in their church as I do? before they even consider hearing what others have to say!

4. They are aloof because they don’t trust anyone.

Many demigod leaders are really projecting a false self of confidence and aloofness because they don’t trust anyone enough to have intimate relationships--including their spouses and children.

5. Their self-identity is subsumed by their ministry identity.

Some start off okay, but eventually their success--fueled by their driving ambition to be respected and known--becomes the primary way they view themselves. Thus, they lose their core essence and live through a false sense of success and power.

7. They become narcissistic to medicate the pain of their past.

Many demigod leaders abuse their leadership privileges by manipulating others for their own advantages, and/or are involved in substance abuse, adultery, excessive entertainment, frequent vacations, and others lusts of the flesh to medicate their undealt pain from the great responsibilities, intense life, and other pressure-cooker items that make them feel trapped with no outlet. Thus, they succumb to temporary fixes that give them a reprieve from their miserable reality.

8. They erroneously believe ministry anointing equates God’s favor.

Some believe that because they preach great messages and experience the power of God when ministering that God’s favor is upon them, even if they are not living lives of holiness.

Scripture teaches us through the life of Samson that, eventually, putting anointing before the fruit of the Spirit and walking with the Lord will catch up with us, and we will miss our destiny or have untimely ends to our ministry effectiveness.

9. They preach Christ without a cross--a gospel centered on self rather than on sacrifice.

Some demigod leaders believe and preach a rights-centered gospel that is centered upon self rather than on Christ. This results in living lives of indulgence that have no boundaries, which limit their desires for the physical amenities of life.

10. They associate with other demigod leaders who reinforce a demigod leadership culture.

The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is a truism. People tend to congregate mostly with others who believe like them and reinforce their belief systems and lifestyles, which can either be a force for good or evil.

Demigod leaders tend to associate with other spiritual divas and even have them preach in their churches because they don’t want any dissident voices that would call them to account and bring a standard of holiness.


  1. whoa! This is so on target. Now, what's the solution?

  2. I think the greatest solution is for leaders to come fully into the humility and service that God demands and deflect ALL glory from man as often as they can rather than receiving the glory and worship from man. Secondly, it will take people of God knowing their identity as Sons of God and therefore never placing too much stock in other sons but only Father. Jesus entrusted himself to no man, because He knew the heart of man, and likewise we should trust, but never ENTRUST our lives to no man, but only to God.

  3. It's amazing to me how people, including leaders, and leaders who post such articles on their own sites, in speaking solution, NEVER mention anything about a need for DISCIPLINING, REPROOF, and CORRECTION of leaders clearly and irrefutably guilty of such indictments as what is delineated in this article. In other words there is such a desperate need for REAL spiritual fathers, who act on behalf of God, to FATHER, i.e., DISCIPLINE God's children, including those who have by whatever means hijacked a group of followers of Christ, turning them from the Heavenly Father and to becoming followers of themselves as Paul warned about in Acts 20:28-31. It seems clear that two reasons top the list of why we do not see any of this desperately needed correction in the Body of Christ taking place: 1) Cowardice of leaders who are shirking their duties; 2) Greed and selfish ambition by those who are "fishing in the same pond" as the offenders and who do not want to cause problems for themselves in being able to "book" themselves in the same circles these offending leaders operate in.

  4. Here's the biggest reason:.....The majority of saints in America seem to be in a culture of "say nothing, do nothing". We are taught to speak the truth in love; however, to most saints here that means you are not loving if, should you dare, say anything negative to anyone. They don't consider it to be exhortation, or encouragement, or admonishment or correction; they receive it as criticism, judgment, and then give the speech about YOUR heart not being right...all of which is human selfishness wrought in those who accuse others of the very same thing they do....which Paul warned saints NOT to do. The N.T. is full of Christ and saints speaking the truth in love..and it's not MAMBY PAMBY LAND and it's not acting like BARNEY...........JOHN

  5. Here one solution God showed us... MISSIONARIES TO AMERICA!!! :)

  6. Dear Anonymous,
    The Church needs a true "government of God" set up, Apostles and prophets who are respected, very spiritually mature, who know the heart and mind of God. This Godly Church Government would be given the right and responsibility to bring correction to "Demigods", and other leaders who where leading Gods people astray. Unfortunetly the body of Christ has yet to reach the unity required to make this possible. The "Demigods" would not have to agree, they would either choose to recieve the correction, and the subsequent restoration process, or choose to rebel, but at least there folly would be made public knowledge, therefore opening the eyes of their blind followers. The unity required must come from the whole and healthy segment of the body. I do believe we will see this begin to transpire in this next decade, as more gross sin is revealed in the body. God Bless.

  7. Could this prophetic round table gathering in Texas Tuesday be the beginning of such a government?? {11/30/10}

  8. Anonymous,John,Jodi, Praise God. You are on the right path.
    An Advocacy Council is currently taking form for just the reasons you stated. These 'Demigods" must be held accountable for their actions. If they don't receive the correction, it will be made public. AMEN
    I'm interested in the round table gathering you're talking about Jodi. This is what God has put on my heart for a while now. "Round Table". No more hierarchies in the body of Christ but true Godly government and accountability.


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