Best and Worst of Ministry Awards

February 28, 2011

Did you watch the Oscars?

Some people are really into the Oscars.  Some of us just see it as a night full of back slapping and “atta boy” giving among a bunch of self-absorbed millionaires.  Of course, if you don’t like the Oscars, you can always watch the “Razzies” the night before to see the worst films and actors “honored” for their work.

Most of us don’t have jobs where we get trophies for doing good work.  We just get a cost of living wage increase.  There’s no awards for best parents, or best mechanics, or whatever.  There’s also no real-life Razzie awards for useless people, which I think is a glaring omission of our culture.

But most of the jobs that capture public attention do have their own awards – films, music, games, teachers, books, to name a few.  Except there’s one industry that’s been capturing public attention longer than any other, and yet doesn’t give out any awards: the church.

Christians get kind of sweaty about the idea of giving awards to people, since our focus is supposed to be on Jesus.  Also, like Crash, a few years ago, a lot of great pastors aren’t well known.  Popularity doesn’t equal quality.  Plus, Christians have a hard time agreeing on whether a pastor is a great communicator or a total heretic.

But let’s put that aside and just have a little fun.  I’ve got a list of a few of my “Best of Ministry” and “Razzie” awards for the last year. 

First, the good awards.

Best Ministry Focus

Winner: Rick Warren.  Americans are fat.  Rick Warren started a new focus with his church this year, encouraging them to take a more “holistic” approach to spirituality, part of which is actually being physically healthy.  Warren’s leading the way by taking a stand against fat guys in little pulpits by losing 90 pounds.

Most Shocking Career Change

Winner: Francis Chan.  Chan is the pastor of Cornerstone Church, but announced this year, he’s stepping aside to take a greater focus on ministry in India.  Mark Driscoll’s head nearly exploded when he was interviewing Chan, because it just doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. 

Runner Up: John Piper, who just quit his job for nine months so he could work on “personal” stuff.

Best Old Guy Preacher

Winner: Chuck Swindoll.  I try to listen to several older pastors.  Sadly, I don’t get a lot of out most of their messages.  They seem out of touch, or tired, or something.  Chuck Swindoll was actually ridiculed by my preaching professor for his fast and loose style and propensity for including seventeen points in a single message.  But I’d rather take a pastor who has seventeen good points then a guy who has three crappy, but perfectly formed points.

Best Young Guy Preacher

Winner: Andy Stanley.  I don’t know what kind of pastor Andy is.  But he’s a dang good teacher.

Most Successful Publicity Stunt

Winner: Terry Jones.  Take any stunt that any mega-church pulled off this year, and it pales in comparison to the attention Terry Jones got just by throwing a little book burning party.

Best Fu Manchu Mustache

Winner: Terry Jones.  It’s a clean sweep!  Terry Jones wins!

But the ministry isn’t just full of great people.  It’s also full of charlatans, thieves and criminals.  And they need to be honored too.  And now for the Razzies.

Weirdest Financial Scandal

Winner: The Schuller Family.  Any pastor can steal thousands of dollars from their church.  The Schuller saga has just turned weird.  The Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy last year, the entire family took 50% pay cuts (half of them don’t even live in the same state as the church), and the family just sold the former home of JonBenet Ramsey’s family for $2.3 million.  Any other financial scandal is sure to look boring by comparison.

Most Blatant Cash Grab

Winner: Ed Young Jr.  I will admit, I dislike just about everything Ed Young Jr. does.  So it was hard for me to pick out the one thing he did last year that I disliked most.  But using scripture to pressure your congregation into putting their tithes on “auto-draft” from their bank account because the church’s membership and income is shrinking is pretty unlikable to me.

Worst Pastor of 2010

Winner: Bishop Eddie Long.  Yeah…

Pastor I’ve Most Lost Interest In

Winner: Rob Bell.  I used to idolize a lot of pastors.  I probably fell hardest for Rob Bell.  He was a novelty when he first became popular, with his lilting, quasi-emo style, unique pre-YouTube videos, horn rim glasses, and quirky books.  Nothing against him as a person, he just has the feeling of a one hit wonder to me, and I’ve moved on.

Okay, chime in with your own awards and Razzies for pastors, churches, books, blogs, cult leaders, heretics, whatever grabbed your attention in the church in the last year.  Don’t be afraid to give a shout out to your own pastor, and tell us why he’s great.

31 responses to Best and Worst of Ministry Awards

  1. Strangest Gimmick – Jim Bakker selling cream that will protect you from pestilence during the tribulation.
    Best Attention Getter – Mark Driscoll for his weekly over the top tirades that end him up on every Christianity Today website.
    Best Male Preacher – Whoever came up with the 30 day sex challenge!
    Best Female Impersonating a Male Preacher – Paula White when she goes into overdrive looks like a blonde, 100 pound former stripper impersonating TD Jakes!
    Best Preacher who never wastes a word – Warren Wiersbe is still a master!
    Brian recently posted..Light Up- Don’t Complain

  2. You forgot Cedric Miller who banned his congregation from using Facebook for fears of sexual immorality but had a few skeletons in the closet himself.
    Jeremy Statton recently posted..Killer bats and perspective on life

    • Even without his skeletons, how odd is it for a pastor to say that the what is causing divorce is that the spouses are now able to find out about the adultery? Shot in the dark, but it might be the actual adultery causing the problem. And that actually predated facebook.

    • I recall him. I thought it was a weird call, but I couldn’t think of a category to put him in!

  3. How about Worst Publicity Stunt: Fred Phelps and his Westboro “Baptist” church. I can’t even bring myself to show him the respect of typing the title he claims. Protesting at soldier’s funerals by shouting hateful things on an issue completely irrevelant to the war is bad enough. However, protesting at the funeral of a girl shot in the Tuscon rampage is giving the devil pretty good publicity.

    I liked your choice for best old time preacher. I listened to him a lot on the radio when I was a kid, though I had to do it without my dad knowing because he isn’t a believer and didn’t want his house infected with religious stuff. I accepted Jesus Christ while on vacation with my grandparents.
    tandemingtroll recently posted..Happy Valentines Day

    • That’s awesome! And about Phelps, it is a cult. The “church” is mostly made up of family members, and they’re all lawyers, which is how they know how to skirt the line of the law so well without being arrested. “Baptist” isn’t a trademarked term, so they are free to use it, though no Baptist association would ever own them.

  4. Most Faithful Christian: My wife – raised Catholic, born-again, full of the Holy Spirit and can’t remember a day when she didn’t have faith in God. Well known for the gift of recognizing asinine Christians from 100 yards; a prayer warrior who cares for her family with pride, and does a lot in secret to help others.

    Best Up and Coming Ministry: Kris Vallotton is one of the most insightful teachers I have heard in many years. Here is a short video (4 min) of something that I find interesting.

    Best Christian Blog: A two-way tie between TCoNP and Tony C Today, with an honorable mention to Charlie’s Church of Christ.

    Worst Ministry of the Year: 1st place goes to anyone in a national ministry that spends time putting down other ministries instead of preaching the Gospel.

    2nd Place goes to ministries that preach politics and social justice like it is Bible.
    David recently posted..For Prophet – From Darkness to Light

  5. “There’s also no real-life Razzie awards for useless people, which I think is a glaring omission of our culture.”


    If humor was intended by calling some people “useless,” I fail to see it. Making the marginalized more marginalized isn’t in the job-description of a Christian.

    • First of all, “useless” was used facetiously and frivolously. You are reading too much into it. Second, even if I’m saying that some people really are “useless,” you assume that “useless” people are by definition “marginalized.” Case in point: Charlie Sheen. Useless? Yes. Marginalized? No…well, except by his own actions. I’m not talking about giving Razzies to homeless people or anything like that, and I’m not sure why you would assume that I am.

    • If a rebuking comment was intended by hiding your identity behind the name “uneasy,” I fail to see it. Making anonymous responses so you can avoid any accountability for your judgmental attitude isn’t in the job-description of a Christian.

  6. All Hollywood awards shows are rather useless – like we even remember who won 2 seconds after they’re over. (I’m not going to say they are for useless people because I don’t want to be rebuked.)
    Anne K recently posted..Nothing Says Sacrifice Like A Union

    • Good. Because I watched for the first time in years! I am so happy that The King’s Speech won best picture, and that Colin Firth is getting his first Oscar! :-)

  7. I am a fan of Rob Bell but he is still new to me. My new church has been using his videos for their Wednesday night services during Epiphany and I have really enjoyed his messages. But I am not one to knock someone for their opinion :) Given what I have just gone through at my old church, that lack of tolerance for another opinion is just not a good thing. Will have to check out some of the other folks you mentioned and liked!
    Kim recently posted..The key to change is to let go of fear”

    • I used to love Rob Bell and all of the Nooma videos. However, I don’t want anything to do with him now. Much of what he says sounds good, but when you check it against scripture, it doesn’t jive.

      Keep in mind that God doesn’t really care about our *opinions*. He cares about the Truth and being glorified. And we glorify God by being like His Son. Also, tolerance is not a fruit of the Spirit. But kindness is. We can and should be kind to others, even if they don’t think exactly like we do. 80)

  8. Rob Bell’s theology is off. I remember the line in Velvet Elvis, “Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. The difference is in the way we live.”

    Yeah, not so much the truth. And I’m a little worried about his next book, Love Wins. I look forward to reading it, though, as it will hopefully showcase Bell actually talking directly about some of his doctrinal stances.
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..The Problem with Evangelism

  9. Chuck Swindoll is a good ‘un (as folks would say around here.) How about “Deceased Preacher with the Best Voice”. It would have to go to Adrian Rogers.
    seekingpastor recently posted..I Love Rob Bell

  10. I’d put Brian McLaren in the Razzie section too. Maybe we could call his category “Seriously Dude, You Think the Bible Says WHAT?”
    Marni recently posted..Yeah- Im back

  11. Regardless of what you think about the guy….

  12. This was definitely clever, Matt. And what the heck happened with the whole Eddie Long business? That disappeared into thin air and was never spoken of again.
    Tony Alicea recently posted..Just One Glance

  13. All of these celebrity theologians yet between them they wouldn’t match the proselytizing efforts of Lady Gaga over the past 12 months.
    Andrew recently posted..The Home Front – Selous Scout Mission

  14. Gilbert Gottfried Award for Awkward Facial Gestures: Francis Chan. I like his books, and the man is a gifted, passionate and powerful speaker – but sometimes, he makes me giggle. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. He genuinely looks like he’d be fun to hang out with.

    Most Polarizing: (tie) Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. Love ’em or hate ’em, but you can’t ignore ’em.

    Best Non-Ministerial Preacher: Donald Miller. Without the use of a pulpit, he manages to speak Truth (with a capital “T”) to people who might otherwise not give the time of day to the winners directly above.
    Sonny Lemmons recently posted..One Word 20112

  15. Wait a second… What about all the recent hype about Rob Bell? That should win the “Best Marketing Strategy” award… Even if you don’t like him, he knows how to sell a book.
    SethC recently posted..Pet-Peeves

  16. Happy Birthday Matt!
    Gabrielle Eden aka Marie recently posted..GOT TO GIVE IT UP – MARVIN GAYE 1977

  17. I love Chuck Swindoll!! I was so glad to see him on your list! I also really enjoy Chip Ingram. I don’t know too much about anyone who deserves a Razzie because if their doctrine doesn’t line up I usually stop listening. However there is a pastor from my home town that frustrates me a lot. He is very politically active and seems to condemn more easily than he loves. If you like to debate how to interpret scripture you should check out his site which I definitely think deserves a sort of Razzie!
    I would also give Shane Claiborne and his ministries the most Christ-like award. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s because he’s all about serving others and following Christ, and not making a name for himself or money for his ministry.

    And I’ll bite and join the Rob Bell debate. I’ve heard great things and awful things about Rob Bell. But I read a book by Timothy Stoner who read Velvet Elvis and met with some of Bell’s congregates and he met with Bell himself. His problem with Bell wasn’t ultimately his doctrine or personal beliefs, but that Bell’s what if scenarios lead people astray. Bell’s doctrine seems to ultimately be in place personally, but if his books and sermons confuse his followers so much that they aren’t even sure if salvation comes from Christ, then there is a problem there. Preachers should preach truth not exaggerated extrapolations.
    Carla recently posted..You may be a Christianbut whats that Smell

    • Speaking of awards, I think JC (via Eugene Peterson) probably has the best take on the KPIs for an award in His economy:

      “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” Matthew 7:15-20
      Andrew recently posted..Rickyleaks

    • Chip Ingram is like my Joel Osteen, since I refuse to listen to Osteen. He always makes me feel good, even though I don’t get much depth from him. I consider him kind of a “family coach.” I’ve never heard him talk theology, just family stuff.

  18. Thought this was good article about the Crystal Cathedral by Tony Campollo. I hadnt heard of the trouble they were having until I read this blog. I think this might help explain the weird part a bit more…

  19. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but you can’t ignore ‘em. Much of what he says sounds good, but when you check it against scripture, it doesn’t jive. If a rebuking comment was intended by hiding your identity behind the name “uneasy,” I fail to see it. He always makes me feel good, even though I don’t get much depth from him.