celebrity and integrity

I have been thinking a bit about Tiger Woods recently...

The dynamics at work in public and private life are worth considering. Celebrities like Tiger have no qualms about using the media to magnify their lives on the global stage, increasing their fame and fortune as they do so. But the necessary consequence of this is that one day that same media might deflate their lives on the global stage as well. Deal with it! If you want them to puff up your balloon in the public world, be prepared to have them pop it as well. That is the life you have chosen. You can't use the media for a decade or two and then suddenly turn around and say, "OK - I want my privacy from now on - turn around and go home." Compassion is in short supply in our world and it needs to be spent where it is needed most - and so when a celebrity falls into a deep dark hole out of their own foolishness, I train my mind to control the flow of compassion.

There is, of course, another pathway celebrities can choose. Adding an ordered private life of integrity to their dizzying public life. That 'what you see is what you get' quality. That 'go on, media, shine your light anywhere you like in my life and you won't find much about which to write which will interest people.' However such is the corrosive nature of their level of access to money, sex and power that we seldom see this alignment of public and private worlds. It is a bit tragic because celebrities with a global reach coupled to a private order could do a lot of good in the sort of world we live in. (I guess there are a few of them around)

I have been thinking a bit about Brian Tamaki recently...

Before you start quoting me out of context (!), let me say I am not in the crowd who throw the "cult" word at Tamaki. I was embarassed when that conversation was had on national TV. The language was too strong and too aggressive and Tamaki handled himself with gracious restraint. I respect Tamaki for what he is achieving for the sake of Christ in a part of NZ society where the church has failed. I think I understand what is behind the '700 men making their promises' and I am going to give Tamaki the benefit of the doubt and refrain from being critical.

But I still have deep concerns which evoke deep prayers for him and his ministry. What I struggle to understand are the massive billboards with "a super city needs a super church" on them, together with Tamaki's photo. What is the thinking behind this strategy? Why are these billboards needed? Gee - I hope Destiny's brains trust knows what they are doing with these. They make me squirm with discomfort. Biblically, they seem wrong-headed. Strategically, they seem ill-advised. I would have thought that the people of God living distinctive lives as they immerse themselves in that part of the world where God has called them is sufficient marketing. It is so viral.

To me this billboard approach starts to feel like the celebrity approach. To me there is here an overheated desire to be noticed and known. This invites unwelcome and unnecessary pressures that become difficult to withstand. The media glare will switch on. The search for inconsistency between public and private worlds will intensify. I hope and pray that they maintain the personal integrity and nurture the spiritual resources to withstand the heat so that the name of Christ will not be embarassed at some later date.

nice chatting



Well that was one of the interesting things about the "oath" the 700 men took. Its language often reflected the idea that Tamaki was God's point man in NZ public perception. That he needed this devotion and unwavering respect because of this public profile. As I blogged last month (http://xenos-theology.blogspot.com/2009/11/brian-tamaki-and-gary-hamel.html) what he needs in such a position is not sicophants but loving critics who will keep him on track. I volunteered for the job, but he is yet to contact me :-( No one told him the billboards were a bad idea, because they've all just taken an oath not to criticise!
Mark Maffey said…
We live in a time of cult of personality. There is no doubt in my mind that there are those out there who will deliberately target,honey trap the likes of Tiger. Unfortunately there are plenty of Christian Leaders who have fallen over the years, and again this raises the importance of accountability structures and safeguards. I applaud the work of Childsafe www.childsafe.org.nz. In all seriousness we need an Adultsafe version for our Churches.

I like you Paul see that there are definitely some good things being done with Destiny. I wonder if the pledge is not too much different to Soldership in the Salvation Army, or Membership in other churches with the exception that it is focussed on Bishop Tamaki rather than God.

In our "IDOL" obsessed times, perhaps Bishop Tamaki is setting himself up for a fall, like you I hope that he has an accountability structure which has men and women of wisdom and discernment who can guide him in the media challenges he will undoubtedly continue to face.
Paul said…
Helpful comments, Jonathan and Mark. I haven't heard the phrase "honey trap" before...

I am trying to be as fair as I can to Tamaki in what I have written in the original post. I just don't know enough of the inner workings of the church to comment further. But from a distance - and in terms of perception (and 'perception' is so important because it is so influential)- I would have enough questions about two of the three in that corrosive trinity (ie money and power) to prevent me from attending the church.

Sure - nothing wrong may have been done to this point in time - but some foundations for trouble are being laid, if what you say is correct, Jonathan. I do pray that such trouble will be averted. But like you say, IF there is a ban on criticism from within, that makes it far more difficult.
Ali said…
Paul, is it safe to extend your critique of the Tamaki super church to mega churches, multi-site churches, video preaching etc?
Paul said…
I am not sure what aspect of the "critique" you are referring to, Ali.

I am not entirely comfortable with splashy, brash marketing when it comes to the work of the gospel. It seems to me that the objective in marketing is to play on the border of the truth and the lie in order to secure a response. That doesn't sound too wise to me.

As to this specific billboard from Destiny, I have various reservations. Not sure a "super church" (whatever that is) is required in the mission of God at all. And it is hard not to conclude that the billboard suggests Tamaki to be a "super pastor" and I am not sure any of those are required either. HOWEVER - we should retain our sense of humour here as I bet there is a bit of tongue-in-cheek, 'let's get people talking' in the intention behind the billboard.
Ali said…
When reading "Super Church" my mind jumped to the big multisite, video venue, mega-church models seen elsewhere where the preaching pastor is the draw card. I confess I wasn't thinking so much of the marketing except as within the church itself and to a lesser degree within the community. Instead, I was thinking of the celebrity and the intense pressure put on that one pastor. I also understood your "viral" concept to be thwarted to a large degree by these big churches.

Surely I've touched on your actual meaning just a bit?? Perhaps it just goes to show that no matter what you've written, I'll read whatever I want into it. :)
seeker3 said…
Using godliness for financial gain.

Brian Tamaki has set up a system similar to the Roman Catholic church – a franchised business system that takes advantage of people seeking to follow the Christian way through personal relationship to Jesus Christ.

Cult churches are usually a mixture of truth and falsehood, which makes them difficult to deal with.

Some people may be genuinely helped in Brian’s church through being pointed to Biblical principles to correct their lives, however they will eventually be harmed if they go along with Brian’s improper insistence of worshipping him as the leader through his unbiblical covenantal obedience system, just like the Roman Catholic Pope tries to assert over the entire world.
That bypasses exclusive devotion to Jesus Christ through directly following Bible counsel.

The Bible is the authority of Christianity, not church leaders.

The Bible is authored by God through guiding its contributing writers:
2 Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Brian has incited idolatry and is drawing disciples after himself:

Acts 20:29-30 …. savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

1 Tim 6:5 ….. men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

See link: This comment in the Washington Post on perversion in churches about money.

The Prosperity Gospel, Ho Ho Ho, “Praise the lord”.

(lord with a little “l” because it isn’t the LORD of Genesis 1:1, it is “The God of this Age” or “Prince of the power of the air”:

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (NKJV)

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (NKJV)

Brian Tamaki of Destiny church is one of New Zealand’s flamboyant money perverts.

He is glorifying POTPOTA (Prince of the Power of the Air) or GOTA (God of this Age).

See link: The coiffered idol.

Look for the photo of him with a perspex pulpit.

Perspex pulpits are the latest covet item of preachers everywhere.

I heard a church pastor in Palmerston North some years ago expressing his desire and affection for such a fashion accessory.

The only use could be to validate his importance in front of the congregation.

It is a very sad business, all this decadence in church leaders.

2 Cor 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Paul said…

I'd be surprised if the Destiny leaders would agree with some of your claims. "Brian's improper insistence on worshipping him as the leader..."? Wow! Is that really happening? I doubt it.

I think the difference between what you see and what I see is probably that what you assert IS happening, I am concerned MIGHT happen - and I hope it can and will be averted. Still there is some value in hearing your alarmist approach.

Our pastor has a perspex pulpit and I'll be preaching from it on Sunday. Gulp?! I better be careful :)

One more thing. I am not convinced of your practise here of accumulating isolated biblical texts (loosely connected to the topic of concern) with the suggestion that this is somehow the biblical view on the subject. I think it is far more subtle and rigorous than that and requires a closer attention to issues like context. But then this is just a 'comment' on a 'post' on a 'blog'...

Thanks for contributing
Greg said…
Good points Paul.

There was an article in the Baptist by Mic Duncan on the issue with Tamaki that I thought insightful and interesting. Particularly about watching and reacting from a middle class mindset (which I realised I'd done) and evaluating them from within their own cultural framework.

Re: Tiger, there is an issue of public / private distinctions here and how they can be kept separate. Tiger has always kept his family life quite private. Because he has utilised the media in promoting himself and the "Tiger" brand - himself as a golfer - does that give the media the right to pry into his private life? I'm not sure it does. The key words you use are "necessary consequence". I agree that it does necessarily follow that the media pry. I'm not sure that they should. There is nothing the media loves more than a fallen saint. But then the natural question is whether that is simply because journalists know how well "fallen saints" sell. People seemingly do want to read and hear a great deal about Tiger's indiscretions. I agree with the desire for celebrities to lead lives of discipline, but isn't it equally an issue (or perhaps even more so) that we have a rapacious appetite for reading about celebrities when they don't lead such lives?
Paul said…
On Tiger? Sure, the media may not have the right to pry as such - but the expectation must be there that they will - particularly when you've used them to advance your fame and fortune. It is the game of life you've chosen to play.

It is awhile since I read Mick's comments on Tamaki. I remember them as helpful - but also thinking that working class values must be confronted by the gospel every bit as much as middle class values.

Thanks Greg
seeker3 said…
>> I am not convinced of your practise here of accumulating isolated biblical texts (loosely connected to the topic of concern) with the suggestion that this is somehow the biblical view on the subject.

It is the method of fulfilling Heb 4:12 about the word of God being a sharp sword to define truth and expose error.

You can settle your concern by checking the context around the verses I have used and considering whether they suit the argument item I used them with.

Jesus Christ quoted individual scripture verses (each preceded by “It is written” in contending against temptations (arguments) presented by the Devil.

I take care not to recklessly use Bible verses:
2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Some Bible verses can stand entirely on their own, (eg. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”) others need context included to prevent them being misleading.

The phrase “god of this age” in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 is very relevant, because lots of churches are moving towards following “god of this age” through perverted Bible teaching, eg. the prosperity gospel which points towards a false Christ: “Mammon Jesus”.

Brian Tamaki preaches this gospel and uses himself as proof of it (all the worldly wealth he has collected).
The wealth didn’t come from God, it came through the church plate via extortion type preaching and various church merchandise and business schemes.
seeker3 said…
>> I'd be surprised if the Destiny leaders would agree with some of your claims

They are consistent in denying every accusation, however their denial means little, the proof is in how all their teachings and practices line up with the Bible.

>> Brian's improper insistence on worshipping him as the leader..."?

Brian Tamaki doesn’t ask for worship directly.
He incites it indirectly through his teachings about submitting to leadership (him).

He has taken this a lot further than other church leaders who may do this.
Now he has created a system of covenantal oaths of allegiance to Brian Tamaki, and this is one proof he has crossed the line to be called the leader of a cult church.

See ODT news article 29 Oct 2009

I am reliably informed the covenant rings have Brian’s face engraved on them.

Bible references about “wolves” seem to fit the consequences of cult churches.

These “wolf” leaders tear away at the members of the body of Christ.
Scripture warns of it, so people should be warned about people like Brian Tamaki.

Some people may want to “pat the wolf”.
They are being foolish and naieve.

Brian Tamaki is only a man with a pack of “underlings” (bodyguard “heavies”, etc.) who enforce his bidding. I think that is pathetic and fraudulent compared to what Christian fellowship is meant to be.

When any church leader usurps the priority of devotion to the counsel of God directly from scripture, they indirectly set up devotion to church leaders (themselves).

The Roman Catholic church asserts the “apostolic office of the Pope” (clergy) to be the interpreter of scripture.

Regular members (laity) are commanded by the clergy to submit to the Bible interpretation of the clergy.
This indirectly makes the clergy “the oracles of God”.

This automatically leads to the adoration of the clergy by the people. The top level clergy (Pope, “Bishop” Tamaki, etc.) gets the most adoration.

Brian Tamaki is inciting this automatic adoration by the combination of the submission system and the Bible interpreter role he promotes for himself.
The Brian Tamaki covenant ritual binds the participators to this for life, just like a marriage covenant.

Compare this with the apostle Paul who deliberately resisted a controlling stance over other believers, eg. 2 Cor 1:24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. (NKJV)

Romans 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Making a covenant of faith in Brian Tamaki or any church leader is blasphemy.
seeker3 said…
Perspex pulpits, MED and DED

>> Our pastor has a perspex pulpit and I'll be preaching from it on Sunday. Gulp?! I better be careful :)

Well I hope you will be careful about what you preach, apart from the effect of the pulpit.

Pulpits can be MED - Message Embellishing Devices, or DED – Deception Enhancing Devices.
They can be used to enhance an aura of importance and authority about the preacher and (indirectly) the message they preach.

Why is that needed when the Bible does its own wonderful work, when appropriately preached from?

Brian Tamaki would be attracted to MED and DED because he is completely consumed with his own importance and insists his church members be as well.

People should consider and follow the message (if it is Biblically sound), not the preacher of it.
If the message is corrupted (unbiblical), then that should not be followed either.

It might be better to get rid of the embellishing device (eg. perspex pulpit) and just use a table to hold your bible and notes.

It could make an impact if you did that, and people might be challenged to think about what they are actually going to church for. To be entertained?
The Bible warns: 2 Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Suggest your listeners take notes and check that your Bible references are appropriate to your topic, etc.

Truth is important.
Paul said…
I can see these things matter a great deal to you, 'seeker3'. That's good. We need people to be guarding the gospel in all its forms and implications.

However I still have a caution in my spirit. You make a series of devastating allegations concerning the work of Brian Tamaki. While I am sympathetic to what you say and in no way feel any compulsion to defend him, I do hope that what you are saying is based on first-hand eye-witness and ear-witness testimony engaged with primary source material! It better not be based on media reports and secondary testimony about stuff you've heard from sundry others...

I, too, am deeply concerned about truth. From the stuff that is in the public domain about Destiny Church I can see how everything you assert could be true. If that is the case, it is a most grievous situation and you are right to be dog-with-bone with these issues. But the trouble is I don't trust the public domain!

Furthermore, as it was said of Francis Schaeffer and the secret of L'Abri's success: "truth mattered and people mattered". As it was said of Jesus, he was "full of grace and truth". And so while truth is on my mind with this issue, it is not the only thing on my mind.

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