Former leader of London's Holy Trinity Brompton Church, Nicky Gumbel has told attendees of Ekklesia 2023 conference that the names of worship leaders and speakers headlining this year’s Leadership Conference won't be pre-announced in an attempt to combat “celebrity culture”.
So-called “celebrity culture” is often used in Christian circles to refer to the tendency of idolising certain high-profile Christian figures, such as pastors, worship leaders, and authors, as celebrities or influencers.
Many criticise the fact that the focus is mainly on the personality, image, and performance of the church leader rather than on the message of the Gospel or the teachings of Jesus.
“We're done with celebrity culture. It's all about Jesus”, Gumbel told Andy Frost as they spoke about his over thirty years in ministry.
Started in 2012, the Leadership Conference, which is organised by Alpha, has brought well-known church leaders such as Rick Warren, Most Rev Justin Welby, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls and Mike Todd, among others.
Hosted in London’s Royal Albert Hall, the conference gathers thousands of people from across the world.
In the last few years, several church leaders have been blamed for embracing “celebrity culture”. For example, earlier this year, Tim Keller found himself in the centre of controversy after he decided to launch a centre for apologetics in his name.
Some people are accused of having bought into “celebrity culture” for the decision. However, Keller defended the move.
He said: “The name, in my mind, then has two functions: One - Internally, institutions have culture and some think the name will help guide the vision and goal alignment aspirationally.
“Two - it also helps externally with those who are unfamiliar with apologetics quickly associate with what it's trying to do.”