Do We Need a Code of Ethics for Mega-Pastors Who Write?

Do We Need a Code of Ethics for Mega-Pastors Who Write? March 15, 2014

Recently World Magazine had a piece on Unreal Sales for Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage to the effect that the Mars Hill Church bought Driscoll’s book a place on the NYT best seller list through a marketing company with a deliberate intent to by-pass the NYT’s own safe guards against authors or publishers artificially inflating the sales figures for their book. This might even violate IRS rules and regulations about non-for-profits committing inurement. CT also has a piece on this where they link to Mars Hill Church’s official response to the issue.

To be honest, I’ve had enough of mega-church leaders pumping out books that they did not actually write, or else deceiving the masses that their books are more successful than what they actually are. Let me say that this is not just Driscoll, others do it too. Its a well known fact that John Macarthur’s books are not written by John Macarthur, but by Philip R. Johnson at GCC.

I don’t see anything wrong with having research assistants or with making a concerted effort at marketing a book, that’s fine. I have students proof read my own stuff, I ask friends and colleagues for feedback, and get advice from editors. I also work hard at promoting my work on the blog,, social media, and the like because I hope what I have to say will influence and help others. However, there should be limits.

If you’re name is on the cover, then it means you wrote it, not your staff, secretary, assistants, lieutenants, executive officer, or minions. If you had help in putting the book together, then at least acknowledge the hard working men and women who worked so hard to make you look good.

If you’re book gets on a best seller list, its because people other than you, your church, and your lackey’s actually went out a purchased a copy for themselves.

Christian leaders with big followings need to demonstrate integrity, honesty, refuse to engage in deception in order to promote themselves.

I know not everyone likes John Piper, but at least he actually takes time out to write his own books, even going on sabbatical to places like Cambridge, UK. Read his piece on Redeeming Time by Writing Truth.

Just saying! 


Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Right on. I am tired of this too. It is tough to write a book and get it into print. Mega church pastors should be held to the same limitations we are.

  • LT

    Its a well known fact that John Macarthur’s books are not written by John Macarthur, but by Philip R. Johnson at GCC.

    Not quite accurate, is it? Phil Johnson is an editor. I think the material in the books is, for the most part, sermons of MacArthur’s that Johnson edits for written form.

    • Austin DeArmond

      Thank you for this comment. I have read the same also. Dr. Bird is mistaken on this point. Most of MacArthur’s books are sermons turned into book form. Dr. MacArthur relies on Phil Johnson because he doesn’t use a computer. All of his work is hand-written then deciphered by Mr. Johnson. It really is public knowledge.

      • Exactly. Thank you. Mr. Bird’s statement here is as badly skewed and as misleading as most of his doctrine.

        • Mochajava76

          Phillip; What Mike did was careless and wrong, and he should apologize. But what you did was also careless and wrong. Yes, defend yourself. But you allowed your emotion to enter in, and attacked him back. Badly skewed doctrine? Really? Please post where he is in error. Why do David deSilva and Craig Evans give favorable reviews to some of his books? Perhaps he pays them . . .

          • Well, this won’t be news to anyone who knows anything about me: I’m basically a confessional Protestant. In my judgment Mr. Bird’s views on the doctrine of justification undermine the principle of sola fide, and his hostility to the idea of biblical inerrancy amounts to an attack on sola Scriptura. There’s more, of course, but that surely should be sufficient to answer the question.

            It’s a bad idea, BTW, to think positive book reviews from contemporary academic writers are any proof of doctrinal soundness or biblical orthodoxy.

    • LT

      Having given this some further thought, it crosses my mind that perhaps a code of ethics is needed for bloggers who, when being shown an error in their writing, go back and actually correct the error, and note it rather than leave it stand to mislead people.

  • David Lindsay

    Some of us like Piper but not his deformed theology.

  • Brian Kelly

    How many people are we really talking about here. Christian authors seemingly write thousands of books every year and we are talking about a handful that have questionable ethics. I know this is naive, but shouldn’t that 2,000 page book called the Bible work as a code of ethics.

  • DonnaDiorio

    We need a code of ethics for ALL Christian writers not just the mega-church pastors. For example, Cameron Strang’s cover story in Relevant Magazine this month is one of the poorest examples of Christian journalism that I’ve witnessed in a long time. It is an entirely biased, factually inaccurate hit-piece on the modern state of Israel. Is there no standards of accountability in Christian journalism when an influential publishing family puts out pure propaganda with no attempt at balance?

    Or what about the UK Messianic bloggers who writing anonymously feel free to slander others whose opinions they do not like? Is it acceptable for commentary writers to routinely not own their writing?

    There are problems deeper than just the false practices of the mega-church pastors. Our ethics should not be less than secular industry standard, but higher.

  • InklingBooks

    There’s another controversy lurking in the shadows behind mega-pastors who don’t really write their books or, what is often more true, didn’t write the heavily edited versions of their sermons that come out under their names.
    Back about 1998, I attended a C. S. Lewis conference at which a fellow writer spun a depressing tale of woe. Big name pastors, he said, were making quite a bit of money from their patched up sermons. The writers who were doing the actual hard work, he said, were often pitifully paid by evangelical publishers.

    Compounding the problem was that the vanity of those mega-pastors meant that those writers got no credit for their labors. They were literally ghostwriters. Their skills and hard work were not noted in the book, much less prominently displayed on the cover. Unknown, they were stuck with one ill-paid ghostwriting project after another.

    My informant did, however, credit Charles Colson with showing integrity. Being featured as “Charles Colson with…” on the cover had apparently jump-started some careers.

    So yes, there is a need for mega-pastors to descend from the marbled pedestals and follow a code of ethics that isn’t just what they think is acceptable.
    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

  • Matt

    Not to mention pastors who give the impression and/or have convinced themselves that they are professional biblical scholars or theologians. This is a big problem.

  • “I have students proof read my own stuff”

    “If you’re name is on the cover . . .”

    “If you’re book gets on a best seller list. . .”

    Editors and proofreaders are quite a good idea. The ones who actually spot mistakes or clean up bad prose are a valuable and legitimate help.