Book Recommendation – Celebrity Pastor by Creston Mapes

Book Description:

His Heart Was Right . . . Until It Wasn’t

Pastor Neil Gentry embarked on his ministry with genuine intentions, unwavering passion, and undeniable charisma. He had a gift for drawing people in and teaching profound truths that resonated deeply with the masses. As his influence grew, so did his fame.

Vine & Branches Church became one of the fastest growing in the world, with campuses in Atlanta, LA, Austin, NYC, and a TV ministry spanning the globe. Soon, Pastor Gentry and his wife Becky resembled royalty, enjoying fame and power—and basking in the adoration of their devoted followers.

Beneath the glitz and glamor, however, whispers of misconduct began to surface.

Accusations ranging from coverup and manipulation to corruption and sexual harassment cast a shadow over the once-glowing reputation of Vine & Branches. Was Pastor Gentry leading his flock above reproach, or was he using them to fuel his own ambitions? Could the rumors of emotional manipulation and abuse of power within the church’s inner circle possibly be true?

As the allure of popularity and power consume the Gentrys, they find themselves plummeting into the abyss of moral compromise. With the weight of their actions threatening to shatter everything they’ve built, one dire question remains: can anything or anyone break the spell before the unthinkable happens? Find out in the latest tension-filled thriller from acclaimed suspense novelist Creston Mapes.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I loved reading Celebrity Pastor and I read the book quickly, within twenty-four hours, because I couldn’t put it down. The story opens with a journalist interviewing people regarding complaints about Pastor Neil Gentry. The ensemble cast of characters are connected to Neil and his successful mega-church that’s based in Atlanta, Georgia, and has expanded into an international ministry. 

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely sums up Neil’s character. Neil is power hungry and ruthless in how he runs his church. Neil’s inner circle is tight. The men who have benefitted from the church’s prosperity and exponential growth all stand tall with their leader. They choose to view the complaints against Neil as a spiritual attack on their ministry. Their goal is to shut down the poor publicity that threatens their jobs and prosperity. 

From the opening pages of the story, I was struck by how relatable Nicole’s situation is. She has been sexually harassed by a powerful and charismatic pastor who had fallen in love with the world and lost sight of God. Neil’s appalling behavior suggests that money and power were always a primary motivator in his life. He created a power base that allowed him to indulge in a secret hedonistic lifestyle where he was his own God. 

Sadly, like most people, I’ve experienced sexual harassment from a person in a position of power in a Christian context. I didn’t report it for similar reasons to Nicole. As I read on and learned more about Nicole’s story, I was so thankful that in my situation I could talk honestly and openly with my husband and we could deal with stuff together. 

The suspense builds in the story as the net tightens around Neil. The complaints by Nicole, and other women, put Neil under immense pressure that also impacts his relationship with his wife. Desperate people can make poor decisions. The consequences of those poor decisions play out in the story in a wild ride that leads to a satisfying conclusion. 

The story is hard-hitting and a compelling read that digs deep and explores the wide ranging and devastating consequences of Neil’s narcissistic behavior. I recommend Celebrity Pastor to suspense and thriller readers who are prepared to put aside preconceived ideas about how pastor’s should behave and discover a murky and dangerous world that repels people from wanting to belong in a church community. 

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