Friday, October 14, 2011

Evangelicalism, We Have a Problem

...I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me (2 Cor 12:6).

Okay, this is the last post on the whole "celebrity pastor" thing (see 1, 2, & 3). We'll let Carl Trueman, Don't Know Much about Art, but I Know It When I See It, offer the last word:
The issue is that there is a real problem -- in fact, many real problems -- to which some are trying to draw attention. There is a problem with the yob aesthetic, the arrogant stage swagger, the stand-up routines, the obsession with talking about sex in sermons which puts some of these conference headlining pastoral role models about as far from Paul's vision of leadership as possible; there is a problem with pastors who tell their people they will only visit them in hospital once they have been placed in a body bag; there is a problem with pastors who make videos which ape the aesthetics of the mainstream media and focus on the pastor, not the pastor's God; there is a problem with churches of thousands of people, few of whom ever get to meet an elder, let alone the pastor; there is a problem with church planting strategy that is so wedded to the cult of the one man that he has to be skyped in to the community; there is a problem when a man has to phone the librarian at Westminster Seminary with a pastoral issue because nobody at his home church of thousands has the time to speak to an ordinary church member about his crisis of faith.
Read his entire post.

Without exaggeration, there is a problem. There is no hyperbole in that paragraph. And Trueman's last example especially - of a call placed to the seminary librarian - makes me want to weep.

Regardless of what you term it, the behavior of many Christian leaders runs directly counter to Paul's concern that the Corinthians not "credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me."

D.A. Carson explained Paul's attitude: is the typical attitude displayed by this apostle, who is always concerned to insist that people should focus on the gospel and on the Savior; not the messenger.

- A Model of Christian Maturity, p. 149.
Yet, we often find the messenger himself precisely at the focus. Or, as Trueman puts it, "focus on the pastor, not the pastor's God." It can be subtle, to be sure. Though a careful observer can distinguish when something has been written or said to exalt God or to exalt a man's exaltation of God - and there is a world of difference between those two.

Keep that difference in mind the next time you read a bio, conference introduction, or book blurb. There is a problem when Christians are too eager to be credited with more than is seen in them or heard from them. Or they are least negligent in allowing others to do it for them.

I have a close friend who is fond of saying his goal in life is "to die in obscurity for God's glory." Amen, brother. And I do hope he represents the majority of the next generation of missionaries, teachers, and pastors. We are messengers. And whether many people know us or like us - or even remember us when we die - is utterly unimportant.

May the Spirit of our Savior remind us that irrespective of the venue that is afforded to our teaching or writing, we have been called to be pastors, not personalities.

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  1. Surely, although faithful missionaries, teachers and pastors may "die in obscurity," their work for the Kingdom will be deeply appreciated by those who are blessed by God through their labor.

  2. Amen! Remember those who led you... Heb 13:7