I recently had a terrific conversation with a fellow pastor. We talked about how much we appreciate the accessibility of so many great bible teachers today. There seems to be a larger number of helpful books, blogs, podcasts, and videos available than ever before.
For this we remain thankful.
Well, sort of.
One of the things that has disturbed me in the last few years is the way in which the public debate so galvanizes us against one another. For example: Pastor so and so (let’s just call him John) who is highly successful with a substantial following takes a public shot at another pastor (let’s just call him Mark), who also is highly successful with a substantial following. (whether the first or second pastor were right is not the point at this point)
What is the result?
Well, a fairly awkward climate for discussion among the less visible pastors and lay people.
This is real life for me. I like John MacArthur. I have ever since I first laid eyes on The Gospel According to Jesus. In so many ways I want to emulate his pastoral & preaching ministry. At the same time I like Mark Driscoll. I have ever since I read Radical Reformission. I am thankful to God for Driscoll’s personal devotion to Christ, love for his flock and desire to reach those outside of Christ. You may recall that last year there were a series of blog posts that lit up the blogosphere, twittersphere and any other reformed sphere out there. This resulted in a lot of defending and accusing by a lot of different people (again, who is ‘right’ is beyond my scope here, it is the result that I’m after). The tension got so thick that I remember getting the stink eye from folks because I would speak favorably about either Driscoll or MacArthur. It got old. It is frustrating.
The weight of the issue/problem really came to light sometime last year for me. On a few occassions (either verbally or in writing) I would note that one of these guys made a great point or preached a particularly helpful sermon. The responses were often, “You know that guy is dangerous.” Or, “You know that guy is a…whatever.”
I would often attempt to defend the individual point and then have to give several qualifications letting people know that I am in fact aware of all the prevailing issues, while apologizing for all of their life shortcomings except their iPod playlists.
It gets exhausting.
The reason I am pointing to them is because they are exalting Christ. However, all of the little clones are running around trying to blow up the other guy all the time. And if you are taking ‘his’ side then maybe you are to be implicated in his shortcomings. (Believe me, I got the unpublished blog comments & emails to prove it)
Here is the issue: I was just wanting to point to Christ. That’s it. That was the point. However, all of the ground forces for the respective militia parties were grabbing their shoulder-launched missiles to take you out for suggesting something of value coming from such a source. And this is when it hit me: they can’t see the value of what is being said about the Savior because their Savior is in front of him. If you cannot find value in what one guy is saying when it truly exalts Jesus then you probably have an idolatry problem. I think this is what Paul was getting at with those wing-nuts in Corinth:
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1.11-13)
Paul goes on to remind them that their idenity is bound up not in men but in the God-man:
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1.30-31)
This would be really helpful for us to remember today. In an age where we can get instant updates from all of our respective ‘heros’ we should remember that they are men. And their value is in their giftedness in leading us to love and serve Christ. We as idol-craving people can quickly make the jump from leader-to hero-to savior.
The issue goes beyond and deeper than John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, it really does. It is with us. It is with the followers. We have issues. This is why I am now committed more than ever to not being all about defending everybody. And with that, I am not all about qualifying everyone. After all, not everyone can be D.A. Carson, right? (just kidding).
But seriously, it does cause us to step back, take another swig of the 1 Corinthians reality and labor to be more dutiful in prayer for the leaders God has blessed and our own hearts as well. We don’t have to get a Johnny Mac tat or wear a tie with Driscoll’s grill on it. Let our lives be about the gospel; the promotion and defense of Jesus.