Paul And a Timeless Message: Don’t Worship Preachers, Worship The One They Preach About!

Posted: June 16, 2015 in 46-1 Corinthians

1 Corinthian 3 — Back in the late 1980’s, there was a song by a group called Living Colour entitled “Cult of Personality”. It was a song inspired by the common phrase. The phrase, in popular culture, means that an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and at times, worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Paul warns of these dangers in the church, particularly among immature believers.

In today’s increasingly decentralized church, where denominations are generally weakening and independent non-denominational megachurches are on the rise, there is a danger for there to become cults of personality surrounding the lead pastors of megachurches. With books written, television appearances, mass influence over thousands of people, slick media campaigns for churches that rival the best of the secular world. Often we see the dangers of these cults of personality fulfilled. Today, we find there are many leaders of megachurches out there that have almost been accorded celebrity status. Some of these men are truly men of God but the danger is there for them to become more important than the man they are supposed to be representing – Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We have seen the dangers of the celebrity status accorded them. It often creates a tendency to surround with only those who give flattery and praise which leads to a lack of accountability. Recently, we have seen examples where the lack of accountability have brought down men who I don’t think were out for celebrity but it just happens if we are not careful. Mark Driscoll’s demise at the church he founded, Mars Hill, is an example. The fallout from Perry Noble’s infamous rewrite of the ten commandments into the ten promises. We have Creflo Dollar believing in his heart that it is in the best interest of his flock for him to have a $65 million private jet. These are examples of how easily we can stray off the path of what we are here for. Although there are many things wrong with traditional church, as we in the new church movement call it. Most traditional churches have almost closed themselves off from society and a shrinking or standing still and have become social/political clubs but denominational church do have a level of accountability for pastors that we do not often see in this new movement toward the decentralized, non-denominational church. Paul is preaching the same message to the church at Corinth that we need to hear in the new church movement.

Paul is saying what are we here for? Are we here to follow Paul? Are we here to follow Apollos? Are we here to follow Peter? His answer is “Wake up, people! What we are here for is to give glory to our Savior Jesus Christ! What we are here for is to give glory to God!” Anything less and we can easily degenerate into a cult of personality. In a cult of personality, the leader can rationalize straying from the truth of the gospel just to reach a wider audience. Anything less and we fall into the danger of being about the number of butts in seats than it is about the salvation of the souls in those seats. It is about getting people in the door and not about there maturation as Christ followers. It is about how many satellite campuses we have rather than the quality of the biblical education that our people are given. It is about the number of books sold rather than the number of lives changed by the gospel. It is about making the gospel palatable to a culture that is increasingly about doing what makes itself feel good (and defining that as the new normal) rather than standing on the eternal truth of God. It is about going two inches deep into the Bible rather than diving into its depths and dealing with issues that are unpopular in today’s ever changing and lowering moral landscape. When we start to make the turn around that corner away from the sole reason that we are here, then, the cult of personality begins. We must always built the house of God on Jesus’ foundation and nothing less.

The foundation of the church – of all believers – is Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do, Paul says. A building with no foundation is one poorly constructed and can easily be destroyed. A house not built on the solid ground of Jesus Christ. All other ground is sinking sand as the old hymn goes. It will not last. If we are believers, then foundation of our lives must be Jesus Christ. He is our reason for being. Everything we do must fit into the pattern of and emulate the nature of Jesus Christ. Anything less will cause us to degenerate into hero worship, wealth seeking, search for fame, and financial security. Just look at our world today where people become celebrities whom we follow there every move just because they were on a reality show. They have no real talent but they were on TV! We are worshiping people and people disappoint. We can easily begin even among believers to worship and make celebrities out of our preachers. Paul is saying to us to keep our head in the game. Jesus is the reason we are here. We were brought together by our salvation through Jesus Christ and it is our job to teach the world that it is Jesus who brings reconciliation with God. It is through Him that we are reconciled to our Father in Heaven. It is through Him that we can spend eternity in the presence of God because the penalty of our sins has been washed away. Anything less is off the mark. Anything less shows a lack of maturity among believers. Anything less causes division. Anything less can degenerate into celebrity worship of preachers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my senior pastor. He is about the most awesome man of God I have ever met. Yet, he is the first to tell you that he would resign from the church that he had the Christ honoring privilege to found if the church ever became about him rather than reaching souls for Jesus Christ. That’s why you rarely see his picture plastered on anything LifeSong. May he continue to avoid the temptations that come with being the pastor of a church like ours, a church poised to be a megachurch one day.

Let us pray for my senior pastor! Let us pray for the popular megachurch leaders out there such as the ones that I have already mentioned and also including ones like Steve Furtick at Elevation in Charlotte, Andy Stanley at North Pointe Church in Atlanta, TD Jakes at The Potter’s House in Dallas, Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Let us pray that they all keep Jesus front and center and themselves off to the side watching Jesus and imitating Him.

Let us pray that we as members of the new church movement that we remember that our churches are here to reach people that otherwise would not be reached with the gospel. Let us remember that it is about worshiping God, honoring God, and teaching the message of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. Let us remember to love our pastors but not make them celebrities. Let us always compare their actions and hold them accountable to Scripture. Let us remember that we are here because of our common bond of salvation through the Son of God and that it is that message that is more important that the number of butts in seats. Martin Luther coined the phrase “solo scriptura”….only Scripture. May everything we do be compared to Scripture. May everything we do be about spreading the gospel. Anything less and we can so easily become a cult of personality orbiting around preacher celebrities. It was a danger in Corinth. It is a danger now.

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