“‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not
take pride in one man over against another.”
(I Corinthians 4:6)
Food For Thought… In a stern but fatherly way, Paul is taking the believers in Corinth to task for their reckless immaturity in choosing preachers based on popular appeal. He points out that when they engage in this sort of thinking, it is not only a sure sign of persistent spiritual infancy, but clear indication that they have entered into a realm reserved only for the Lord himself:
“Don’t get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the ‘Well done!’ of God.” (I Corinthians 4:5, The Message)
That same sort of preacher-by-popularity mentality is just as persistent a spiritual immaturity in the modern church as it was among the Corinthians. We are particularly susceptible to it because of our ability to see and hear so many different spiritual communicators via religious television, teaching tapes, radio ministry, books and magazines, and cyber ministries, just to name a few. As beneficial as these modern media are to the spread of the Gospel around the world, it has also created a culture of Christian celebrity that has not been good for the church.
People now choose churches based on the charisma of the pastor, or the cool factor of the church’s architecture, or what kind of need meeting ministries are offered, or if the church has a happening band and a Starbucks located in the lobby. We have fallen prey to the Corinthian syndrome. We evaluate our church experience on everything other than what the Lord of the church thinks. And in so doing, we have exposed our own persistent spiritual immaturity.
The American church would do well to listen to Pastor Paul’s fatherly counsel. In fact, it would be healthy for us if someone of Paul’s spiritual stature would walk into the church, so to speak, whack us upside the head and tell us to knock it off. That’s exactly what Paul threatened to do to the Corinthians:
“I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don’t think I’ll ever show up in person. But I’ll be there sooner than you think, God willing, and then we’ll see if they’re full of anything but hot air. God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life. So how should I prepare to come to you? As a severe disciplinarian who makes you toe the mark? Or as a good friend and counselor who wants to share heart-to-heart with you? You decide.” (I Corinthians 4:18-21, The Message)
Don’t you think God is just as serious about this sort of persistent immaturity today as he was then? We had better listen up, or God just may send someone like Paul or something like he was threatening to do to get us back on the right track.
What say we reject this culture of Christian celebrity and get back to seeing things as God does? We would show some real spiritual maturity if we did!
Prayer… Lord, deliver us from evil—that is, the culture of Christian celebrity!
One More Thing… “Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the altar of conformity and popularity.” —Charles Spurgeon