Saturday, July 11, 2009

Idolizing Famous Christians?

What follows is a sort of hodge-podge of thoughts that crossed my mind this week about John Calvin, Celebrity Pastors, and keeping the main thing, the main thing.

With John Calvin's recent 500th birthday anniversary this past week, the instant comm world of various Twitter, Facebook and blogs saw an abundance of Calvin references. Some would say the references to Calvin were on the OVER abundance side, and I would tend to partly agree with that. For me personally it did become a bit tedious to see everyone and their dog posting about Calvin. But, that's just me.

The one comment that stood out to me however was from Scott Thomas (@acts29) on twitter when he posted this:

"My Calvin tweet made World magazine Tweet of the Day. The purpose was to worship the correct JC and not the other."

The Calvin "tweet' (post/update) he referred to was this one:

"John Calvin is still dead (~500 years) and Jesus is still alive (~2000 years). Just sayin'"

For me, it wasn't his first tweet that stood out, but his second. The way it reads, Thomas is implying that there may be some that are worshipping Calvin, rather than Christ. Now, I don't really believe Thomas meant to imply there are Calvinists running around who are literally (in the biblical definition of idolatry) worshipping Calvin, but regardless of intention it seemed a bit harsh and even somewhat insulting. For those in the Calvinist/Calvinistic/Reformed camp it's frustrating enough to hear the nonsense accusation that we worship Calvin, but to see it coming from "inside the camp" so to speak, is even more frustrating. In my ever so prone to being wrong opinion, I just don't think he should have worded it that way. There is a better way to remind fellow believers to keep Christ the main thing. See this post by James White, for what I believe to be a much more gentle reminder.

The Scriptures say that we are to give double honor to those elders that rule well and work diligently at preaching and teaching (1Tim. 5:17) I've seen and heard this verse used in so many different ways, that it seems confusing sometimes what it really means. Some would say that the very office or title of pastor qualifies a man for automatic respect and reverence. I would have to strongly disagree on this, since the verse clearly says those that rule well AND work diligently on preaching and teaching. The focus is the man who does the hard work, not the title or the office itself. From all I have read, I believe it to mean not only caring for our hard working pastors (elders) in their physical needs and support, but in paying them a respect for what they do.

Were all the blog posts, tweets and FB updates this week simply giving double honor (and showing respect for the influence) to John Calvin for the contribution he made to the Christian church - or - was it a case of forgetting who we worship? I guess it all depends on the way you look at it. I'm sure there are plenty of non-reformed folks who would clearly see it as Calvin-worship. However, I can pretty much bet that if anyone who posted about Calvin in the past week was told that they were worshipping the wrong JC, they wouldn't be too impressed with such an accusation.

While there is no question at all that there is a form of Celebrity Pastor following (which is rather disturbing, really) for such men in the Christian church as Piper, Sproul, MacArthur, Driscoll (and even such men as Hinn, Warren and Osteen, even though they clearly fall into a different category), it does make one wonder, what it really means to give double honor and where the line is, on paying respect and giving honor and how many of us really understand it. Like everyone else, I have my favorite pastors, speakers, teachers and authors. These are the ones I listen to, read, and have been influenced by over the years. Men of God who were raised up to do the work of a pastor or teacher and who work hard at preaching and doctrine. I very much appreciate what they do, what they've done, and their labor for the Lord and for the edification of His church.

I find it very appropriate to say "so and so really blessed me this week" and then talking about what he said on a particular topic. I don't believe for a moment that this falls into any kind of pastor worship or anything like that. However, if EVERY single person I talk to brings up the same person and says the same thing, it tends to feel a little uncomfortable. It does tend to feel like that whole Celebrity Pastor thing I mentioned earlier, and that we all know exists (yet no one really wants to admit it).

In some ways this often feels like a strange catch-22 sort of thing. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way. Maybe not? Maybe the Christian community has created a bizarre sort of sub-culture that has muddied the waters a bit on this by treating pastors the same way the world treats celebrities?

Your thoughts are very much appreciated, so please do sound off with your take on all this.


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