Warning. Caution. Disclaimer. These are popular words. We see them on everything and everywhere today. They are good, bad, indifferent and life saving. Should we have something of those words at our Christian conferences where “celebrity” pastors and theologians speak? Maybe.
There are many good, Gospel-centered conferences offered these days. I was at one of the last week. The Advance09 Conference. I even took notes. I did think about the issue of the men speaking, who speak often, and if some sort of spiritual caution or reminder is in order.
Two men more qualified than I have broached the topic. John Piper and Kevin DeYoung have written on evangelical heroes and superstars respectively. I encourage you to read them both. So why this post?
First, I really appreciate those who might be deemed “celebrity” pastors/speakers. They are serving the Kingdom. Most of them pastor their own churches. This means they must word extra hard to prepare for these conferences.
There heart is for the Gospel. The Lord has blessed them with such a ministry and gifts that they might bless the rest of us. It’s a great thing. My observation is in no way meant to take away from their work for the Kingdom. I enjoy the audio from most of these conferences. God uses them to convict me. To help me grow. So, why a disclaimer?
A Disclaimer, Really?
At these conferences we attempt to learn to see the areas of life address through the lens of the Gospel. The Gospel is not new. The topics addressed are not new. The Bible we read is not new. Yet, neither the Gospel nor the Bible will ever get old. We will need them until Christ’s return.
Yet, these conference speakers don’t just say: Just look at life through the lens of the Gospel, goodnight. The same topics are addressed over and over from different perspectives that God has given each speaker. As Matt Chandler said at Advance09, if he is saying something a you’ve never heard before then you need to get out of ministry. Yet, the message is repeated over and over. Jesus taught the same things over and over. It’s part of our growing as a Christian, our sanctification.
So why not a reminder that these speakers are not our pastor(s) or elder(s)? We tend to be reminded and taught of most other things concerning the Christian life. Mark Driscoll’s list of ministry idols was helpful and is along the same line of thought. I really appreciated John Piper explaing just how sinful of a person he is. Especially, helpful was the admission that he struggles with one-on-one engagement. Why else though?
The local pastor, your pastor is to whom you’ve been given for the watching over of your soul. You are to emulate the life of your pastor not necessarily the “celebrity” speakers. Though, they too should have lives worthy of such following. The speakers will not personally know you to be involved in your life. Nor will you know them in such a way. Also, your pastor is responsible to God for your soul. He is your assigned shepherd and answers to Jesus for you. Don’t make his life in this area any harder than it is.
If you are a pastor you are responsible to your other elders and congregation. You’ve got to love your own flock that God has given you. You can’t expect your congregation to look and be like Matt Chandler’s or RC Sproul’s. You are responsible for God for the souls given you in your congregation not in another’s congregation. Whose to blame?
The Real Indictment
Did you catch it? The real indictment? The real indictment and concern about offering a disclaimer is not on the “celebrity” pastors themselves. (I only call them that for lack of a better term.) The real indictment is on the rest of us. Those of us taking in these conferences as if it were the first drink of water we’ve had after two months in the desert. We are the ones who could be making idols of them.
Regardless of whether or not they get caught up in themselves. Regardless of what their intentions might be we are responsible for not letting ourselves make idols of these men. We have enough idols all ready. Don’t we?
While a sort of disclaimer might not be a bad idea some times, it’s not necessarily a requirement. Though it may be helpful as a humble reminder at times.
For what it’s worth…