Paul of course was the founder of the church so it is no wonder that many felt they were following him. The overarching point of course is that Paul is rebuking them for making Christianity about anyone but Jesus Christ. This was such an important point for Paul that the key verses here are the second time he has addressed this in the first letter to the Corinthians:
For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 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."Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? - 1Corinthians 1: 11-13 (ESV)
When I hear Christians say, "don't say that about my pastor"; they fail to see that they are making the same argument that Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for. I follow Joel Osteen! I follow Joseph Prince! I follow Carl Lentz! Is Christ now divided beloved? Was Osteen, Prince, Lentz or any other celebrity crucified for us? I love my pastor dearly but he did not go to the cross for me. The line I love from the first set of key verses today is, "neither he who plants or waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." Powerful truth for us to chew on today. Your pastor does not have the words of eternal life - only Jesus does. Sure, they can motivate on a carnal level. They can teach self help principles on a secular level. But they cannot make anything of eternal value grow. Only God can. We are nothing beloved. God is everything. If you are getting a different message at church then you need to run.
The second set of key verses today comes from the same letter. This was a prevalent problem at Corinth and Paul was making his point abundantly clear. Get back to following Christ. The first lesson from these verses is that pastors/preachers should not be relying upon lofty speech or wisdom. This is the antithesis of the celebrity role. What did Paul want to rely upon instead? Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Not little pearls of wisdom. Not personal anecdotes. Let's be fair. If anyone had some personal stories that could have wowed the crowds, it was Paul! The former Pharisee! The one who had suffered so much for the cause of Christ. He could have regaled audiences with astonishing tales but all he decided to know was Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Personal stories and anecdotes should only serve to highlight Christ. To proclaim His Gospel; not canned sermon points.
The second lesson here is that preachers should approach this work in weakness, fear and much trembling. Well what does that mean? Weakness means that we have emptied ourselves and are completely reliant upon Jesus. Paul taught this elsewhere in his writings:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2Corinthians 12: 9-10 (ESV)
When we are at our weakest, Christ is at His strongest in us. Celebrity Christianity relies upon the celebrity instead of Christ. It is his work that elevates the church instead of Jesus. What of fear and trembling? Simply put, Paul understood the awesome task he was charged with. In the Book of Acts we see him acknowledge to the elders at Ephesus that he was free of their blood because he did not hesitate to proclaim the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ. How is it that so many leaders of large ministries can so easily compromise the Gospel? How is it that they can accept such flawed theology as we see in the seeker friendly and purpose driven movements? How can someone who was biblically grounded like Mark Driscoll mock the sheep of God he was entrusted with and run them over with his bus? Lack of the fear of the Lord in what they do. Make no mistake about it beloved. The Bible says they are held to a higher standard and they will answer for every sheep the Lord entrusted to them.
Paul concludes this section by reminding us that it is not about our speech or our wisdom. You can be the most gifted speaker in the land but without the true Gospel the words are empty of any power. We should be seeking a demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God. Not these faux signs and wonders nonsense we see across much of Christianity. No beloved. The true power of the Spirit is found in His Word.
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience--by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God--so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; - Romans 15: 18-19 (ESV)
The work of the church is to fulfill the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. Not to build larger auditoriums so more people can hear carnal wisdom wrapped up in the name of Jesus. There is no power in that. The average time spent in a mega church is just under three years and many who leave never go back to church again. Flash and glitz only holds us for so long. The flesh gets bored real easy. When our faith rests in the wisdom of men we are in deep trouble. Since the serious backlash against Mark Driscoll started over 7,000 sheep have wandered out of the Mars Hill sheep pen. Many will never return to a church. Such is the damage from celebrity Christianity. Such is the damage being wrought throughout Christianity today. We are spiritually in Corinth. Babes in Christ settling for milk because we cannot handle meat. In many cases even the milk is spoiled. We do not realize it because it sounds so good. It is delivered so crisply and sharply. But there is no substance behind it. There is nothing that saves anyone or changes any lives. It is all glitz and no substance. All show and no effect. All celebrity and little Christ.
Reverend Anthony Wade - October 20, 2014