Recently, The Gospel Coalition put a ten minute video up where the three fellows discuss how evangelicalism is personality-driven (see embedded video below). This is an important question as we consider how to strengthen the church for longevity. That is, we can look at movements and say, “God is in this. Look at all the people.” While we all have benefitted from these ministries, we would do well to de-centralize the influence. So many of the large conferences focus on a select few speakers. Couldn’t we have more normal pastors sharing messages rather than having Paul and Apollos always giving the keynotes?
John Fraiser and I have spent a lot of time talking about this proclivity for evangelicals to idolize certain men. Here are a couple posts from Chaos & Old Night I commend to you to delve a little into this discussion.
One friend offers liturgy as a possible solution to the problem of building our churches around a cult of personality. He writes:
Baptists have always relished the fact that the pulpit is in the center of their platform because it pictorializes their belief in the centrality of preaching in the Baptist church. Many Lutheran churches, however, have their pulpit to the side of the chancel to make room for the altar and the lectern. This arrangement of ecclesiastical furniture is not by accident. For a confessional Lutheran church, Christ himself must take precedence over the preaching of Christ. Furthermore, with the lectern in balance with the pulpit, we visually convey that the reading of Scripture and the public confession of faith is no less important than the preaching of God’s Word.
A church without a formal liturgy is too dependent on the preaching of one person. Where the preaching is clear, biblical and instructional a high dependence on one person’s preaching is, or course, less problematic. But preaching that fits this description is far too uncommon in churches, and even the best preachers are prone to idiosyncrasies, tangents and weaknesses. Liturgy can guard us against all of this. Where liturgy is present, it guarantees that people will hear and confess the Word of God even when preaching is unsound and weak.
It’s true that liturgy can become repetitious and lifeless, but that’s no reason to fault the liturgy. Any activity in the church has this potential. Still, even in cases where the recitation loses its passion, liturgy is still advantaged, since what is confessed in the liturgy remains true and calls us to rejoice in the truth. For myself, the more I confess the liturgy of my church the more I come to value it.
I think having a fuller liturgical thrust in our services can be helpful, I don’t think that is the only solution. The problem lies much deeper. The issue is not that there are leaders. God does raise up individuals to lead his people. The issue is that too many people follow these leaders and ostracize those who are not in the group. For example, if you meet someone who has not read or knows the guy(s) you follow you automatically make a judgment on the spiritual vitality of that brother or sister.