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.

Evangelicals and Their “Legacies”

Holy What?! Piper on Hero Worship

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.

Read whole post.

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.

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Less Hype. More Humility.

Please. Embedded in our consumeristic culture, there is the assumption that newer is better than older–though I prefer aged beef and cheddar to new. There is the assumption that grand and renovated and powerful is preferable to meek and lowly and weak.

The church often adopts this form of communicating in an effort to gather people into its doors. “God is doing awesome things here at Church _______.” The fact is that God is doing awesome things everyday and everywhere. He’s sustained your life. He’s given you sight and hearing and legs. And if you have none or only one of these, he’s still given you life and a mind to engage the world around you. Truly miraculous. What is more, is God not also doing something in the old, decrepit church that meets faithfully every Sunday? Is God not at work in the mundane? Is the changing of laundry and washing of dishes and working through an argument devoid of God’s presence?

I see so many churches trying to drum up excitement about the latest outreach or project, when what our culture needs is the staying power and sobriety of faithfulness in the ho-hum drudgery of going to a job you hate or a marriage that is contentious. What we need is not more hype, but more humility. More service and less heavy-handedness. We need more gentleness and less power grabs.

If we don’t, what then becomes of the senior citizen who is tired? What becomes of the baby who is sleeping? What becomes of the unemployed and outcast and burdened? They are forgotten. They are seen as less valuable because they aren’t producing the kind of energy requisite for assumed faithfulness to the disciples’ call.

In reality, we need less loud voices and red faces and sweaty brows and more silence and calmness and a deep well of contentment.

The New Economics Will Be People

So I went to a coffee shop this morning and was struck by the utter efficiency they were churning out drinks. In fact the team lead said this much as encouragement to the six other workers behind the counter.

I walked in. Smiled at the barista. Was greeted with a blank stare as he continued to froth the milk and deliver the piping hot skinny latte with extra foam to the drive-thru. I walked to the register and was passed with nary a glance…even when the team lead said “Hello.” No she didn’t look at me, but made sure that her metric of greeting a guest in the first ten seconds was met. A box that is checked. That’s what I was. A large dark roast with no room for cream and sugar. And surely there was no saccharin here. There was utility and efficiency.

In all our pandering for growth our marketing of environment is nothing more than a marketing tool. The timers and grids for efficiency have crowded out the thing that matters. The only thing that matters in products.

You see, the products that are pushed are labeled as though they were made for you. In reality, the products being sold to you have (for the most part) been made for the manufacturer. People have merely become a means to the end of bigger, faster, better.

In the new economy, people will matter more.

They won’t matter because they need to matter to grow the business. Too often companies tell you that you’re important because they want your money. They don’t want to make a difference as much as they want their new car or luxury vacation.

I want to say this loud and clear. In the new economy, people will be the end in themselves. They will no longer be viewed as a metric or a number. In the new economy, mom and pop will be sought after. Because, after all, we all know that the verbiage of how you matter to company x is just verbiage. It’s merely eliciting a response for another end.

In the new economics, people will want to matter. They will flock to the place where they are known by name. And not just to tout the “community” of an establishment. Did you notice the subtlety of that one? No, people will know your name because they know you and you matter. Your name is not known just to brag that you matter and sell the belonging you too can have if you buy your next skinny latte with extra froth…hold the pandering.

We are not there yet because executives are still measuring. Measuring people. Yet, what the new economy will have to embrace is not a spreadsheet or a graph. They will be forced to embrace people. Not to grow their graph. But to grow their own soul.

On Conformity

As much as I hate to admit it, Christians push conformity. Conformity to the wrong things. Being shaped by a group and set of ideals is inherent to being part of a group–be it Christian, straight edge, atheist. But I am speaking about and to my tribe.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of being a part of several different denominations and have seen this shadow overtaking much of the piety of its adherents. It wasn’t meant to do so.

Do you homeschool? The correct answer depends on the group you’re talking to. Do you go on mission trips? Do you adopt? Do you run around incessantly from meeting to meeting showing how you are making an impact for the kingdom?

We have steered far off course when we get away from the simplicity of the Gospel. Of a life changed and being changed by the Gospel. That is, before Christ’s ascension, he said to merely teach all that he commanded. Yet. Yet, much of our passing on of information is not what Christ taught. They are various implications and applications of what he taught. And so,

Might I encourage you to be slow in conforming to the standards? Not just of popular culture, but of the popularity of whatever group you find yourself milling about. The shadow looms to block out the sun of joy and hope. It chokes out the simple call to humble obedience to Christ, changing out a yoke that not even the teachers can bear.