Personal Charisma

Like most Christians, I have my favorites among the preachers and Christian writers. I love listening to and parsing through what Ravi Zacharias teaches on, whether it’s audio or in print. Voddie Baucham is another guy high up on my list. R.C. Sproul is someone I enjoy reading, but he is hit or miss for me when it comes to listening to him. And of course, Tony Evans is someone I could listen to and learn from all day long but I find reading what he writes is a little hard. Mainly because I start to hear him preaching the words in my mind and then I want to actually hear him preaching what I’m reading. The catch is while I like listening to these guys or reading their work I don’t say I follow them nor do I get into big arguments over them that threaten the health of the church.

  But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?  – 1 Corinthians 3:1-4,ESV

The warning from Paul here is not to follow any particular person for the sake of following that person. This isn’t a Yankees versus Red Sox debate. It doesn’t matter how much personal charisma that person has. It doesn’t matter if he or she teaches in a way that resonates with you. It doesn’t matter if said person has a voice as smooth as silk. We aren’t to follow people, at least not ordinary people. We are to follow Christ and Christ alone. One of the other elders was teaching on this yesterday with respect to what we do as a church, and some things that people take as “sacred” when they aren’t. The point He was making is Christ is sufficient. We don’t need Christ + something nor should we ever believe that Christ + something is better. He went on to expound that Sunday morning service or choir or youth ministry aren’t required. If they were required for us to be a Christian, then it’s not just Christ any longer. Think about that for a minute. Salvation is through Christ alone. Being a Christian is therefore through Chris alone. Those other things don’t make us Christians. Rather, because we are Christians, because Christ died for us, we desire those other things. We desire to be in Sunday morning service to worship and sit under sound teaching. We desire to be in choir to offer up our voices in praise. We have youth ministry to remind them of what the Bible says about the evils of the world and how easy it is to be led astray but how there’s a protector and warrior in Christ who will battle for them. Youth ministry also provides a means of fellowship among youth, a “clique” (though we often dislike that term) so that they can find strength in numbers to face the world the Bible warns them about. But none of these things are needed in addition to Christ and none of them can, in any way, take the place of Jesus.

The same is true of people. I love Ravi Zacharias, but if I ever hear him say something I know to be doctrinally untrue, I will stand on the Bible and refuse to accept it. It may have been Ravi that said it, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is what God’s Word says. And if by chance Ravi Zacharias ever saw this post, I’m sure he’d agree. You may love your pastor or your choir director or your youth or children’s pastor. You may think the world of your Sunday school teacher or the one who runs your small group. Remember, however, that they are sinners, like you and me. They may have a role within ministry, but that doesn’t put them above the rest of the Body. They still need support, they still need love, and they still need accountability. And if they step out and do the wrong thing, they need to be gently rebuked. If they are in sin, they need to be told.

Finally, they don’t need to dragged into the “My pastor is better than yours,” game. This is an adult version of “My daddy can beat up your daddy” and it’s just as wrong. Ministers are called by God to serve God, to point people to Jesus, and to teach them what Christ would desire of us. It’s not the person we should follow, but rather the One he or she points us to. If he or she isn’t pointing to Christ, then you definitely don’t want to follow whoever that is. Follow Christ. If the person you’re high on in ministry is a good teacher or humble servant or excellent at whatever it is he or she is called to do, support them and encourage them. But don’t replace Christ with them. They aren’t enough. Only Jesus is.

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One response to “Personal Charisma

  1. Ray

    I remember several years ago, my pastor was giving me a ride home from the hospital after I had had surgery. We got stuck in traffic and he got impatient and actually cursed a little bit. He later confessed how ashamed it had made him from the pulpit during one of his sermons. I told him afterwards that there was nothing to be ashamed of, for it had proven to me that he was human, with struggles just like me and yet he still kept trying.