Thursday, August 07, 2008

Where do you stand when it comes to... ?

Over the years, people have asked me where I stand when it comes to Christian leaders like Billy Graham, R.C. Sproul, Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Bill Hybles, Anne Graham Lotz, Andy Stanley, Ed Young, Nancy DeMoss, Rob Bell, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll... The list goes on and on. I usually say, "I have learned from him/her, but I have never wanted to be a clone.

When I planted CVC, I brought with me things I had learned first and foremost from my study of the scripture; my mom and dad; from mentors like Al Baker and Bob Tebow; from my involvement with FCA, CCC, and the Navigators, from Mid-America Seminary, from Adrian Rogers and Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis; from pastors I admired like Chuck Swindoll and John MacArthur; and from a then-not-that-well-known California church planter named Rick Warren. So, I and, therefore, CVC have been influenced by a wide variety of churches, ministries, and leaders.

I'm seeking to continue to learn from other churches. Northpoint Church in Atlanta, Fellowship Church in Dallas, Northwoods Church in Dallas, Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Fellowship Bible Church in Seattle, and others have been recent influences on my thinking about God and His church.

I believe it's very biblical to learn from many Christian leaders.

Today, I was reading in I Corinthians 3. "Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s" I Corinthians 3:21-23).

I stopped at the phrase "All things are yours." I asked the Lord,"What does this mean?"

In I Corinthians, Paul has been talking about why there should be no division in the church. He's said that Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and he should not be reasons for division in the church. They are to be seen as nothing but servants. God is the Something, the Everything. Since we are all part of the temple of God, we are not to destroy it by siding with one leader over another. So, we are not to boast about men/leaders/pastors/teachers. "For all things are yours," Paul says. Apollos is yours. Cephas is yours. Paul is yours.

The Expositor's Bible Commentary on I Corinthians says, "The ministry of Paul, Apllos, Cephas (Peter), and any ohter Christian worker belongs to God's people" (p. 209).

Matthew Henry's Commentary on I Corinthians says, "Ministers are not to be set up in competition with one another. All faithful ministers are serving one Lord and pursuing one purpose. They were appointed of Christ, for the common benefit of the church: 'Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas, are all yours. One is not to be set up against another, but all are to be valued and used for your own spiritual benefit.' Upon this occasion also he gives in an inventory of the church's possessions, the spiritual riches of a true believer: 'All is yours--ministers of all ranks, ordinary and extraordinary.'"

John Gill's Commentary on I Corinthians says, "All the ministers, and all they are endowed with... were all for [the] use and service [of the church], for their benefit and advantage; wherefore it was very wrong to set up one above, or against another, or for any party to engross anyone minister, when he belonged to them all; and [it is a] great weakness to reject others, when they had a common right and property in them."

To be sure, we should not blindly follow anyone/everyone who claims to speak for God. Jesus warned us about false prophets in Matthew 7. Paul named names in I Timothy 1 when he wrote to tell Timothy that Hymenaeus and Alexander were not to be followed or honored. So, we are to be like the Berean believers who "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

But if leaders are Christ-centered, Bible-based, and God-honoring then we can and should learn from them. We should celebrate the role that God has given to them. We should never idolize anyone or become a one-teacher-follower. But we should allow the multi-facted influence of many leaders to promote unity in the Church rather than division. Why? All things - including various faithful teachers/leaders - are ours.

So, I for one, do not want to destroy the unity of the Body of Christ as I appreciate the influence of many leaders in my life. I'm tired of the conflicts caused by self-appointed watchdogs who seek to tear down the work that God has done through various Christian leaders. These watchdogs take the non-essentials where they have disagreements with others and make them essentials. It's just not honoring to the work the the Spirit has done through the people with whom they might disagree in some minor theological point.

I want to be true to Jesus, to His word, to who God has called me to be, to what God has called me to do. And in the process, I remember that "all things [including many different faithful leaders and teachers] are mine" to learn from. I appreciate what God has done in, with, thorugh, and for others and I take what's helpful from a wide variety of leaders and teachers and leave the rest.

I think such an attitude fits with Paul's admonition in Romans 14. "Do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (Romans 14:16-19).


Thomas Osborne said...

Thank You Rick!!! Have been on both sides of this question and subscribe that I am, "a friend to all those who are a true friend to Christ!"

I can only be accountable to the mission work and calling that God has made for me, as do all of these men mentioned in your blog.

We continue to pray for you that all of us will be successful to the work God has called us.

The old line: I am just a nobody, telling everybody, about somebody, who can save anybody!!!

God Bless
Thomas Osborne
Pastor, EBC, Wellington

Rick Duncan said...

God's blessings to you, Thomas. Keep telling everybody about Somebody.

Rick Duncan said...

God's blessings to you, Thomas. Keep telling everybody about Somebody.

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