Monday, March 05, 2012

The danger of leader-worship

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for You? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

Last year I read a biography of one of my spiritual heroes. I have always loved the writings of A. W. Tozer so when I discovered A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett, I snapped it up.

Reading it was not altogether pleasurable, however, for I discovered this man (Tozer) who came across through his writings as practically perfect had some very human qualities. My reaction illustrates what Paul is talking about in our passage today. When we put too much faith in human leaders we enter hazardous territory on several levels.

We may be setting ourselves up for disappointment (such as I felt when I read the Tozer biography). My disappointment was just over discovering some common human traits. When prominent leaders fall, as in exhibiting moral failure, their followers often find themselves in a crisis of trust. Many have abandoned faith in God as a result of disappointment in a revered leader.

We may be jeopardizing our own orthodoxy. Mindlessly following a charismatic leader (charismatic in the personality sense) has led to the development of more than one cult.

We may be fostering needless division in the church—the problem Paul is grappling with here.

We have one leader who will never let us down, however. We can always trust Jesus who, as Paul reminds us, is the One who died for us, whose life, death and resurrection is our gospel (good news), and to whom we have united ourselves in baptism.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I easily put people on a pedestal. Help me to set You up on the highest place of my heart and view human leaders with realism—respect for sure, but not worship. Amen.

MORE: Follow with caution

In his Illustrated Guide to Religions, James Beverley has a chapter called Christian Sectarian Groups. He notes three common characteristics of such groups (which include Jehovah's Witness, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Unification Church, and others):

1."They usually adopt a non-Trinitarian perspective" (i.e. they don't believe in the Trinity).

2. "Each group retains the language of the Christian faith even if the substance is not retained on particular matters."

3."Last, and most important, each group has been shaped by an authoritarian and often narcissistic leadership, particularly at inception" (emphasis added).

- James Beverley, Illustrated Guide to Religions, p. 114.

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  1. I truly loved this posting. I went through something like this when I was about 12, which kept me out of church for many, many years. It was something I heard my pastor say, that really discouraged me, and I felt like, if I couldn't trust my pastor, who could I trust? It really took my a long time to finally get the grasp of the situation, and finally realize I have to depend on God only, and for Him to give me understanding, for we are all human beings, prone to make mistakes. I have definitely made my share! Happy to say, I have put that all behind me, and I'm one the right path, doing all I can for God's kingdom now.

  2. Thanks Lacy! I'm sure many are like you. I know I've had my struggles with putting people on a pedestal and then feeling disappointed in them when they don't live up to my expectations (which in themselves may be unrealistic). I'm learning, with you, to look to Jesus as a leader who won't let me down, and view human leaders with realism, not idealism.


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