The Corinthian church was a mess. Located in a major sea port numerous big name preachers had visited the church over the years: Paul, Peter, Apollos, and probably others. God gave each of these preachers different gifts and different mission emphases. Naturally, some members of the church in Corinth connected better with one of those teachers over the others.
Having a broad exposure to different teachers should strengthen the church as the hear different perspectives on the Gospel. Different speakers will make different applications and share different experiences. The stories one teacher shares regarding his struggles with addiction might motivate a portion of the church with similar struggles, while another raised within the cocoon of orthodoxy might stimulate the faith of others.
However, the Corinthians fell into the trap insisting that their favorite teacher was THE only teacher the church should follow. On top of that, as the church segmented behind their favourite teacher the spirit of pride crept in. Christians took pride that they were following the most eloquent speaker, or the most handsome speaker, or the smartest teacher, or the most practical speaker, and because they had made the best choice of who to follow, they were better than the other Christians in the church.
As one of the leaders people were arguing over, Paul immediately responds to this competition in his letter.
My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” (1 Cor 1:11-12)
I believe that Paul’s being sarcastic when he writes “another says, ‘I follow Christ.” Would anyone in the church say they follow Paul or Peter or Apollos rather than follow Christ? Probably not. As he continues in v13 he points out the ridiculousness of following anyone other than Jesus.
How does this apply to the church today?
In an era of mega churches many preachers and teachers have become very popular authors and TV personalities. It’s very easy to say “I love everything that person writes.” It’s quite possible at that point we’ve begun following the the teacher rather than Jesus. No teacher has a claim to absolute truth, only Jesus. All teachers make mistakes and each person is responsible for our own faith.
Here’s an exercise: Consider this list of popular authors and ask yourself if you would accept the teaching of one over the other just because of your opinion of the author rather than what it is they actually teach.
- Max Lucado
- CS Lewis
- John Ortberg
- Craig Groeschel
- Bill Hybels
- Mark Driscoll
- Philip Yancey
- Andy Stanley
- Charles Stanley
- Chuck Colson
- James Dobson
- Timothy Keller
- John Piper
- NT Wright
- Rick Warren
- TD Jakes
- Brian McLaren
- John MacArthur
- Joel Olsteen
Obviously that list could be much longer. But some of those names you probably respect, while others you won’t touch.
While there’s nothing wrong with having favorites, when we start seeing Jesus through lens of a teacher, rather than the teacher through the lens of Jesus, we have a problem.
When our loyalty to a single teacher or small group of teachers prompts us to reflexively reject all other voices, we have a problem.
When everything one person says or writes is always the right thing, we have a problem.
When we feel superior because we’ve identified “the best” author or teacher and take pity on the rest of the world that is missing out, we have a problem.
No matter how inspiring, motivating, thought provoking, challenging, or relevant a preacher, teacher, or author might be, NEVER FORGET that they are only a tool to help you as you follow Christ. Listen to preachers, learn from teachers, love them even, but never as much as you listen to, learn from, and love Jesus himself.
Since it is okay to have favorites….
- Please share with all the readers, Who is your favorite Christian author?