I'm at the Creative Church Conference in Grapevine, Tx. The crowd here skews a little younger than I'm used to...this is not your father's church conference, you might say. I'm seeing a lot of very creative hairstyles containing a whole lot of hair gel...and that's just the guys. But I digress...
I love going to conferences like these because they challenge me. It's not that I feel like I should try to emulate any of the dynamic, successful leaders who speak at these sorts of events, but I do gain new ideas, hear things from a different perspective. Often, I feel fed and inspired in a way that helps me go back to my ministry with a renewed spirit. Then again, sometimes I hear a certain speaker who just isn't my cup of decaf.
That was the case this morning. This guy is very well known and extremely successful, but I found myself critiquing him from the word go. It seemed to me that he was trying WAY too hard to be Jim Carrey, with impressions of famous people, joke after joke, and tons of hyperkinetic eneregy. Not that humor is bad--I just didn't see any depth in what he was saying. In fact, when he spoke the second time, I decided to just watch him as I would a stand-up comedian, and I enjoyed it a lot more. Some of the jokes fell flat, but that's okay, there was another one coming in thirty seconds or so.
And in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.
But it got me thinking...once we hang around the Christian world for a while, we encounter preachers and churches we just don't approve of. I'm not talking about doctrine here...I'm talking about style. It may be a famous radio or TV ministry or author that everyone is crazy about...except you. Or it may be a church that is packing people in, and you cannot understand why. What should be our attitude toward this? I know the attitude I often have--the same one I had this morning--we begin critiquing them, and it sure does make us feel better.
BUT...we're on the same team, aren't we? I'm reminded of Paul, writing from prison late in his life. He was hearing reports that some of his former enemies within the church, people who had ruthlessly criticized his ministry, were now preaching in churches he had planted. They were in fact building on his foundation...and tearing down his reputation while they did it. In other words, Paul had real reasons to feel resentful toward these preachers. This wasn't just about style or jealousy. This was personal.
But here is what Paul wrote about such men in his letter to the Philippians (1:17):
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
What difference does it make whether I like a particular person's preaching style, or agree with them on some minor point? As long as we're leading people into the same Kingdom, I should be able to rejoice at their success and pray for their ministry. Even if they begin robbing people from my church (sheep-stealing is the biggest cxrime in religion today), I should not therefore consider them my enemy. I'm serving God, they are serving God, and He'll judge for Himself on that Day who did the job faithfully. Until then, He uses all of us...no matter how true our motives or how "effective" our ministries. And that's reason to rejoice.