Another rant. You’ve been warned.
Ever wonder what the Apostle Paul’s response would be if he were booked to speak at a conference somewhere and was billed as conference speakers are today? The promo material might look something like this:
- His books have outsold all others for 2000 years!
- He regularly ministers to hundreds of millions daily!!
- Second most quoted man in history!!!
Or maybe the better question is, “If we were booking the Apostle Paul to speak at our event what bio info would he provide?” Would he tell us of how many people come to hear him? Would he tell us about how well his letters have sold for so long? Would he point us to the libraries full of commentaries on his writings?
Now this is very easy for me to say since almost nobody reads what I write, and very few come to hear me preach every week (actually, I hope nobody comes to hear me preach), and I am universally not quoted by anyone. And there is enough of pride and envy in me to want those things. It is easy for little nobodies like me to take pot shots at the famous and successful. But there is something just not right about the promos and invitations to the events in the Christian sub-culture that tell us that the reason we should attend the latest best conference in the history of conferences is because of how big the preacher’s church is, how many people have bought (and maybe even read) his latest book, how often he is quoted by those who can’t come up with quotable things themselves. There is just something off kilter about telling potential attenders how big a church got in how many years and how influential the man and his ministry have become. There is something just not right about us thinking, or having implied to us, that a man’s success is his doing.
I am sure that most of the men who have great successes as part of their CV would agree with John the Baptist when he said that he should decrease and Jesus must increase. They would never want to be followed at the expense of Christ. And I am sure that there are arguments I haven’t thought of about why the grand promotion of conference speakers is a good idea. I am also sure that conferences are not nearly as important to the life of the church as we have come to think. But that’s another rant for another time.
I do not have secret insights into what kind of bio info the Apostle Paul would provide when asked to submit one to the organizers of the conference he was scheduled to attend. But I wonder if it might not be something like
Philip. 1:18 (ESV)
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
Well, it is impossible to read a dead saint’s mind 2000 years after his death, so we really don’t know how he would respond, do we? It’s just that it is hard to imagine Paul telling the conference promoters to include the number of people he has ministered to, the great quotes that can be attributed to him and the size of the churches he planted. It hard to imagine him even allowing it. I can imagine me drooling to hear him, but not him insisting that he be promoted as worth hearing, except for the material he was delivering.
Ah well, what do I know? I hope I haven’t offended either of you reading this. Go to your own church this Sunday and never replace it with the thousands of sermons that the very successful can offer you. Lord willing, I will be meeting with 150 or so in church this week. No better place in the world for those of us who make Thistletown our church home – even if it is an unsuccessful, unquotable, unpublishable preacher in the pulpit. I trust that God will be there and our worship will be a response to Him. I pray that we will leave quoting Him, and pointing to Him and desiring to be like Him. I pray that we will not long to be more than He has called us to be and not satisfied to be less. And I pray that if you are not from Thistletown, that you will have all that as well. You can quote me on that.