This problem is touchy. Independent Baptists rarely speak of it, but if you think it over, you couldn’t deny its existence. Not that the problem of personality cults are unique to us; they have actually plagued Christianity back, at least, to Corinth.
Remember the scene in I Corinthians 1? It was a mess and Paul finally said, ‘…that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I am of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?….” Can you hear the bickering?
Make no mistake. It wasn’t over a doctrinal issue at all. No doubt they all claimed it was, but Scripture won’t agree with that assessment. Somehow it wasn’t even named by issues, but by personalities. One group even used Paul’s name!
What is the issue? It is about which man I follow. Whose back am I scratching? Whose politics am I pandering to? Which team am I on? Instead of Apollos or Paul, if you lowered the volume you might think you hear them saying, “I’m a Tennessee Vol”, or “I’m an Ohio State Buckeye”; or perhaps, “I’m a Republican”, or “I’m a Democrat”, and on and on. It’s like bringing a sports-fan mentality to our Christianity! It’s not now about truth and right, or what the Lord actually said, if it ever was.
That is not to say that these weren’t great men. Paul was the scholar, Apollos the orator, and Peter the practical he-man. You could make a case for any of them that would sound good on paper, but you would be wrong. In the Independent Baptist world it is always this preacher or that school. It is still wrong.
That is exactly what Paul was condemning. Even if your name of choice was his. In this case even those who said “I am of Christ” were no better. No doubt it was just the old standby of super-spirituality. We are just claiming that our team is the one Christ is on and that is rather over-the-top, wouldn’t you say?
Could it be true too that we revere our heroes too much? Have you ever heard someone brag on knowing one of the big names personally as if that proved an advanced spirituality? Like they now had the more direct line to Heaven? Do we hang on their words as if they carried apostolic weight?
I am not suggesting the big-name preachers are bad just because they have become well known, or that all of them even ask for this reverence. Some do ask for it, but that shame is on them. How do we view them? That is the question. Of course we might glean wonderful things from them, or appreciate their ministry, if we can just remember that they put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. As I once heard it said, “There are no great men of God, just regular men who serve a great God.”
A case in point is some of our Bible conferences. (Please don’t misunderstand—I have enjoyed many conferences). At a few conferences I remember hearing from the host and several of the speakers numerous glowing praises of our Independent Baptist heroes living and dead. The problem? Those praises outnumbered praises of Jesus Christ in those same services.
Yes, that is the problem! Don’t minimize or assume it is a harmless, little thing, not worth making a big deal of. Actually it is a crime of the first degree–giving the praise that should be our worthy Lord’s and giving it to others not so worthy. It tarnishes us to belittle the Name by giving the glory to names that, at best, are frail sinners just like us. No wonder preaching suffers in such an environment as the word of man steals the spotlight from the Word of the Almighty God. Because of all Jesus is, let us just say that these personality cults are shameful and corrupting. Let us remember that the whole point of church is to hear God’s Word and worship Him. Anything else is a fraud.
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15 thoughts on “Personality Cults (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #3)”
Sorry to bother you, but am having problems finding this post. It seems to be going to a page and says, “not found”. I am very interested to read it!
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It was a glitch. The article will be released on Tuesday morning. I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “draft”. It is ready to go and will come out then. Thanks for reading!
Great thoughts again! But my Church is still better than your Church….:)
Actually you do have a great church!
I guess I should stop saying, “I am of Jimmy” then. 🙂
Thanks for the great post.
Yes Jamin! You never know what trouble that would get you in anyway! Thanks friend for your constant encouragement!
Great and timely post! I believe this is a real problem among our fellow Independent Fundamental Baptists. I believe the problem is exacerbated among students in Bible colleges, or those just out. I know that many of my former fellow Bible college students lifted up, and still to this day, certain professors. It got to the point where they are referred by their last name. Such as saying he’s is a “Smith boy” (not a real name example).
However, I would take little issue when you wrote: “At a few conferences I remember hearing from the host and several of the speakers numerous glowing praises of our Independent Baptist heroes living and dead.” I believe, in the right context, we should give honor to whom honor is due. Obviously, a person (or a conference) can go overboard. But I believe public recognition of those who started fundamentalism, or held to them in the past, is seldom done in our circles today, and most welcome. Especially in this day and age where Fundamentalism is viewed as taboo, or uncool, or out-dated, or limiting by our younger generations going into ministry.
As I mentioned before though, this was a great and timely post!
Thanks Tom! I see your point. Still, if our discussion of them is more intense than our discussion of Christ, I think then it becomes a problem. Please share your insights any time.
I think this is a just charge. have never forgotten hearing a well-known christian woman get up to speak and getting a thundering ovation. when it stopped, because she kept motioning for it to cease, she bowed her head and said, quietly,
“not unto us, not unto us, o Lord, but unto thee be the glory…” Exactly.
That spirit would do us a world of good!
Great post, Jimmy. Another problem with this glorification of the still-has-a-desperately-deceitful-heart man is that if he falls into open sin it causes so much destruction in the lives of those who “followed” him. May we, as preachers, point our people to Him who will never fail them.
Great point Jase! We need to remember this!
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Sorry for the late reply….i just recently found your blog and am working through this series.
For a practical example, I’m in a sphere where MBU, NIU and BJU are the standard for ministerial training for those who REALLY want to be useful in ministry and that other colleges will turn you into a liberal, or at least a “contemporary” person and should be avoided at all costs. These three colleges are really the only good options. And seminaries like RTS and SBTS are sending out all sorts of falsehood and should never cross our minds! We do develop a sense of elitism concerning educational mediums. Such as homeschooling parents view public schooling parents as being careless with their children, and public schooling parents look down on homeschooling parents as being sheltering and overly separated. Christian schooling parents just want them both to shut up and realize that Christian school is the only valid option and REALLY shows the faith of a parent and presents the best of all worlds. What was one of Paul’s major agendas? You can see it concentrated in Romans. We are all one in Christ! Whether Jew, Gentile, male, female, master, servant, etc. We are all to live in harmony that is produced by faith in Christ. His grace is sufficient for all men everywhere no matter what circles you are in. When we divide ourselves into these “personality cults” as you describe, we ultimately limit or modify the grace of Christ to only really be powerful in the type that we like to associate with. This is falsehood.
So well said!