We live in a world where everyone is imperfect including our church and political leaders. Christian celebrities, favorite pastors and authors are only human and subject to mistakes. In our culture, celebrity and popular leaders are highly valued, but those who admire them are oftentimes disappointed by their failures. We as American Christians are far too easily led by the sheep rather than the Shepherd, Christ Jesus.
Danger of “spoon-fed” Christianity
This comes as no surprise, really. Any well-known spiritual author makes less demands of his or her reader than Christ does. It is easier to listen to a celebrity preacher who has years of experience in communicating and speaking than it is to pick up the Bible or to spend a significant amount of time in the prayer closet.
If you look at the average American Christian’s bookshelf you may find commentaries, biographies and books on spiritual matters bought from the Christian bookstore, alongside several copies of the Bible. While these books are good and rightly appreciated, we can be tempted to use them in place of the Scriptures. The author has gone before us and done all the heavy lifting, reading the Word, dissecting it and drawing out many truths for us. All we have to do is swallow the pre-digested nuggets. This is not an expression of Christian vitality.
The Christian life is expressed in the Bible as a “walk,” or in some cases, a “race.” This implies action. Actively seeking nearness to God through personal time in the Word and in prayer is the only prescribed way to grow spiritually. A Gospel received passively will always be reacted to passively. The measure with which we pursue the Gospel is the measure to which we will obey it. A second-hand Christianity is no Christianity at all. We should not settle for being spoon-fed by fellow Christians when we are supposed to be nourished by Christ Himself.
It’s okay to agree and disagree
In those times when a disagreement arises over a vital issue between two Christian leaders, what usually happens is a formation of two opposing camps. We either support one or the other, whichever one we agree with or like most. But there are some that have discovered it is alright to be in neither camp. When issues arise and lines are drawn we should step back and evaluate the situation based on our understanding of Scripture, not the opinions of respected leaders. Paul commended the Berean Jews for searching out the Scriptures to test the things he had to say. We have to have the same diligence as the Bereans and not simply flock to one banner or the other.
Knowing the difference between respect and adherence
God has blessed us with so many godly authorities and leaders that it would be foolish to not listen to them. But in our listening we have to remember their mission is to point us to Christ and His teaching, not themselves. If we ever find ourselves thinking “This preacher said such-and-such, so that’s what I’ll believe,” then we’re on dangerous ground.
Acknowledging the authority and experience of a leader is one thing; adherence to everything that leader teaches is another. Many teachers deserve our respect, even if we do not agree with everything they teach. The only teacher that deserves our adherence, however, is Christ Himself. How foolish would it be to follow the teachings of a mere fallible man when we have the infallible, inerrant Christ to guide us?
Follow the Shepherd
We are not autonomous. Just as our leaders are imperfect, so are we. We don’t just need a roadmap for this Christian walk, we need Christ to carry us along the path. We stray after every little distraction, be it struggling over internal issues or following blindly after one of our fellow sheep that happens to have a few good ideas. But we don’t have to live this way. Let’s take comfort knowing that our Shepherd, Christ, came to help the helpless and weak, and that we are the most helpless and most weak.