Sometime God speaks through a careful choreography of life events: conversations, readings, observations, and even the occasional media clip. Suddenly, all the pieces snap together, and we sigh (internally so no one hears us), “Aha!”
This morning, I had one of those moments of clarity. Over the past couple weeks:
- I pondered with friends why some people and ministries are wildly successful while other people and ministries—equally gifted—struggle for survival;
- I heard a quote by Oswald Chambers: “Is He going to help Himself to your life, or are you taken up with your own conception of what you are doing?”
- I read a passage using the Scripture Meditation Plan: “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
These three events were preceded by a video I watched that smelled … funny. And the odor lingered. The creator of the video is a famous Christian writer who has morphed his verbal skills into marketing skills, and he wanted to help churches sell themselves.
In his video, a pastor shared the key to his own wildly successful church. I forget the exact words but he essentially said:
“I realized that too many churches make the pastor the hero. I decided to make the congregation the hero, and my church’s attendance exploded.” (Name withheld)
It reminded me of a conversation early in The Lost World movie. Repentant Jurassic Park creator John Hammond cries: “Don’t worry. I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
To which Ian Malcom retorts: “No, you’re making all new ones.”
It’s All About the Hero
The essential distinction between Christianity and all other religions—including secularism—can be boiled down to one question: Who is the hero of your story?
The human race was cursed when Adam and Eve decided to be the heroes in their own story. When they took God’s place in the Garden. All subsequent sins are variations on that theme: we are usurping God’s place.
I agree that our primary heroes ought not be the pastor, priest, or even other great Christian “heroes.” They aren’t celebrated because they were great; they are celebrated because God’s greatness worked in them. (I suspect that the greatest Christian heroes–of all time–will turn out to be thousands of men and women the world never heard of.)
But to actively move the hero-spotlight from the ordained (which I applaud) to the congregation (which I deplore) is to nurture our idolatry: “Hey, let’s just eat Eve’s apple all over again.”
Clergy-worship is sick, but self-worship is suicide.
True Fruit, The True Hero, and God’s Plan
This morning I read, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). I’ve always thought—though perhaps subconsciously—something more like, “If I’m successful and bear fruit, it proves that my ideas and plans were right. Possibly brilliant.”
In other words, that I’m the hero of my own story.
But Scripture says that real fruit, the fruit that endures for eternity, is fruit that brings glory to the Father. It makes him the hero; God’s power shown through our weakness. And it’s always been that way:
- God didn’t give Isaac to Abraham and Sarah until it was impossible for them;
- God didn’t make Moses a leader until he was too old to lead;
- God picked cowardly Gideon and then reduced his army from 32,000 to 300.
And the reason God cut Gideon’s army down so dramatically was because he knows the human heart, that Israel “would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me’” (Jud. 7:2).
Which is just another way of saying, “I’m the hero in my own story. Worship me.”
It takes a great human heart to be a hero. It takes a greater human heart (tempered with humble honesty) to admit, “I need a hero.”
[For another hero story, see Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?]
Thanks for this post! I needed to be reminded of this today!
Thanks for the thanks.
I’m working on a line of “you’re welcome” cards. Hallmark hasn’t called me back on that idea, but I haven’t let go of all hope yet. Thanks for the ongoing inspiration and you’re welcome to my silly humor.
I love your humor. The world needs more of it.
Ay… the fruit God seeks is the fruit of Christlikeness, the will of a man or woman that, like Jesus, proclaims on a moment-by-moment basis, “Not my will but yours, Father.” Much of what we might refer to as ministry “fruit” is a misnomer. A worldly evaluation dressed up in pious clothes. Kingdom priorities, as you often point out Sam, are topsy-turvy to what we find here on earth.
Great comment. I like your line, “Much of what we might refer to as ministry “fruit” is a misnomer. A worldly evaluation dressed up in pious clothes.”
wow! I recently got the same message from the Holy Spirit! Weird, that so at the same time with You…Message to me had additionally this information: we cannot be saved because of our good works. It is because we do good only when God, Our Father shows us the oportunities and gives us the idea, compassion, means and will to give somebody smth. If it werent for Him, we would not even see anything…
Also additionally-all occasions God shows how He loves us and answers our prayers, or gives us abilities we did not know existed, we should spread the news about it Cause then it is a blessing not only to us, but to others who hear and believe. Then it is like a sceed, from which many plants grow. In the Bible also- this is said- that one should go and tell everyonewhat has happened.
I have had a ton of miracles starting from January. the best thing about it- I feel Gods presence, and this is the best feeling there is!!! His love is so wonderful!!! The greatest of Gods miracles- we prayed for a little 6month boy (now a year old), who had cancer and is cancer free now!!!!
GREAT story. Thanks. I love how God speaks the say messages to us through so many sources (including God confirming his word to me through you and God confirming his word to you through me!).
This poor one has found ample opportunity in life to both commit new mistakes and repeat variations on the old ones. Would even go so far as to say that in reality, the new mistakes are variations on the old ones.
Beliefs of the Heart
Our only hope here is that we become more conscious of our old/new/repeated mistakes, so much so we cry to God: I NEED YOU!