Posted on May 30th, 2011
Anthony Sacramone at First Thoughts (“Promises, Promises”) addresses the problem of people falling for the Harold Camping cult and then having to deal with the consequences of their idolatry. Yet it is possible to be prone to the same kind of idolatry, the idolatry of the perfect pastor.
But ask yourself something: If your pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, priest were to walk into an open manhole tomorrow, only to be replaced by some less-winsome personality, would you leave your church? If so, leave now.
Better yet: if your pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, priest were to be led out in handcuffs tomorrow, or discovered to have run off to Acapulco with the 16-year-old daughter of the youth minister, would you consider leaving the Church, full stop? If so, leave now.
Evangelical churches seem to be particularly susceptible to superstar preachers, because of the emphasis on preaching. We want to hear a new, fresh take on the old wooden Cross. We need some spiritual Red Bull to keep our enthusiasm up, but too often we wind up with just the bull.
Sacramone then observes, entirely in passing, that “perhaps the liturgical calendar … provides its own kind of antidote.” I hope that everything in the liturgy does this: the vestments, the ritual, the repetition, should take one’s focus away from the man. There is still a danger in esteeming one pastor “better” than another at the liturgy. This one may be a better chanter, another may be more graceful or confident. But the liturgy, properly approached, should help to level off the problems of the cult of personality: the extrovert is brought by the liturgy to conform to the church’s order and not rely upon his own personality, while the introvert is strengthened by the knowledge that everything depends not on a personal performance but a performance of the duties of the office.
As an introvert, that’s what gets me through Sunday morning (albeit exhausted by the end). I am terrified to be up in front of people, and I want to run from a crowd and cower in isolation. I have to tell myself each Sunday, “The people need the liturgy, the people need the sermon; I’m not important, Christ is.” That’s the only way I get through the terror of all those people staring at me.