Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Teaching teachers to teach

Francis Chan has talked about this on a number of occasions: 

There's definitely some truth to what he's saying, but it needs to be more qualified:

i) From what I've seen, he left a very "successful" megachurch because he has a heart for urban evangelism. I suspect that's due in part to the fact that he has a hard scrabble background, growing up in the Bay Area, and goes back there to rescue people who mirror the lost condition he was once in. He favors a grass roots model of the church. He thinks we're more likely to see God in action when we take risks by prioritizing Christian mission over financial security. And he has some great testimonies about God's special providence.

ii) There's a paradox about Francis Chan. On the one hand, he's embarrassed by his popularity. On the other hand, it's because he's popular that people listen to his message. It's like he's telling listens to stop listening to him! It ties him in knots. 

I appreciate his humility. He's not a huckster like too many Televangelists. And I think he's found the right niche for his particular talents. He's doing what he does best. 

However, I think his philosophy of ministry is defective. It would be a mistake to extrapolate from his example.

iii) Apropos (ii), he's too self-conscious about his popular appeal. He doesn't think he deserves it. 

But even though that's a tribute to his modesty, and he's to be commended for his capacity for self-criticism, a minister who happens to be popular shouldn't feel guilty about his popularity, so long as his message is solid. Fact is, some men (and women) are more winsome public speakers than others. That doesn't make them more deserving in the sense of making them more virtuous or holy. But instead of fretting over their popular appeal, they should take advantage of that to reach more people for the Gospel. That's not something to bemoan. 

Even if some people listen to them for the wrong reason, due to the cult of celebrity, they can still benefit from what you have to say. And you can be their gateway to others. You can point them to other good resources. 

iv) On the one hand, it's true that some Christians and churchgoers are overly dependent on their pastor or some Televangelist. They cling to their every word. Many Christians need to broaden their data-base. 

On the other hand, the church is comprised of different kinds of people, with different abilities. Due to natural aptitude and formal eduction (or self-education), some Christians have a much better grasp of biblical theology than others. Every Christian is not cut out to be a philosopher, theologian, or Bible scholar. There's nothing wrong with a degree of intellectual indebtedness to others. Even Christians in one field of specialization are indebted to Christians in other fields of specialization. For instance, OT scholars are indebted to NT scholars and vice versa. No particular Christian, however gifted or knowledgeable, is one-stop shopping. We need a varied diet. Have more than one item on the menu. 

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