Heroes, Not Idols

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a student ministry training session with one of my heroes in ministry, Greg Stier.  While at the training, I also had the opportunity to meet Greg and thank him for the impact his ministry has had on mine.  Greg Stier is the founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has trained hundreds of thousands of students in evangelism throughout the United States.  I was thankful for the opportunity to learn from such an anointed minister.

I’m happy to report that Greg Stier was not a jerk. He was great. And we matched, because we’re both awesome.

But the truth is that I usually do not want to meet my ministry heroes.  To be honest, I’m terrified that, upon meeting a preacher I admire, he will turn out to be a jerk and thereby ruin his credibility in my eyes.  There are many men that I admire in ministry: great preachers like Matt Chandler, John Piper, David Platt, and J. D. Greear; excellent theologians like J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, and others; and phenomenal worship leaders like Charlie Hall and Shane & Shane.  While I’d love to meet all of these men (and several I have met), I fear being disappointed.  And I’ve learned that this is a thoroughly un-biblical attitude that needs adjusting.

In Acts 10, Peter met up with a man named Cornelius.  Now, by this point, Peter had gained quite the ministry reputation throughout the Roman Empire, prompting Cornelius to respond inappropriately in Peter’s presence:

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” (Acts 10:25-26)

Paul had a similar encounter four chapters later in Lystra.  After Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man, through the power of Jesus, the crowds began to worship them, saying that Paul was Hermes (because he was the speaker) and Barnabas was Zeus.  The priests to pagan gods and the crowds together began to offer sacrifices to them.  The apostles were horrified:

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:14-15)

In each case, the apostles responded the same way: “we’re men, just like you!  Your praise belongs to God Almighty!”

Sometimes, when people esteem human ministers of the great, living God, they can fall into idolatry.  A godly minister, when encountering praise of people, should respond with humility, insisting that God receive the glory, because He is divine and they are not.  Similarly, when I am terrified to meet a ministry hero of mine, I have to remember that God uses imperfect men and women to speak the truth of the gospel to the nations.  Every man fails, even Greg Stier and Matt Chandler.  So, instead of worshiping my ministry heroes by placing them on an unfair pedestal, I should glorify God for working through these imperfect, but faithful servants for His great glory, not theirs.

It’s all about God.  He will get the glory.  The godly minister seeks to give all glory to God.  The godly man or woman, unlike I have done at times, should seek to praise God for His work through men, not to place His praise and glory on their human shoulders.

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:11)

It’s okay to admire men who work diligently and who are talented for God’s glory.  But don’t esteem preachers too highly, for we are working on God’s behalf, not our own.  It’s okay to have heroes; it is not okay to have idols.  Let’s not profane God’s name by giving His glory to another.  After all, it’s all about Him.

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