It's not uncommon to be asked by a layperson or another pastor who is my favorite Christian author or preacher/teacher. As far as an author is concerned, I'm afraid my answer often disappoints. I don't read Christian fiction and I don't read books of sermons. However, I have found books written by Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, filled with testimonies of deliverance to be inspirational. I don't read devotionals. I know many people do, and I think they're very helpful for a lot of believers. I'm in the process of writing one for adults and the devotion I co-wrote with other Christian leaders for children will be out in October.
No, my favorite reading is in the discipline of apologetics. I read Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, and F.F. Bruce. I'm pretty sure not many are going to be as interested in the subject of Christian apologetics as I am, but I may be wrong. If I am, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the writings of these brilliant men to you.
However, when it comes to preachers and teachers I am less likely to give a quick reply. And let me set the record straight before your thoughts begin wandering down this road; I do not think my teaching is so superior that all others are beneath my appreciation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am very aware of my limitations. If it were not for the Holy Spirit's last second inspiration many more of my messages would have prompted resume updates than those that solicited praise from the congregation. No my problem is that I have a very short attention span. As soon as I detect the 3 point, poem and prayer formula in a sermon I have already checked out. I just don't think in lists and formulas. So when I listen to many preachers I just get lost in random thoughts. It's a terrible trait that limits my appreciation to a few creative speakers. Some of these people are also very popular with the business community. It seems Biblical insights are so right-on that they not only work well in the Christian's life but in business as well. Since speaking at leadership conferences pay better than faith gatherings, many of their talks have increasingly less to do with my world. And, unfortunately, it seems that the same DNA code that makes these guys creative also makes them vulnerable to many temptations.
Just yesterday I had a few free minutes. I thought how long it had been since I had gone online and listened to a message. I looked for one particular preacher I had always been interested in his out of the box approach to sharing God's Word. So I googled his name. What I received was not a list of current sermons, but what I uncovered was a list of current sins, poor judgments and improprieties. Newscasts, websites and Christian blogs were full of dirt on this guy. I didn't have the stomach to read much of this man's fall from grace. I looked only far enough to learn some of his misguided antics. I will not list them here. It is important for me to say that there were no illegal activities listed. There was no reports of unfaithfulness to his wife. No accusations of abuse. The man simply got off track. Reports said he was still employed by his church, but that attendance had fallen dramatically. How sad. How sad too were the Christian bloggers who were so eager to throw his damaged reputation under an oncoming bus. Just skimming the articles it appeared that their harsh criticism was greater than the secular media that seemed to have a degree of remorse over the man's condition.
So I've been thinking. What is the proper response? One part of my brain says that we who are called to leadership positions in the church are called to a higher degree of accountability. There is no doubt about that. What would Christ do? Would He consider this man, and the many others like him, more like the religious leaders of His day? Would He call him a hypocrite as He did the Pharisees. Would He condemn this man? Or would He treat Him like the sinners who gathered around to hear words of life fill their empty lives? Was this man setting a bad example or teaching bad doctrine. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the two. It is true that our actions speak louder than our words.
While considering out loud what my response should be I am reminded of Christ's words, "Whatever you would have men do to you, do to them..." Matthew 7:12 So here's how I will respond. I would want Christians to pray for me. So I will pray for this man. I would want Spirit filled believers to hold me accountable. I would want a chance to restore my reputation. I would not want to be judged but loved. So these are the things I will do. I would want others to remember how God had used me in the past and pray that He will use me again. So accountability means I will wait to listen to this man preach. I will look for creativity in others. I will not join those who look to hurt him more than he has already been hurt. I will not judge lest I be judged. And I will pray for the day when my brother has been restored.