Summary: Is there such a thing as the celebrity pastor? Is that a good or bad thing? How should I look at a church to make sure I will be fed as a believer?
As we’ve seen in looking at the problems of the Corinthian church, the members of this congregation had expended a great deal of energy putting certain leaders up on pedestals and then aligning themselves with that leader and claiming their leader was better than theirs.
In the first part of Chapter 3, Paul tells the Corinthians that this is baby-like behavior. Aligning with an earthly leader shows their immaturity. He goes on in verses 5 through 17 to talk about what a leader really is: namely an errand runner for God, fulfilling assignments from the master—and that all are equal and really nothing compared to Jesus Christ, the master.
He goes on to suggest that a leader’s worth is based on their ability to follow those assignments, using materials to build believers and the church using things that are of eternal value, rather than fleshly, or worldly value. Those that try to build upon the gospel with anything other than sound doctrine will face a pretty harsh judgment when Christ returns.
So in the remaining part of Chapter 3 and into Chapter 4 he expounds on these two ideas—that using worldly methods to explain God is foolish, and that leaders should not and cannot be judged by appearance (a worldly value) but must be judged by the Lord when He returns.
18 – 20
The Corinthians used methods derived from the culture around them to determine who was a good leader and who was better than another—things like who preached a better sermon or whose voice projected more, or who appeared to look more like a leader or who already had a following. In today’s culture of celebrity that is often times how we also judge a ministry or a pastor. Paul says that you’ve got to give up on those values in order to really know how to understand what God is doing and put ministry and minister in proper perspective.
Paul then goes on to show the folly of holding up one pastor over another:
21 – 23
It is really stupid to compare leaders in this way because we all belong to Jesus Christ—leaders and disciples alike, and that Christ belongs to God. The entire world (the physical world) already belongs to us. We have no need of boasting in the philosophies of one particular leader over another, as if their way is better than another’s. What we need to boast in is the over-arching wisdom of God for salvation.
So how should we look at leaders?
Chapter 4:1 – 2
This harkens back to what we looked at last week. A servant isn’t judged on how much fruit they got through their ministry, but how faithful they were to following God’s orders. Paul uses a different word for servant here. It is “under-rower”. I like that. Not just errand runners for God, but they were all pulling together for a common cause. If one rower decided to have a different timing on his stroke the other oarsmen would get all messed up and the boat would stop.
Our problem today is that we like to think a boat moves forward by only one person. We make kings out of servants.
Proverbs 30:21-22 Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: 22 a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is filled with food; ESV
We simply don’t know how to handle the adoration and success that comes in ministry and as members of congregations we have a hard time looking at pastors as errand-runners or members of the crew team. It’s partly our celebrity culture, but it’s been around at least since the time of this letter.
I had someone ask me the other day “Do I have to believe in Paul to be saved?” You might think the answer to that is obvious, but it clearly wasn’t to them and it brings up a valid point—we are so used to elevating man that it can actually start to take the place of God. The danger here is the more we admire man the more we will be prone to believe that everything they say is right, even if it isn’t.
So Paul sets up this odd juxtaposition—we aren’t to put leaders up on pedestals, yet Paul says he is not concerned with whether or not people think he is a good leader.
3 – 4
Paul is NOT saying that he is unaccountable. He is saying that the Lord is the one to whom he must appear (at the Judgment Seat of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:10). God knows the motivations of a man. So a flamboyant and popular minister may see his work burn away due to the motivations and teaching, while another who operates in obscurity may see his work remain because although outwardly it might be judged as wanting, inwardly, he or she was following orders faithfully, revealing the mysteries of the gospel (a mystery now revealed).