Faulty voices

We were fresh out of college and went off to the big city. Our first real jobs were exciting – and stretching.

My buddy invited me to join him for church one Sunday. He was part of a televangelist-focused megachurch. The main preacher loved the spotlights and glory that came with his position. The wall behind the stage was covered with all manner of crutches and braces from people who may or may not have been healed through that ministry.

That preacher was not the kind of guy I liked. His wife single-handedly kept Mary Kay in business. His ego was big enough to fill the arenas he headlined, and I’ve never appreciated massive egos. A few years later, his expense account came to light, and there were several areas of his spending that (in my opinion) did not honor God. I was frustrated about those who sacrificially gave and unknowingly built that preacher’s empire.

But my buddy was growing in his relationship with God. He went to church almost every time the doors were open. He was reading his Bible with great enthusiasm. And he still follows Jesus.

Paul had a few things to say about this. In Philippians, he writes, “… others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely … But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.” In 1 Corinthians, “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”

Though the messenger may have been flawed, God is big enough to overcome the weaknesses of the message-bringer. Let’s not focus on who is doing the speaking but rather on God’s message.

(Paul Merrill writes here every First Friday.)

10 thoughts on “Faulty voices

  1. David

    Thank you for that Paul. I think many share your concerns about mega-church (and not so mega) pastors living the life, when others who labour for God sacrificially usually in much smaller settings often struggle to get by.


  2. Gary Mintchell

    Thank you for the mind- and spirit-expanding thought. I wouldn’t lump all the large church pastors together. I’ve seen the mighty fall–from large arenas and smaller churches. In the end, it’s the message, not the messenger.

    (Although we really like to see congruence of the two. And I’d like to see more congruence of the two in my own life.)


  3. Joseph Ruiz (@SMSJOE)

    It’s a good reminder Paul, thank you. I think about the lack of integrity in my walk. While integrity is important, the closer we get to Him the more effective His message through us. Happy Fourth of July ~ Thank God for His Freedom.


  4. Paul Merrill

    Gary – I wasn’t lumping all pastors together. Like with almost any profession or calling, there are many who are those who are excellent and above reproach – and there are those who aren’t.

    Lenore – please share more of your thoughts about what troubled you about this post. We’d love to learn from you.

    All – happy Fourth!


  5. susanpieters

    I think it’s encouraging because we all have mixed motives. God can use us all, despite our good/bad intentions.


  6. Lenore Chernenko

    Gary . . . Concerning the friend who “went to church almost every time the doors were open”. . .”reading his Bible”. . .”follows Jesus” . . .It is possible to faithfully follow a faulty rendition of the Gospel and a faulty interpretation of the Bible while intending to follow Jesus; the long-term effects can be devastating to the follower and the wider community. The faulty presentation of the message about Christ may fall as bad seed . . . Does God make bad seed grow?


  7. Jon Swanson

    What’s powerful about Paul’s suggestion is that, reflecting the other Paul’s words, God can work in spite of us as well as through us.

    Yes, it is entirely possible for there to be false teaching. That’s why so many New Testament letter writers offer warnings about it. As Paul himself does in the letters to Timothy, However, there also seems to be poor teaching, incomplete teaching, incorrect teaching. Paul provides correction for those people, and 1 Corinthians is full of corrections and clarifications. “Some people are saying that Christian liberty means this. But it doesn’t.”

    I am well aware that there gaps between what we preach and what we do. And that there can be gaps between what we preach and what God says. And between what we do and what God calls us to do. And I am usually aware that what I say and write from a position of a pastor puts me in a position of great responsibility for the spiritual lives of whoever is paying attention. However, I am also incredibly grateful that God helps people hear things with great clarity that I said with feebleness.

    I used to be angry at bad teachers (and sometimes I still am.) But when I think of them facing the Shepherd and hearing the question, “So what did you do with my sheep?”, I am horrified for them. And I look very carefully at my reflection.

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  8. Paul Merrill

    Lenore – I think God is bigger than churches. I heard of a family of Christians living in a country that is very hostile to the gospel. (And this is a real story – I just can’t reveal the names and locations, to protect their security.) The only Christian church in a major city broke a lot of rules laid down by Scriptures. The young family of believers had the choice to gather with those Christians or remain a lone wolf. They chose to join with the other believers.

    I am not advocating the breaking of Scriptural principles, but when those followers of Christ had no other choice than to fellowship with that church, they did anyway, and God blessed them. I haven’t heard an update in many years, but God can work where things are not optimum.


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