A killer podcast called "The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill" was recently recommended to me by a friend. If you haven't heard of it (I certainly hadn't), it's worth a look. Fascinating, heartbreaking, mindblowing stuff.
What's the gist of it? The podcast by Christianity Today breaks down the rapid growth and even more rapid death of an American megachurch called Mars Hill, mostly due to the abusive leadership culture that thrived there. I won't get into the details, just one point I'd like to build on for today's Tuesday Truth. It's one of the reasons that so many people chose to stay in an unhealthy church culture under a leader that abused them.
It is easy to look at a gifted Christian and feel like they have something we don't. When we're hurting or struggling to find clarity in Christ ourselves, sometimes we feel drawn to those who seem to have all the answers, who seem to promise healing and may even seem empowered to deliver on that promise. God can use other Christians to facilitate our healing and growth, of course, but it's important to be aware of how we perceive those people. They, like us, are instruments for and children of God—a God to which we all have equal access. But being people, sometimes we lose that perspective. It can start to feel like we need that person. That he or she is the key to bettering our spiritual life, that they have special access to something we don't and therefore we need to get our Jesus through them, or at least try to emulate them if we can.
The line between that kind of admiration and a more damaging kind of dependence is a surprisingly fine one. While it is awesome to have Christians in our lives that we can admire and learn from, it can also become a distraction from the #1 model we should all be following—Jesus Christ. Comparing ourselves to others can be constructive if we can do so maturely, understanding that Jesus equips us all with different gifts. But if it causes us to think we are less Christian because we're gifted differently, it might be time to recalibrate. To remember that we all come from the same place of sin, that we all made the same choice to follow Christ, that we're all heading in the same direction, but our journeys may and will look different.
We all want to grow in Christ, and finding counsel or inspiration in Christians we admire is a wonderful second step. But the first step, always, should be consulting Christ directly. Telling him about our desire to grow and asking him to show us where that growth needs to happen. Maybe Jesus' plan for your growth looks nothing like your plan. Maybe he wants you to be an encourager, not a street preacher. Maybe he wants you to speak plain truths, not to speak in tongues.
There are different gifts and a different path of growth mapped out for each of us. We're all classmates in God's school. We can help each other, we can learn from each other, we can coach each other and encourage each other and guide each other and provide feedback for each other, but ultimately, we should all be pointing each other toward the front of the classroom. To the teacher himself, and the knowledge he is imparting to each one of us, individually, personally, perfectly.
He's teaching different lessons to all of us. Our tests will look different, may be graded at different times and may even be graded differently. Maybe the Christian beside you is facing a pop quiz and you're still learning the basics. Be patient. Keep learning. Keep your eyes on the Teacher. Remember, we're all classmates in the school of God. We might have different gifts, but if we all stay in school, we will all graduate together.