All the air went of the room as my fellow seminarian raised his hand and explained his request. He had interrupted our professor to ask if he would let the class out early so we could all get good seats in the upcoming seminary chapel service. There was a well-known evangelical pastor scheduled to preach in chapel that day and seats usually filled up quickly.
But our professor was no slouch. He was a tenured professor at a world-class seminary and the editor of that school’s theological journal. He was also an accomplished author with several books and many journal articles to his credit. He had served as a pastor and interim pastor at number of churches in two different states.
On that particular day our professor was teaching on some facet of systematic theology. I don’t remember the particulars, but I do remember that he was teaching with clarity and conviction. In fact, I was so deeply engaged that I was taken aback by my classmate’s request – and so was our professor. I could see the disappointment and surprise on his face as he quickly processed the inquiry. He had been interrupted mid-sentence with the suggestion that he finish up quickly so that we could all get on with something or someone “better.” After a long tense pause, our professor dismissed the class without any defensiveness.
Our culture is obsession with celebrities and that obsession has crept into the church. If the seminary trained pastors and leaders of our churches are affected, and even divided by personality, than so is the modern church.
This sounds a lot like the error the Apostle Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 1:12 where people in the church were saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” They weren’t divided by substantive or theological issues, they were divided by the personality, style, and perceived importance of four different church leaders. Not only did they had align themselves with their favor leader, but they stood against their brothers and sisters who did not agree with them.
We all have a tendency to gravitate towards people we love and respect. The problem starts when we put people on a pedestal and even try to copy their ministries. The problem gets worse when we play favorites and form secret alliances. If people in the modern church are divided by personality, we shouldn’t be surprised. Pastors and church leaders are divided by personality too.