Last week I attended a large contemporary church. You know the kind with the Bistro Cafe and Book Store (that won't give change unless you make a purchase) and probably an ATM machine somewhere. It was a nationally televised church with a nationally famous pastor of whom I have some admiration. Infact, this particular pastor is successful enough to pastor a couple of churches within a hundred mile radius.
He happened to be out of the country, so his faithful wife delivered the sermon. Not uncommon in the church world. The message had traces of confirmations to parallel my situation in life. But thank God I am a discerning child of the King and not caught up in the spectacular, nor am I gullible. My apprehensions arose after an example of courage was presented on a short black and white film clipping.
It was of a daredevil trapeze artist (idiot) who walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls numerous times; each time adding elements of difficulty to the task until finally he'd convinced another man (idiot) to be carried across on his back. By then the spectators were probably awestruck at the "courage" of the trapeze artist. So to outdo his last feat he decided to push a man across in a wheelbarrel. When he questioned the crowd if they believed he could do it, they roared yes! But when he asked for a volunteer there was silence.
So this was the setup for the meaning of courage. By the way it was never revealed if they made it across. But just that some guy (idiot) hailed to be courageous, had volunteered to be pushed across the Falls on a tightrope in a wheelbarrel.
It was never stated if these volunteers were induced by monetary gain or just sheer spectacularism. But it appeared that they did it for no good reason which is why it seems all the more idiotic to me. Failure to make it to the other side could have meant dying for no good reason at all.
There seems to be a trend, and not so subtle, toward the martyring of Christians. I actually heard a radio minister explicitly say on the air to a co-host that the church needed martyrs. And the co-host agreed with him. I was so shocked that I forgot to get his name.
Beware of church leaders who would advocate that you should make uncommon sacrifices. Was that not the theme throughout Jim Jones' reign over the Peoples Temple when he moved his entire flock to Guyana and a mass killing/suicide ensued in November 1978.
Martyrdom is not a calling that any man can place upon another. No man has the right to ask or expect that of another man. Martyrdom is surely a divine appointment for a higher purpose and only God can orchestrate or dictate such a thing.
Today's church leaders had better be cautious of where they are leading the Lord's flock. And the flock had better avoid idolizing their leaders. Sometimes I wonder just who is being served, the leaders or the flock. Or is the flock being served up?
Reminds me of a short story I heard called, "To Serve Man", by Damon Knight. It's about aliens coming to earth to serve man. They alleviate hunger and many other life threatening issues that plagued mankind. The people of the earth became fat and flourished.
But a couple of suspicious chaps set out to decode a manual confiscated from the aliens. Upon realizing the title, "How to Serve Man", one of the chaps became somewhat penitent of his suspicions. But the other one pressed on and discovered that the manual was infact a cookbook!
I do love the church and I know they aren't perfect, but my red flags go up when I encounter these types of things. I have no desire to launch a major controversy. So in keeping with the theme perhaps you should take this article with a grain of salt, and consider it food for thought.