Ours is a celebrity culture. In the world, and in the church, we have a way of gravitating toward those we perceive to be something special. We want to be part of a following. We love being in a parade with our favorite leader at the front. True today, true back in the first century.
Case in point, the church at Corinth. And their celebrity crushes were causing tension and division in the church.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or ” follow Apollos,” or ” follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
(1Corinthians 1:10-12 ESV)
They all had their t-shirts: Paul’s People . . . Apollos’s Apologists . . . Cephas’s Seekers. The real spiritual ones sported “In Christ Alone.” If Facebook had been a thing back then, someone would have set up a page for people to “Like.” If tweeting had been around, each would have had their own following . . . quotable quotes running rampant throughout the Roman world. Camps being created. Tribes being carved out. All with their respective celebrity leader.
Good for follower-ship. Not so good for fellowship. Great for raising up heroes. Pretty hard, though, on maintaining harmony. Helpful for creating champions, not so helpful for building up the church.
So, with all the pressing issues Paul has to address with this body of believer, he starts there.
And, as I continue my reading in 1Corinthians this morning, I notice what I think might be a helpful clue on how to avoid some of our celebrity tendencies. It’s starts with a proper perspective.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
(1Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV)
This is how we should be regarded, says Paul, how we should be seen, how we should be considered, “don’t imagine us to be something we aren’t” (MSG) . . . but see us for what we really are–servants and stewards.
To be sure, we are called to be leaders in the church, but don’t put us out in front or your parade. We are not here to conduct the symphony, but to use that which God has entrusted to us, even if it’s playing second fiddle. We are not here to lord it over anyone but to serve Christ. Not here to amass a great following, but to dispense the gospel of grace. Don’t divide over us, but imitate us. Be servants. Be stewards. Be found faithful.
Be found faithful. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.
It’s not about the followers. Not about being noticed. Not even about having something to show for your efforts.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
(1Corinthians 3:5-8 ESV)
The planter’s seed is buried, not much to look at or gloat over. The waterer’s water is absorbed, not much to show for his efforts. But that which is faithfully sown, that which is diligently nurtured, God takes and turns into a harvest of His own determination. And so, the Father gets the credit. His Son, the true celebrity.
And the servant? He rests in his labor knowing that God will reward Him justly in a coming day. The steward? His prize realized when he hears his Master say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21).
Our celebrity divisions fade as we realize we’re all just servants and stewards.
Our need to justify a following, or seek recognition, ceases when we desire only to be found faithful.
Found faithful. That’s enough.
By His grace. For His glory.