Today, in Africa, it does not feel comfortable to not address a man of God without preceding his name with a title. You hear, “Apostle so-and-so” or “Prophet” or “Bishop” or “Pastor so-and-so”. Some preachers are simply known by the title “Bishop” and half their congregations do not even know their names. Preachers love addressing each other by these titles. It is like there is an obligation – an obligation to satisfy each other’s egos! Calling a man by his title is not a problem with God, of course; but the fact that men love this glory thing is a big problem with God. In other places preachers actually demand it.
But there is another danger here: the Church is being taught to covet these things. In other words, the sin of covetousness is being taught and perpetuated by church leaders. No wonder, therefore, that everyone wants the big posts. The result is that wars and factionalism have become common in church today.
We Christians, above everyone else, should be keenly aware that the glory belongs to God alone.
In several places in the scriptures we see the apostles – Peter, John, Paul – rushing to correct people’s wrong perspectives of them as great men – or even as gods. They told them, “We are ordinary men just like you. All we have done has been by the power of God, by whose mercy and grace we live and have done all that you see.”
The Apostle Paul says of himself, “I am nothing”.
You don’t hear that kind of language very much in the pulpits today. On the contrary I see many men and women who are perfect examples of pride and arrogance.
Regrettably, just as with Herod, God sometimes moves. In our town there was this very gifted preacher, a young man. He had the gifts of the Spirit and he had charisma, and when some missionaries came from abroad and saw him, they took him under their care. They took him to a Bible school in their country, where he stayed for a number of years.
When he came back, he was no longer the humble man we knew before. He was now a ‘great man of God’ and he made it clear, without speaking so much as a word, that he was a cut above us. He had money and a big car. He lived in the biggest mansion in town. I once asked him whether his house was not too big for him and he said no.
With his charismatic bearing – and the gifts of God still upon him, since God’s gifts are without repentance – he became the most popular preacher in town. He started his own ministry and he preached all over the country and even abroad. Soon you could not address him without appending the title “Bishop” to his name.
After some years he fell into sin. He fell into adultery. Somehow, unfortunately, he contracted the AIDS virus.
The rest, as they say, is history. Before we even knew what had happened, he had vanished from the ‘radar’. He disappeared from town and his whereabouts remained a mystery… until we got wind that he was in his rural village where he was dying. Soon enough he died, and a handful of preachers went to bury him.
It is no secret that preachers today love the glory. But such examples as of this young preacher – and the dissimilar examples of the apostles’ lives – should teach us that the glory belongs to God alone. We are nothing.