Who are you following?

Hebrews 13  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

 Coaches, especially those who coach children and youth, can often take on parent roles.  This is especially true of college coaches as young men and women leave their families and spend inordinate amounts of time with these new parent figures.  Many star high school athletes and their families are drawn to the impressive resumes of coaches, and often drawn by their praise.  Young athletes are honoured as they are recruited by big name coaches of large Division I U.S. Colleges.

These coaches have all earned the right to lead teams at this highest collegiate level.  They are generally well schooled in the discipline of their sport and they are masters of motivation.  Their elevation to coaching at the highest level came because of their skill and ultimately their success in earlier years.  However, in a number of cases the stories of coaching success are shadowed by stories of personal impropriety.  It would not take you long to do an internet search and find the stories of respected U.S. College coaches who had been hiding poor, even criminal personal behaviour.

If I were choosing a college for my athletic child to attend, more important than the coaches’ win/loss record, would be who the coach was as a person.  Before making the choice of which leader my child would follow, we would “consider the outcome of their way of life”.

I am surprised when Christians do not follow this same approach.  The author of the letter to the Hebrew church understood that we must show great wisdom especially when we choose to follow Christian leaders.  One of the best ways of doing this, is not only listening to what they say, but even more so watching what has become of them and those around them.  In Matthew 12 Jesus speaks of good trees that bear good fruit and bad trees that bear bad fruit “…for a tree is recognized by its fruit”.

I am saddened when I see prominent Christian church leaders staining the reputation of the body of Christ, the “ekklesia”.  In 2007 the U.S. Senate began investigating six major ministries known for their leaders’ lavish lifestyles and “prosperity teachings”, including Randy & Paula White (since Divorced), Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer.  Each had outlandish lifestyles.  For example Joyce Meyer’s ministry brought in over $80 million per year and it paid for all her and her families’ expenses including an estate with 5 houses worth over $4 million dollars, a $10 million jet, and expensive taste in antiques worth tens of thousands of dollars each.  A salary of $900,000 and no expenses made life fairly easy, but as she said “I’m living now in my reward”.  This is not money earned through private business, it is money earned through ministry.  While she does receive a great deal from books she personally wrote and published, her fame came from her Biblical ministry.

In contrast to these “prosperity preachers” the Apostle Paul chose a much different path.  Paul refused to accept wages from the churches he planted because he did not want skeptics and unbelievers to accuse him of preaching the Gospel as a motive for monetary gain. (1 Cor. 9:12-18).  While he recognized that those preaching the gospel could receive their living from preaching, he did not want to do anything to hinder the gospel and so he made a living as a tent maker (Acts 18:3) and even supported the needs of his companions (Acts 20:34).

Paul would have been a leader I would have wanted to follow.  While recognizing his right to earn a living from preaching the gospel, he chose to forego this right so as not to hinder the gospel.  There is no uncertainty in my mind that he would have been sickened by the lavish lifestyle of a number who preach the gospel today.  They are doing far more than “making a living” and harm the gospel as they can be easily accused of “preaching the Gospel for monetary gain”.  Who are you following?  What is the outcome of their way of life?

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