I attended a massive conference for pastors in the Chicago area during my twenties. Thousands of pastors were there to learn how to build a large church. The pastor was a commanding speaker, and most everyone was awed by his success. It was not my first time being captivated by the megachurch and its many different ministries.
However, on this occasion, he shared some principles he said guided his life, but I came away questioning what he had to say. He shared a principle called the “Carbon Copy Principle.” For many years he had been teaching that every person should try to be who they were meant to be but recently, he had come to believe that was wrong. Now he thought every person should find a suitable model and carbon copy their life to that model. I certainly got the impression that the best copy was the man speaking to us.
That was hard to swallow, but what came next was even harder to digest. The speaker told of his overwhelming duty to preach the gospel. He shared a personal conversation with his young son to demonstrate his uncompromising commitment to Christ. Very dramatically, he began, “Son, you know we have been to a lot of baseball games together, but daddy has been to the last one because daddy now has to do what God wants him to do.” The dramatic illustration had the opposite effect on me than intended. It was overly dramatic and lacked authenticity.
It took a while for me to sort out the impressive presentations and the significant following of this man from what was really being said. When I finally did, Mr. Carbon Copy Principle went into the trash. I determined I wanted to make my family a priority, not an add-on to my ministry. That same day I decided to prioritize being rather than doing. Incidentally, sadly, that son’s life turned out to be a disaster. And by the way, that megachurch has gone through a series of scandals over the years.
I have found that pursuing a biblical ministry often conflicts with the successful ministries that people flock after. Usually, there are several warning signs when judging a ministry’s authenticity. 1). Is the leader an authoritarian? Is it his way or the highway? 2). Do the leader and the ministry control the information their people receive? Do they assert we are right and everybody else is wrong? 3). Is there a lack of accountability? Without accountability, we are more prone to take the wrong path. 4.) Is there humility? Without humility, pride and arrogance lead the way. 5). Is there a priority to put marriage and family first, even above the ministry? If there isn’t, the family will suffer. (6. Is there authenticity? Are these people for real? If they are not, stay away from them!
The ministry with the most people and talent may not be the most biblical. These benchmarks have helped me judge between the real and not real through the years.