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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Man of Faith

It would have been hard to miss. It was tucked away in the RELIGION section of yesterday's paper, next to the obituaries. But as I flipped the page, I recognized his profile. It was a photo of Jack Graham, seated on the stage of Prestonwood Baptist Church with Roger Staubach and Pat Summerall. Now if you don't know these guys, let me introduce them to you.

Jack Graham is the senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church here in Plano, Texas (my home town). It is one of the largest, if not the largest, Baptist church in America. I imagine it epitomizes the modern mega-church.

Roger Staubach was a celebrated football player with the Dallas Cowboys team. His post-football years have been so successful in real estate that other Dallas Cowboys players are out trying to emulate him and copy his success in their own retirement from football.

Pat Summerall played college football, and then played with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals and the New York Giants. As he got older (he's in his 80's) Summerall's had a lucrative career as a sports broadcaster and has invested in production companies to produce sports segments, etc. He's become as famous for being famous as he was for playing football.

That may be more information than you need on these gents, but knowing who they are sets the stage for what I have to say. So please bear with me.

The photo in this morning's paper accompanied a news story with the headline that read, "Staubach remains man of faith." Now you might think this was an article about religion. After all, it was in the that section of the paper! But the article was more focused on Staubach's faith in the Dallas Cowboys despite their poor performance recently. Curiously, the on-line edition of the paper had a completely different headline for this article --- that went straight to Staubach's faith in the Cowboys.

The article in question did say something about Staubach and religion though. When referring to Staubach's religion and appearance at Prestonwood Baptist Church, it said that Roger Staubach "spoke at length about how his religious beliefs have influenced his family life, his business endeavors and, of course, his football career."

The article continued, quoting Staubach as having said, "I accept that Jesus Christ is someone who is really going to give me another shot. He died for all of us. He gave us a chance for salvation."

Later on, it reported that Jack Graham said that Staubach "must have had Christ" on his side during his many come-from-behind (football game) drives. Oddly, Staubach didn't apparenty affirm this point. This is as religious as the article gets. And this is as specific about Staubach's faith as it gets.

You may be asking yourself why I'm picking on Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys. I've labeled myself a modern-day prophet more than once. It's one of the many things I believe about myself --- really. And the role of a Biblical prophet is to identify sin and poor doctrine, as well as exhort the people to more godly living. So here goes.

I'm more than a little fatigued with celebrity preachers - like Jack Graham - who are happy to share the stage in what they consider to be their mega-churches - like Prestonwood - with celebrities - like Staubach and Summerall - who are clearly outside of their faith. In fact, I believe that it is sin on their part.
There are many places in the Bible (i.e., Ezekiel 3:1, Matthew 25:15-30, Luke 12:47-48, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Ephesians 4:1, Hebrews 13:17, James 3:1, and 1 Timothy 2:2) which make clear the fact that men (or women) who are called, anointed and ordained to be God's chosen leaders for His people will be held to a higher standard. In fact, they are held to the highest standard of any human being. So God holds preachers highly accountable for the feeding of the sheep He's put them in charge of. They're responsible for making sure that what is preached is theologically sound and that the sheep not get misled or confused about God's truth.

Let's remember that no matter how mega the church may be, the Bible still calls it a house of prayer that belongs to the Lord, Jesus Christ. So it seems to be with flagrant disregard for the sacred and the holy that movie stars, sports stars, business moguls, motivational speakers and other cultural celebrities are welcomed to the stages of American churches. Like I said earlier, this is sin. In that context, it might also be good to remember that sin gets judged.

There are actually two sins at work here. One is this welcoming of celebrities to the stage or pulpit. The other is the welcoming of other religions to the stage or pulpit. Both are equally poisonous to the sheep that the proverbial shepherd has been called, anointed and ordained to lead. So I'll let Dr. Graham, Mr. Summerall, and Mr. Staubach rest a bit, while we go examine those sins.

Celebrity Problem

I took exception this past summer when Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago put Jack Welch on stage at the annual Leadership Summit hosted by his Willow Creek Association. Jack Welch is not known to be a man of any particular faith. He is known as a ruthless businessman.

During his years as head of General Electric (GE) the company delivered handsome profits to its shareholders. Not surprisingly, it also made Jack Welch a very rich man. But among his business strategies, Welch became known for his flagrant disregard for people in general. To put it bluntly, the love of Christ has not been evident in Jack Welch. Whatever religion he may profess, Mr. Welch has lived --- and championed the values of a fallen, perverse world.

So I thought it was inappropriate for Bill Hybels to ask the thousands of churches around the world that belong to his Willow Creek Association to spend God's money to come and get leadership advice and wisdom from Jack Welch. To my way of thinking, the only plausible reason for having Welch as a speaker would be if he were going to tell of a miraculous conversion to Jesus Christ and repentance of his ungodly ways. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

There've been other incidences in local church services and at religious conferences or events. Maybe they only get publicized because of their nature (of celebrity). I mean, the Dallas Morning News doesn't typically cover - with a separate news story complete with a photo - what happens in the pulpit of Prestonwood Baptist Church. That this particular event, with Staubach on stage, was an exception, is perhaps evidence that the celebrity was the story - and not the religion or the church or even what the celebrity had to say.

So the problem we have now is that anointed, ordained, called men of God have become infatuated with rich and famous people of celebrity. They've learned that a celebrity on your stage or in your pulpit gets you and your church in the news. They tend to make your church look more relevant. They're so infatuated that I'm quite certain most pastors are not going to like this blog. They'll dismiss me as being a radical and justify or defend their position. People don't like other people to tell them about their sin.

But look, our culture already makes gods out of celebrities. They are our false gods - the modern day equivalent of the golden calves and other false gods of ancient times. It's understandable, this perverse influence on our society. Celebrity has the power to move people. Celebrity books and speeches sell out. If you've held some political office, been on a TV show or played on professional sports team, everyone will want to hear what you have to say. Everyone believes that what you have to say matters. Just because of your celebrity. And sadly, if you put a celebrity on the stage or in the pulpit of a church, more people will show up.

This isn't a new revelation from God for me. He showed me a long time ago. I think the first time I noticed it was when I tuned in to watch Robert Schuller, the senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral (a church which just filed bankruptcy this week --- which is another blog topic for the future). It was a televised service from his church, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the famous physiologist. She is a Jew --- who denies that Jesus is who He says He is. But we'll get to that later. The point is she's not a famous psychologist or psychiatrist. Dr. Laura is famous for dispensing advice - without being qualified to do so. We call it celebrity. Does she belong in the pulpit of an influential American church?

It's a cultural thing, really. And that is precisely why it's so inappropriate for Christianity. Let's face it, the only reason Roger Staubach was on stage at Prestonwood Baptist Church was because he's a celebrity. They could easily have welcomed to the stage other former football players, other commercial real estate investors, and other Catholics. (Screech!) Did I just say that? Catholic? In the same context as real estate investing or sports? Yes, I really did So let's get to the second issue, Dr. Laura's Jewishness and Mr. Staubach's Catholicism.

Faith Problem

The news headline said that "Staubach remains (a) man of faith." Don't automatically assume that means he is a man of our faith. He isn't. He's a Catholic. Oh, I know. You're going to point out that the Catholics believe in Jesus Christ. And of course they do. So do the Mormons and other false religions. The problem is that Catholics give equal deity to mere humans after they're dead. They started with the Virgin Mary (Jesus' mother). She is deified and prayed to. So are a host of so-called "saints" of the Catholic faith.

The problem with other faiths is that they don't worship the same God we do. The Catholic faith is a good example, although the Jewish faith (as referenced above) is similar. Let me explain.

The Christian God is defined as a Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That's it. He's no more than that. There isn't room in there for Jesus' earthly mother, Mother Teresa or anyone else. Not even Elvis could fit in that Trinity!

So let's be clear. Anyone who tries to define God as being anything but the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit isn't defining the one true God that Christians worship. The Catholics are guilty of adding to that Trinity. And the Jews are guilty of subtracting from that Trinity. Are you following me here?

The Catholics are a little more insidious than the Jews. Because they acknowledge the Trinity, we tend to assume that Christians and Catholics are the same and that our differences are no greater than the differences between various Protestant faiths (i.e., Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran). But that may just be a lie that we're believing.

The Catholics believe that their definition of God is the only accurate definition. Ironically, they keep redefining Him every time they make another dead human being a "saint." Still they insist that their constantly changing definition of God is the only accurate definition of God.

And the Catholics believe that they are so right in their definition of God that they consider other Christ-based religions to be counterfeit, illegitimate? Did you know, for example, that the Catholics won't allow a Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran or anyone else who is not a Catholic to take communion with them?

Mind you, I'm not picking on Catholics here. We've got a lot of religions in America that appear to be legitimate, but they're worshipping a god that they've defined differently than this Holy Trinity that Christians know is the one, true God. Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, Mormons ... the list of these religions goes on and on.


There's a guy in my church, who runs a non-profit ministry called Changing the Face of Christianity ( Frankly, I couldn't have put it better. He's precisely pin-pointed the problem of Christianity in America today hiding behind masks. As we've just explored, Christianity is happy to put on the masks of celebrity or false religions if it thinks that will draw a crowd, build their "brand," sell some books, etc. This is sin. Unfortunately, it is the face of Christianity in America today.

When we Christ-followers go to a church service or related function, we should expect a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit. We should expect to hear an anointed word from God - delivered through called and ordained men and women of the one true God. It is a house of prayer, people. And God's chosen men or women should be the only people speaking to me there. And they should only be speaking God's message to me there.

So let's pray that America's Christian leaders will be healed of their infatuation with unqualified celebrities and stop welcoming them to the stage or pulpit. And let's pray that America's Christian leaders will learn to recognize the false religions around them - and understand how dangerous and toxic it is to welcome them to the stage or pulpit. That, my friends, would change the face of Christianity --- and produce real men and women of faith!

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