When I was 14 the pastor of my church was my hero. I thought he could do no wrong. I would repeat his favourite phrases and if he recommended a book, it soon appeared on my shelf. I might even read it! When I was 14 the pastor of my church did something wrong in my eyes. He turned from being my hero to a villain overnight. Suddenly I began picking holes in his sermons and criticising his leadership style. In fact I had a crisis of faith and wondered if I actually believed in the message he preached at all.
If Pastor Smith was for Jesus maybe I should be against him. When I was 15 I grew up alittle. In fact I grew up a lot and matured in a way that some people never do. I realised that if I put my faith in people they would eventually let me down.
No one – even Pastor Smith – was perfect. My world of black and white began to admit shades of grey. My faith, which had chiefly relied on others, became more centred on Christ.
The faith journey of some young (and not-so-young) people never recovers from the revelation that even the supposed great and good Christians have faults, weaknesses and serious shortcomings. When the failings of a Christian we admire are revealed it can lead to terminal faith failure. Or it can lead to greater maturity.
As a supporter of Portsmouth Football Club I was delighted to hear one of our players being widely quoted in the media discussing his Christian faith. I respect and admire Linvoy Primus for having the guts to tell his teammates about his faith and initiating a pre-match prayer meeting, which has grown in numbers and influence. Read more about his amazing story in this month’s cover feature.
Linvoy is just one of several high-profile Christians that attract attention in our celebrity-centred culture. Christ calls on us not to hide our faith loyalties – but of course this means that having been quoted as a Christian, if a well-known believer then has a moral lapse or some other faith struggle, this is widely reported. According to Jonathan Edwards’ biographer, the resignation of this former Olympic gold winning athlete as a Songs of Praise presenter is because he is having a crisis of faith.
What for you or me would be known only to a few friends and family, for Jonathan, and others in similar situations, becomes a topic of conversation in millions of homes. Suddenly the positive witness becomes tainted. So what do we do? Airbrush these figures away? Pretend they were never quoted in sermons as heroes or positive role models? Or can we be more mature?
Let’s pray for Linvoy Primus and other high-profile believers – like Diane Louise Jordan, who I am delighted to welcome as a new regular columnist starting this month. Let’s support them and celebrate in their victories – but let’s not believe the hype, build them up too much and imagine them to be perfect. Let’s not fall for a shallow celebrity-based Christian faith. We can learn from the best teachers, preachers and writers – but ultimately if our faith is centred on them we are standing on soft sand at the seaside while a tsunami is brewing. Instead let’s pray for and support them in good times and bad, particularly when, like Jonathan, they go through trials. We are all brothers and sisters of each other, after all.
But as well as loving and bearing with each other, let’s look up and fix our eyes on the head of our family, Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). In Him we trust.