How do we ensure God worship over hero worship, asks Ruth Dickinson

Ten minutes before mega-church pastor Francis Chan was due to address a conference, he was lying on the floor, face covered in snot, crying like a baby. He’d been feeling pleased with himself after seeing his face on a magazine cover, and God had, in no uncertain terms, told him that this attitude of pride was disgusting.

In this month’s profile interview (p16) Chan talks about how he’s stepping out of the limelight, leaving his church behind, and how, despite being a best-selling author, he may never write another book again. He is concerned that people in his church talk more about Francis Chan than about the Holy Spirit.

I’m all too aware of the irony of publishing the piece at all. Ok, so his face is not on the cover, but we are still doing our bit in terms of promoting him at a time when he’s taking a bold and counterintuitive step into obscurity, because he thinks that is where God is leading him.

I found the interview massively uncomfortable reading, partly because it made me question the role of magazines like this one. Are we just feeding the egos of high profile people, not to mention promoting hero worship, rather than God worship, among you, the readers? If this is the case, and we are in fact complicit in drawing people away from God and his purposes, not deeper into them, then we have got serious problems.

However, while we can all recognise that the way of God – often unglamorous, sacrificial and difficult – doesn’t sit that well with the celebrity culture that you sometimes see in the Church, I don’t think it means people shouldn’t have platforms at all. The key lies in how we use them and how we treat those who have them. If we surround ourselves with ‘yes’ men, close our ears to criticism and make it all about us then we are taking our walk with God in an untenable direction.

It applies to everyone, whether we are high profile or not. At Christianity, my first instinct is often to bristle with indignation when we get a critical letter – keen to dismiss or explain away what it has to say. But I have learned that they are just as important as the encouraging ones, if not more so. Obviously there are some people who will moan about anything.

But there are others who raise genuine concerns and it is good for us to feel the full weight of them, however difficult it is to admit we might have got it wrong. The Bible says we are to teach and admonish each other. At my home group recently we talked about how difficult that concept is. We have conditioned ourselves to be polite and encouraging, and feel incredibly rude and uncomfortable doing any admonishing, much less being admonished.

I will continue to wrestle with whether the content of Christianity serves God’s kingdom and I hope that when my time comes I will be able to stand before him and be told that the magazine and the part I played in producing it was good for his Church, rather than damaging. But I can’t be certain of it. I think it will depend on my openness to being wrong and admit mistakes, and how much I tried to put God’s agenda ahead of my own ego.

This is where you come in. Please pray for us, write to us and keep us accountable. Help us make the magazine, and the people who we feature in it, a force for good. In return, we promise to serve you as faithfully as we can and to try not to fall into too many of the traps that ‘Christian culture’ has to offer.