In this issue we consider pastoral ministry in relation to the evangelical quest for "The Next Big Thing." Inevitably, that thing—whatever it turns out to be—is based on youth culture and the modern fascination with celebrity. According to our opening interview with Professor Thomas Bergler, it may be that the evangelical church itself created the "culture of now" in America. This seems to be the underbelly of religious revivalism and a sociological shift in the twentieth century.
Editor-in-chief Michael Horton addresses this in "We Don't Need Another Hero," exploring the significance of the fact that "movements are largely youth driven, whereas institutions are usually run by elders." Our culture may celebrate The Next Big Thing, but Horton reminds us that we hope for a church reformation, not a revolution. Church historian Carl Trueman presses further, taking issue with the pervasive entrepreneurialism of the modern age, as well as the fixation on big personalities that is so much a part of even church culture. Trueman insists that if we no longer comprehend the instruction to "let no man despise you because of your youth" (1 Tim. 4:12–13), we may have taken leave of Pauline Christianity.
This may seem like heavy criticism of evangelicalism, but we take these matters seriously, and so our authors open the Bible in order to build their arguments. That is itself one of the legacies of the Reformation, namely, to be informed by Scripture at every turn. In keeping with this conviction, writer Leanne Swift meditates on 1 Corinthians 3:4–6 ("'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos'") in relation to celebrity-driven evangelical leadership. Ben Arbour, a doctoral candidate at the University of Bristol, applies John 10:14–27 ("I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me....My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me"). This is a passage with real significance for ministry models in unusually large churches. It may be, argues Arbour, that "pastors who don't know their people functionally deny that Jesus is the pastoral example."
Also in this issue, Horton highlights a tendency we all have: to gather ever-expanding spiritual scrapbooks filled with all kinds of theological and spiritual collectibles (some real gems and some real junk). Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:21, he recommends a theological "spring cleaning," so we don't wonder what this or that doctrine is doing in our "scrapbook." Making good on this scriptural command requires as much time thumbing through Scripture as our own scrapbooks. To this end, we continue the yearlong series by Orthodox Presbyterian Church minister Zach Keele on the theme of Christ in all the Scriptures. Knowledge leads to intimacy, which is also true of the marriage relationship, and author William Boekestein reflects on God's blueprint for marital success from Genesis 2:18–25.
As you read this issue, contemplate the implications of John the Baptist's declaration: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). Beware of the cult of personality that turns a spotlight on "extraordinarily" gifted ministers. The pastoral Epistles instruct the church to grow by God's grace through the means of grace, exercised routinely and ordinarily in Lord's Day worship.
Ryan Glomsrud (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is Executive Editor for Modern Reformation and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at Harvard University. He earned his M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California and B.A. from Wheaton College, Illinois.
Issue: "The Next Big Thing" March/April 2013 Vol. 22 No. 2 Page number(s): 4
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