Holy God, most wonderful Father, perfect Giver of light and love and everything good, come to us and fill us with Your wisdom and the desire for Your Presence. We need You, God, and nothing less--we need to love Jesus through Your power, and we need to delight in Jesus through Your sovereign hand. May You lead us forward in all things, and may we rejoice in You eternally. Thank You that Heaven is eternal joy in You! In Jesus’ most holy name, Amen.
Greetings and salutations once more, Church of God! This’ll be a short little mini-teaching today, not really a teaching per se, but more of an explanation of why I do things the way that I do them. I’m including this in the series Basic Doctrines, but this certainly isn’t a universal biblical Christian doctrine that every believer should hold--it’s really more just an explanation of why my particular ministry looks the way it does.
Hold these things loosely. You may be called to do things the way I was, or you may not. If this way gives you joy, I offer it to you, and if it doesn’t, then pursue what God has led you to in the way He’s led you to do it, and rejoice. The way of God is a blessed path of peace and righteousness for the Christian--God has saved you to a loving walk with Him, a Way of life and peace in His Presence, a Way of enjoying Him every day and letting our lives be consumed by love for Him. ٍSo don’t let the details get in the way of that, don’t get distracted by nuts and bolts of ministry.
Another thing to note is that Cross of Joy is not your church, and it should not replace your church. You with me now? Think about this--I can’t see you. I can’t see your life. I’m not your shepherd. You need to come face to face with an older, wiser Christian to be sharpened, to physically be in his or her presence. Every Christian does. I can’t do that for you.
And because this is a need for every Christian, don’t be anonymous if you’re a physical public preacher. If you’re teaching regularly with a church body, you should be known to them--you must be known to them. This is because they need to see your life and grow from the things God is doing in and through you. So everything I’m saying in this message isn’t an option for you, if you’re, say, a church pastor, in my opinion.
So without any more ado, here’s my philosophy: I am a publicly anonymous preacher. What does that mean? It means I’m anonymous to the general masses, but I’m known to those who know me. My church knows that I do Cross of Joy, so does my family, so do my friends. This is important for the sake of accountability more than anything else. I’ll give you an example on that: If someone from my church listens to Cross of Joy one day, and they’re like, “Wow, this dude’s a heretic,” then they can come to me and we can talk about that and they can hold to me a scriptural standard. That’s a good thing. I want people looking over my shoulder so that they can protect me from teaching false doctrine and burdening the Church and incurring God’s judgment.
But I don’t want a Wikipedia page about my writings. I don’t want my name to come up as an automatic Google search autofill. I don’t want a billboard advertising that I’m going to be preaching at a certain conference, or online ads talking about how great I am and how powerfully God works through my name or my preaching, or my name in bold print on a book cover talking about how I’m a New York Times Best Seller. I know that those things are everywhere, and I know that people are used to seeing those things in a Christian setting, but isn’t that glorification? As a Church, do we glorify our teachers, and our gifted worship bands, and our ministries? Is that right? Should we do that?
Now, I don’t mess around when it comes to criticizing the Church, okay? That isn’t a game, and it’s not funny when you criticize another Christian. Why? Because they are God’s workmanship--and here I’m not talking about any big-name celebrity, I’m talking about your normal average Christian, the church down the street from your home, that isn’t morally terrible or corrupt or doctrinally preaching universal salvation or whatever, but is just not your fellowship. If you’re talking about how this church in your city isn’t loving enough, what you’re saying, in my mind, is that God hasn’t done enough in their lives to meet your standards. If that church isn’t evangelical or warm enough or active enough in finding new members, you’re saying that God hasn’t given them enough of Himself. Why hasn’t God done that? Let’s go, God! Get Your stuff together and sanctify these people! You can give them the desire to know You more, right? Then do it!
Does that sound content in the Holy Spirit, child of God? Is that thankfulness? I don’t think so. So when we criticize another child of God or the Church of God, we’re criticizing a perfect, loving, wonderful Father. I don’t play games with that. Your words are words spoken by the image of God--your words are important. Don’t be sloppy when you speak. Count what you say.
So, keeping all that in mind, I know that God has His Church in the perfect position for where we need to be today. He knows the problems, and He knows the successes, and you know what? We’re exactly where we need to be, because God does everything for our good if He has called us according to His purpose.
But I do have a hesitancy, or a little feeling of dread, when I see a speaker’s name on an ad. I get scared when I see a big-name preacher start another organization, or put on another conference, or put together another big stage for a holy big-shot to preach from. I get scared, man. Especially in America, because in America, we eat that mess up. We love it. When there’s a big name on a billboard with the right advertising slogans and flashing lights, we buy thirty thousand tickets in the time it takes to say ‘lead me not into temptation.’
My concern is this: The people of God are not the experience of God. The advertising is designed to sell you what? The experience of God. Come see So-and-So, because he’s great, and he’s going to fill you with the Holy Spirit!.........wait, what? Really? Is he, now? Is he going to fill me with the Holy Spirit and change my life with his empty little words running through your sloppy little million-dollar sound system? I don’t care what Grammy-winning worship band you have lined up, it’s powerless, and so is that speaker. He is powerless. The people of God are not the experience of God. God can work through a donkey to speak truth to me--He doesn’t need your little advertisement to create love for Himself in His people.
But now, some folks are just plain gifted in spiritual teaching. Right? Some folks actually do seem to create God’s Presence with their holiness, God works through them more powerfully than in others. You’ve probably heard some of them. They’re just gifted, and it’s really powerful. I love those guys. I listen to folks like that a lot--I mean a lot a lot, I listen to at least two sermons a day, and it’s normally three. A lot of these folks have organizations around them, and they have employees, and they have churches, and the whole deal. And those things are not necessarily bad--they are not evil, especially if God has called them into that place. So am I saying that they should leave where they are in order to avoid the danger of loving glory?
No--God is able to make them stand. God is able to keep them from stumbling, praise God! He is wonderful, and He is sovereign, and He controls their hearts. He can and will provide for them.
Rather, my only encouragement to the Church, especially the American Church, is to avoid glorifying its members because of their giftings. The people of God are not the experience of God. That big-name speaker has absolutely no power if the Spirit doesn’t show up. I would love to see a culture where Christian bands aren’t marketed in the same way that secular bands are, glorifying themselves and competing with one another for your business, and Christian preachers aren’t advertised as if they offer a spiritual shot of cocaine that you need in order to encounter Jesus. But we aren’t there yet. Maybe one day.
And this could be why the Spirit has led me to be anonymous, to be an example of humility in a day of Internet hyperexposure. I don’t really know. All that I know for sure is that when I prayed about my ministry, I felt a great desire to be smaller and smaller underneath the image of God, and really to disappear behind the weight and beauty of God. So that’s why I started an anonymous ministry.
Now, on our website it lists safety as one of the reasons why Cross of Joy is anonymous, and that is a concern for some on the team, but not me personally. If you’re scared of standing in a crowd that will stone you and preaching the Gospel, you love your life more than the Gospel. You’re choosing living on Earth rather than preaching. Preaching is better than life on Earth, and why? Because Jesus is better than life on Earth. God is better than anything in a broken, sinful world--there’s no comparison. So safety isn’t a factor in my personal anonymity.
May God bless you more and more with love for Him--may you seek Him today with a joy that fills your life from top to bottom.