Not guilty!

Thanks to Thabiti for his comments. I appreciate them, read them as frank and friendly, and  offer these in like spirit.

To deal with the last point first, and to engage in some self-justifying, self-serving, purely self-interested defensive boxing (hey, at least I am honest), the Clarus conference was, when I agreed to do it, just a local church conference held annually by my friend Ryan Kelly.  Knowing my concerns about megaconferences, Ryan contacted me when it became a TGC event.   I sighed but said I had no problem with that; though I must say I wish that the advertising emphasized what was being said, not the speakers.  I joked with Ryan only yesterday that he had pulled a bait-and-switch move on me.  Still, the fact that I appear to have been made part of the problem does not lessen my concern for the problem.   It has certainly sent me back to the drawing board on considering future engagements outside of an immediately local church context.  Perhaps my actions are inconsistent; but surely it is better to be (in this case at least) unintentionally inconsistent and see that there is a problem than not to see any problem at all.

Second, if we utilize endless hermeneutics of suspicion, then all critique becomes rather pointless.  Thus, to point out that Britain too has its problems, that the English too have their celebrities (Paul Helm would no doubt cite the "Doctor" as the great example) or that claims to being untrendy can become the new trendy, are helpful to a point and should provoke self-critical reflection; but they do rather leave us in the situation where no-one can offer criticism because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Further, I also made it clear in several posts that America was peculiarly prone to celebrification, not that it was uniquely prone to the same.   I am 'Not guilty!' as charged in Thabiti's post.

Third, I made it clear in the last post that the leaders are not necessarily guilty of the adulation of their fans.  Thus, I say a hearty amen to Thabiti's comments about making sure that no power seeking leader be allowed to speak.  Of course, I never actually said that any conference speakers were such. I argued simply that, knowing that idolatrous adulation is a risk, leaders need to behave responsibly and in a manner which does not promote the kind of fan clubs we see all around us.  If I were preaching in a home for recovering alcoholics, I would not preach with a glass of scotch in my hand, even if it were top notch stuff; and preaching in a celebrity saturated culture, I think we need to take similar sensible precautions about how we present ourselves.

Fourth, one does not have to worship a leader to be involved in the kind of problem outlined in 1 Corinthians.  I am much less sanguine than Thabiti that the party spirit, based on big personalities, is not alive and well in Reformed evangelical circles.  Maybe I am wrong; but it is at least worth asking the question.  As I said, I didn't see anyone in Wales wearing my style of brogues; but in the US I reckon I can spot urban church planters from 200 yards at dusk with the light behind them.

Fifth, yes,  let us give honour where honour is due.  But let us not forget the countless anonymous men and women who make the church work - from unknown preachers to those who clean out the waste paper baskets in the pastor's study.  It is strange - but when I travel to other churches, nobody ever tells me about the unknown guy they heard in the anonymous pulpit in Nowhereville while they were on vacation; though I have forgotten the number of times certain conference speakers have been praised in such contexts. Maybe the unknown guys are all terrible preachers; many probably are unknown for that very reason; but I doubt that not getting due honour is a real problem when it comes to those who speak at big conferences. 

What I have said is not actually that controversial.  It is just an application of 1 Corinthians to the contemporary church scene.   That it is proving to be so is itself an interesting phenomenon.


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