1 Corinthians 3.5-7
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
Charisma is an important element of leadership. In the contemporary Church there are a number of very charismatic leaders who are drawing numbers of people to faith in Jesus Christ. Many of these Christian leaders have published books, are interviewed by major news corporations, and have a strong social network presence. The fact that names such as Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, Rachel Held Evans, Rick Warren, Adam Hamilton, and Mark Driscoll (among others) are known in many homes across the American landscape says a lot about the growth of contemporary Christianity headlined by strong and charismatic leadership.
I have read books by the above mentioned leaders, I have watched youtube videos of their sermons/lessons. They can be very persuasive in the way they present their understanding of the gospel. In many ways, they are doing a great service for the Church through their ability to maintain the relevancy of the Christian faith for the modern world.
However, there is a strong temptation with charismatic leaders to become more consumed by them, than by the one they are talking about. For example: I recently heard about a church that, instead of giving new Christians a bible, they gave them a copy of Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. Now, Velvet Elvis is an incredible commentary on the place of faith in the modern world, but it is not a substitute for God’s Word. Charismatic leaders achieve a great thing when they bring people to the faith, but it is God who grows us in our faith.
When Paul was confronted with the differing teachings of Apollos in the Christian community of Corinth, he rightly affirmed the capacity for Christian leaders to plant the seed of faith and provide the initial nourishment of water, but in the end it is always God who provides the growth.
We are not called to follow the Rob Bells and Mark Driscolls of Christianity, but instead we are called to follow Jesus Christ. As we all continue down our faith journeys, let us embrace the wonderful teaching of charismatic leaders remembering that their job is to always point, not at themselves, but toward Jesus Christ. Let us see the light of Christ shine through them and us so that we might grow in our faith according to God’s grace, love, and mercy.