One takeaway from The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast
The word “icons” came up during the latest episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast within the context of a conversation about celebrity preachers and pastors featuring Joshua Harris. This series has provided a warning for all Christians but especially for those called to ministry. Working within a seminary context, I especially feel the effects of such a podcast on students: beware these pitfalls!
While I believe this podcast has been helpful, it can also leave the listener discouraged, perhaps even pessimistic, about the state of the church and its ministers. Yet, while there are many examples of a minister-gone-bad, there are also many (more?) examples of people who have been faithful for the long-haul. We just don’t hear about them because too often they’re not famous. They’re at small to medium size churches; they’re not newsworthy. They have their heads down focused on local church ministry.
You probably have heard of Billy Graham, but can you recall the name of his pastor when Graham was home in North Carolina? Calvin Thielman was a faithful, godly pastor whose son, Frank, now teaches at Beeson Divinity School and walks in the way of his father in humility and faithfulness to Christ. What about John Perkins or Fritz Onnasch? (John and Fritz are featured in the 2021 Beeson magazine, which will be published here on Aug. 25.) I could go on—and so could you.
Returning to icons, the seminary where I graduated from and where I now work (and where my husband now teaches) has “icons” in its chapel. It’s the most unusual and, in my opinion, beautiful chapel at a Protestant, evangelical seminary in the U.S. (see image at the top of this post which shows the dome in the chapel). In his last sermon as dean, Timothy George described the men and women painted in Hodges Chapel as “translucent icons.”
He said: “We look through the saints so as better to see the face of Jesus Christ and his nail-scarred hands.” These people suffered for Christ, died for Christ, and ultimately pointed to Christ, the one and true Icon (Col 3:1-4, 2 Cor 3:18). The problem, as I see it, is when we promote ourselves as the icon that we want people to see. Instead of being hidden with Christ, Christ becomes hidden behind us.
Not everyone who becomes a celebrity pastor, preacher, or speaker goes the way of Mark Driscoll or others. However, to podcast host Mike Cosper’s point, there are dangers (perhaps more) that lie ahead when we pursue that sort of platform or status. It may start out with good intentions, but if not careful, along the way we lose our translucency.
Every Christian is called to be a translucent icon. It is not the privileged status of only those few in vocational ministry. It’s the call that comes to each of us.
My hope is that by listening to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, the Lord Jesus will use these stories to warn us and wake us up from any spiritual slumber or apathy. I also pray that those entering into vocational ministry would do so with more fear and trembling.
But not all is lost or hopeless. Jesus is at work among many faithful saints across the world. He is still Lord, and the Church belongs to him.
So fellow saints, persevere. Submit to God in humility and reverence trusting that he loves you and is for you in Christ Jesus. Confess and repent; accept and walk in his forgiveness and be reconciled.
When we live like this daily, with God’s help, we become the translucent icons that the world needs to see Jesus.