by Tom Flaherty


1 Corinthians 3:4-7; 21-23 “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?  What then is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth…So then let no one boast in men.  For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.”

We are in danger of erring in two ways in our attitude toward those leading us:

1. We can dishonor them and lose the benefit God wanted to bring through them;


2. We can idolize them and lose the benefit God wanted to bring through other leaders who are different from them.

Let’s look at the second one today.

Paul says that when we identify with only one leader and set Christian leaders in some type of a contest against each other, we are acting like mere men.  God has called us to the high calling of favored sons or daughters who are carriers of God’s own Presence – we are supposed to be the very temple of God!  Yet when we reduce Christianity to our favorite speaker we have missed the whole point.  Gifted leaders don’t exist for their own benefit (so you can be one of their loyal fans); they exist for your benefit so you can reach your God given calling and purpose.

To say you follow Paul instead of Apollos means that you are missing out on what God wanted to give you through Apollos. From God’s perspective, Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter) belong to you; they were raised up and anointed for your benefit so you could come into fullness.  To choose one over another or exalt one over another is to miss what the other one was supposed to bring to your life.

To idolize a leader is to set them up for a fall.  A few years ago a man was set up as the greatest prophet in America so much so that it was thought he didn’t even need to be part of a local church.  He would come from his place of being alone with God and tell us the word of the Lord and we honored his unique place; many times in an idolatrous way.  He succumbed to an addiction to alcohol and also was found to be involved in sexual sin.  Would this have happened if we had prayed for him more instead of idolizing him?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that at the end of the day those who plant and water, however gifted they may be, are nothing, but only instruments that help you grow in the grace of God.  Honor leaders, receive from leaders, but please don’t idolize them.  It puts them at greater risk and it keeps you from seeing the reason for their existence.

If you are a leader, don’t set the stage and arrange things so that others can idolize you. You exist to glorify God by helping others reach their God given calling and purpose. It’s not about you either.

Tom Flaherty is the Lead Pastor of CityChurch in Madison, WI.

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