Does the Fire’s Source Matter?

Marcus Rogers has over 230,000 YouTube followers. On Facebook, that number is more than 785,000. That’s a lot of people hanging on the words of a guy who describes himself like this:

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who can save anybody! His name is Jesus.

Watch a video like the one here and you’ll see why he draws a following.

The most recent item in his Facebook posts is similarly engaging to my way of thinking. It’s convicting and convincing.

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Yeah–preach it!

But as I revel in the way that Rogers illustrates how we should be on fire for God, as I agree with his take on gossip within the church, I find out that this guy is, from my way of thinking, theologically damaged goods. He’s into Oneness Theology, which means that he denies the Trinity. Also, he was ousted from the U.S. Army after an “unauthorized baptism” in a Fort Campbell creek was associated with the drowning of the man being baptized. (It’s not clear if Rogers was at all responsible for the drowning.) Add to that the fact that this man has recently been divorced, and, Q.E.D., he must be someone we should utterly ignore.

I’ve been amazed at the amount of information on Marcus Rogers that one can find, and a great amount of it seems to be driven by knee-jerk hatred to anyone who (a.) believes something we don’t believe or (b.) experiences significant success. “Why can’t I have 785,000 followers on Facebook?”

Should the noticeable defects in this man’s façade make him someone we should utterly ignore? Let’s take that question up on two levels: theological and moral.

On the theological side, I think Rogers is completely wrong in his Oneness orientation. However, in my dealings with Oneness people, I’ve found that at a very real level our disagreement was more in vocabulary and point of view than in how we ultimately viewed God. The best Oneness people I’ve known have a devotion to Jesus that makes most Christians seem rather anemic. Since all of Rogers’ materials that I’ve seen are free of Oneness-specific teaching, I’ll give him a pass on that.

On the moral side, I won’t say that his separation from the army or from his wife are utterly irrelevant things. I won’t be bringing this guy to the attention of my church when we have a ministerial opening, but does that mean that I should ignore him or repudiate him? I read Psalms by a guy who committed adultery and murdered to cover it up. I read a Torah written by a guy who killed a man in his youth. A former pastor of mine left his position in disgrace after a moral failing. Does that make what that man taught invalid? I don’t think it does at all.

Finally, we could question the motivations of Marcus Rogers. Is he self-serving? Perhaps, but his message is clear and solid. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians:

To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. These preach out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. –Philippians 1:15-18

I’m not suggesting that we not test what people say and approach teachers with caution, but when Rogers praises Jesus and calls people to repentance, who am I to criticize that?



Waiting Tables

basin and towel.jpgWhat is a deacon? That office means different things in different settings even within the realm of Christianity. For over a thousand years the office of deacon (as a permanent thing rather than a stepping stone to priesthood) disappeared in Roman Catholicism. But that’s not what interests me about the office. In my own faith tradition, the deacon has a long history as one of the two ordained offices within the church, deriving that doctrine from Philippians 1:1 and the provision of qualifications for only two positions in 1 Timothy 3:1-12.

Baptists are good at pointing to the Bible for our beliefs. Therefore, we tend to scoff at the idea of priests or of elders/bishops/pastors being three separate roles. While that is, I think, a correct approach, it’s of limited value if we allow those two positions to morph into something they weren’t intended to be.

So what should a deacon be? What should he do? What should his qualifications include? That’s much bigger fare than what this one post can include.

One thing that is utterly uncontroversial is that the Greek word that gives us the English word “deacon” is diakonos (that’s διάκονος, if you read Greek). Although that noun and its associated verb diakoneo do not always refer to the office that we call deacon, they do always refer to “servant” and “service.” Various Bible translations render the word as “minister,” which is fine if we remember what that word has meant in the past.

In Mark 9:5, Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and the servant of all.” That word “servant” is diakonos. Jesus, at the Last Supper, describes Himself as “among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). Again, no surprise, the verb form for “serves” is diakoneo.

Not every use of these words indicates the office of Deacon, but every time they are used, including the ones that speak of Deacons, they speak of service, servanthood, doing the grunt work that most of us would avoid if possible.

If you think you are important enough to be a Deacon, then you don’t really understand the role at all.

Faulty Connections

Recently I shared a bit about my experience in replacing the alternator in my wife’s vehicle. While I believe my initial post got across the idea that I am a far better English teacher than mechanic, I didn’t include one slightly embarrassing part of the endeavor.

After completing the installation, including attaching the two electrical connections, I re-charged the battery and took the newly powered vehicle for a test drive. All went well as I drove around the neighborhood. I pulled back into my driveway, switched off the ignition, and then started it up again. Still no problem. With my triumph nearly confirmed, I asked Penny to take a ride with me. We started up the vehicle again, although I noticed a bit of sluggishness this time. Pulling out of the driveway and putting the beast into drive, I saw matters go wonky. The gas and temp gauges started to rock as lights dimmed. After pulling back into the driveway, I grumbled. Apparently the alternator wasn’t the problem after all.

As I reflected on my wasted afternoon and the money I’d dropped on the new alternator, it occurred to me that the car was behaving in exactly the way it had before and that we had previously done the test to assign the blame to the alternator.

“Wait . . . ,” I said, startling my dog. “What if I didn’t get those wires connected properly.” One wire screwed on securely, but the other was a plastic plug with several smaller wires trailing from it. That plug had been a chore to disconnect. Walking out to the car, I raised the hood and reached down to the suspected culprit. When I pulled it to the right, it slid out easily. Pushing it back in, with some force, I felt it click into place. There was my problem.

Now, several weeks later, the car is operating perfectly. Like I said, I’m a better English teacher.

Before I made that connection, the new alternator had been sitting in the engine compartment, spinning under the power of the serpentine belt, and generating electricity. It was doing its job, but my failure to connect it to the devices that wanted to use that electricity made it useless.

In Philippians 4:13, Paul offers one of his best quotable nuggets: “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. ” How does God strengthen me? He strengthens me through the Holy Spirit. In fact, in Acts 1:8 we learn that the Holy Spirit will give us power–electricity, if you will allow me some latitude.

As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit and its power within me, but sometimes I don’t have the wires connected properly to make use of that power. Sometimes, the power just goes wasted within me.

Fixing that bad connection to tap the new alternator’s power was pretty simple. It’s slightly harder to restore my connection to the Holy Spirit when I’ve allowed it to shake loose. However, unlike in my driveway mechanic work, I have the master mechanic ready to assist me in making good that connection.