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Akin: God’s work is not done in stardom

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Christian rock star syndrome is a serious sickness infiltrating the church and gutting the body of Christ, Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the Jan. 29 spring convocation on the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.

Akin noted the Apostle Paul’s example from 2 Corinthians 12 of not boasting in one’s own superstardom but rather learning from the weakness of thorns in the flesh.

The rock star syndrome, Akin said, is a cult of personality in which individual leaders parade themselves rather than Christ, and it is running rampant among all different types of denominations and beliefs.

These personalities, he said, “care nothing for the sheep. They know nothing of honesty, next to nothing about humility, integrity and sincerity.”

This ideology is further accompanied by a type of Christian humanism, Akin said, in which people tend to give more credit to their own human experiences than to truth found in Scriptures. Akin compared the pseudo-apostles Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians to those in modern times who elevate themselves because of their experiences.

People do not show God’s perfect work by acting as Christian elitists, but God’s glory is seen in the perfect power He exhibits in human weakness, Akin said, referring to Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

“Paul is clearly being sarcastic and using irony [in this passage],” Akin said, noting he thought Paul’s sarcasm was aimed at the pseudo-apostles’ boasting meaninglessly in things that had no spiritual meaning.

“They were boasting,” Akin said. “They were boasting about who they were, where they had been, what they had done and who they knew. They gloried more in themselves than they did in their Savior.

“Paul counters these pseudo-apostles, these pseudo-spiritual elites, with one telling blow” by pointing out that God does His most perfect work not through the mountaintop experiences but through pain and suffering, Akin said.

“God does His greatest work not by putting us on a throne but by giving us a thorn,” Akin said in reference to verse 7 of the chapter, which says, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

Akin said boasting about personal experience is foolishness because it has no benefit for the church and does not show spiritual maturity. Instead, Akin said, personal difficulty can guide Christians to the wisdom of dependency. It is during times that Satan is attacking that those who follow Christ can choose to learn something from their thorns and “Satan becomes God’s messenger boy.”

The seminary president said during such times it is imperative to seek God in prayer and submit to God’s plan because He has promised His grace will be sufficient.

“When we are laid out and can only look up to Him, that is when we see Him do His most perfect work,” Akin said, adding that recognizing God’s sufficiency leads Christians to humility.

“I will thank you, Lord Jesus, for the difficulties that come,” Akin said. “When I am weak, He is made strong.”

Akin closed by speaking of L. Russ Bush, former dean of the faculty at Southeastern, who died Jan. 22 after a two-year battle with cancer. Akin said when Bush was told he had an aggressive form of cancer, he recognized it as a thorn and determined to learn something from it.

“He said, ‘The cancer did not catch God by surprise. I need to find out what He wants to teach me,'” Akin said, quoting Bush.

During the convocation, Southeastern officially recognized the addition of Gary Bredfeldt, professor of leadership, education and discipleship, to the faculty. He signed the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, signaling his intention to teach “in accordance with and not contrary to” the principles contained in those documents.
Lauren Crane is a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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