The two men could not be more different. In fact, so entirely dissimilar are they that it is amazing they could both operate in the same occupation. You see, Stanley Wright and Jack Blank pastor churches within the same denomination and within the same community.
Pastor Blank is the sort of person who people instantly like. More than one has walked away from an encounter with him saying, “What a great guy!” So it should come as no surprise that his church—so full of the ceaseless, bounding, jubilant activity of his own nature—would also be one of the most popular churches in his denomination.
Stanley Wright, on the other hand, has spent his life in the shadows of people like Jack Blank. Uncomfortable with strangers, sometimes to the point of seeming cold and distant, Stan’s people skills sometimes seem strained. However, these social struggles are actually only the remaining vestiges of the awkward personality he was dealt in life. Underneath that ill-at-ease persona is a very warm and caring man. In fact, once a person gets beyond his social clumsiness, his utter sincerity and solid character become quite evident.
The real story here is not so much one of personal traits but of spiritual substance. The truth of the matter is that Pastor Stan simply does not have the kind of winsome personality that can carry him through life in the ministry. Even more important is the fact that the great ambition of his life is not to achieve outward success but to please God. This is not something that the casual observer will necessarily see, however. One would have to visit his study early in the morning and see this man praying over the various members of his church, or quietly contemplating Scripture, or asking God to make him more Christlike or laboring over a forthcoming sermon. His most outstanding feature is the minute-by-minute dependence upon God that has been borne out of failure and self-distrust.
By contrast, Jack’s most pronounced attribute—his positive attitude—is also the unexpected curse of his life. For this is what hinders him from seeing his need to turn to the Lord in a meaningful way in life. Prayer times are usually crammed into an overly busy schedule. Sermons are typically encouraging, uplifting and superficial. And, truth be told, ministry has gradually become a vehicle for personal gain.
It would be wrong to press these differing characteristics too far. There are plenty of positive-minded pastors who sincerely love God and there are many serious-minded ministers who don’t. Likewise, there are many smalltime pastors whose desire to be popular and famous is not checked by the humbling of the Holy Spirit but by their lack of the kind of personal charisma that attracts large followings.
Nonetheless, there is a definite trend going on in the Evangelical Movement of our day. Churchgoers are becoming increasingly attracted to churches that entertain. “The number of megachurches in the U.S. has leaped to more than 1,300 today–from just 50 in 1970,” claims Forbes magazine. “Featuring huge stages, rock bands, jumbotron screens, buckets of tears and oodles of money, as well as the enormity of the facilities, pastor personalities and income–over $8.5 billion a year all told–these churches are impressive forces flourishing at staggering rates.”
It is debatable whether the driving force in this trend is the unrelenting ambition of charismatic personalities or the entertainment-minded parishioners who are drawn to plasma screen pastors, disco lighting fixtures and subwoofer sound systems. It is one more sign of the times that charisma is preferred to godly character, carnal music to reverential worship and pleasing the almighty Self to pleasing almighty God.
That is the apostasy.