Monday, January 19, 2015

Young Prophet Syndrome

“During my early years, I never heard my parents speak negatively of any other church member or pastor. Later, I learned of circumstances where they could have had cause for grievance or offense, but I grew up believing every Christian was every other Christian's brother and friend. Fast forward to the 21st century: the Internet Age. Now, it seems that it is the job of a Christian to keep every other Christian in line theologically and behaviorally. And should they step out of line, I should immediately express my disdain in a tweet or blog all in the name of "defending the faith." Heretics, compromisers, false prophets, Pharisees, we're quick to label anyone who has a different opinion. I've done it. I might do it again.

I still believe that the best defense of the Gospel of Jesus is a person who lives out His teachings, not a person on a soapbox.

"This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35

The above quote was sent by a friend who asked me to comment. It was written by Tony Moore. Now I have no idea who Tony Moore is, though I suspect he is not the Tony Moore who at one time was a member of Iron Maiden.

The quote does draw attention to a problem in the American church that I have dubbed “Young Prophet Syndrome.” It is the syndrome in which a young man (though young women are not necessarily excluded) discovers the joys of theology. Having discovered theology, and having a little bit of knowledge, he begins to see heterodox doctrine all around him. Having a concern for Christ and His church, the young man then concludes that it is his duty to call attention to, and correct, the rampant heterodoxy he sees all around him. That is the “prophet” part. He thinks he has been called by God to execute this duty.

In earlier days, there wasn't much harm done by these folks. They had no platform from which to speak. So, while they might prove themselves an annoyance to less theologically-oriented friends and neighbors, that was pretty much where it stayed. Now we have the Internet, and any fool with a computer and an Internet connection can display his folly to the world. It’s not a new syndrome; it just has a new visibility.

For the most part, this is a phase that certain folks go through, but they grow out of it. That might still be the case, but now, nothing ever dies on the Internet. So those criticisms take on a life of their own, making life miserable for all concerned.

But the young prophets, however badly managed, do point out another problem. That is, there are dozens, if not hundreds of Christian ministries whose doctrine seems to be less than orthodox. Yet there is no mechanism for calling those people to account. They are apparently accountable only to their boards, which may or may not be equipped to deal with real theological problems in the ministry. And it appears that, as long as the money keeps rolling in, the views expressed will not change.

Is that frustrating? Yes, but Young Prophet Syndrome is no cure to the problem. So how do we cure the YPS? There probably is no cure. But I would simply suggest to those who feel the YPS call (yes, you know who you are) to rethink the call. I have found a particular Polish proverb very helpful here. “Not my circus; not my monkeys.” Ask yourself, “Is this really my circus?” If not, then leave it to someone whose circus it is. Remember, Christ cares far more for his church than you do, and he will take care of these things in his time and in his way.

There are times when it is right and proper to speak: when it is our circus. But it’s usually not our circus.

1 comment:

taiwanchurch said...

I think it would be helpful for you to answer the question, "What is not my circus and what is my circus?" What is my responsibility as a teaching or ruling elder? We are not an organizationally unified church as in the days of Athanasius, but we are part of a universal church.