“Name Dropping” in the Early Church

1 Corinthians 1

10Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your arguments, dear brothers and sisters. 12Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter, ” or “I follow only Christ.” 13Can Christ be divided into pieces?

Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. 16(Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) 17For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speeches and high-sounding ideas, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

We live in an age where social media, podcasts and the internet have made it easier than ever for pastors and ministry leaders to attain “celebrity” status. Write a book, start a podcast, gain a large online following, embark on the speaking circuit demanding ever larger fees, and pretty soon, you’ve become famous within the Evangelical church, with your status being measured by how many Twitter followers you have or how many subscribe to your podcast.

Not surprisingly, many Christians today choose to align themselves with various Christian leaders. They buy and read all their books, watch all their podcasts and quote/retweet everything they say.

This isn’t just a modern phenomenon apparently, as even in the early formation of the church we see people segregating into different camps. It turns out that this was a major issue in the Corinthian church and one of the primary reasons Paul writes this first letter to its members. People in the church were aligning themselves with various leaders, such as Peter, Apollos, Paul and others.

This leadership affiliation was causing disunity as people were jockeying for position and attempting to gain an edge in the power structure.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with learning from and being influenced by godly men and women leaders within the church. But what Paul is addressing is more than that. It’s an obsession to be aligned with and connected to someone whose name association might elevate my own stature in the eyes of others.

We have a name for this in our culture. We call it name dropping, which is a practice whereby a person mentions the name or names of famous or important people in a story or a conversation in order to impress others and make themselves look better.

Paul says this is wrong and the primary reason for it is because it elevates people over the person of Christ. Jesus is the only one who has died for us and he’s the only person with whom we should be identifying.

There’s a second reason this practice is unadvisable and it’s not one that Paul mentions in this passage. That is, what happens when we become so closely aligned and affiliated with a “celebrity” Christian and then they have a moral failure?

Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve seen too many Christian leaders who had large followings succumb to various worldly temptations and thus disqualify themselves from ministry leadership. When we attach our leash to a leader who ends up experiencing a moral failure, our own reputation can inadvertently suffer.

Paul’s appeal is for unity in the church. The only way to achieve that unity is for believers to stop identifying as a groupies of well-known Christian leaders and instead, identify with Jesus alone.

Reflection

Who are some well-known Christian leaders you yourself or others are prone to align with?

When have you experienced “name dropping”, either by yourself or someone else?

What do you think are some reasons why Christians are inclined to “name drop” other influential Christians?

How can you take advantage of the tremendous resources and teachings of Christian thought leaders while maintaining Jesus as the person with whom you primarily identify?

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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