Why do people who have been influential in the evangelical world passionately advocate a cause, pull back, and then sometimes take the opposite stance with equal energy?
The answer, I think, is found in the word “fanaticism.”
Not all who fall are fanatical. Not all who fall from leadership end up denying the Lord or the Word. People like Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, or Mark Driscoll have succumbed to various sins (some more serious than others). As far as I know, these men still profess faith in Jesus Christ.
Nonetheless, others could be described as fanatics and may completely reverse themselves.
Festus probably considered Paul the Apostle a fanatic when he said to him, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind” (Acts 26:24).
As followers of Jesus Christ in a world that labels sin as normal and righteousness as abnormal, those of us who pursue righteousness and shun sin can easily be called “fanatics.” Most of us have been so labeled. I will try to explain what I mean by the term “fanatic” as I use it in this article.
Zealous Christians can cross the line between zeal (which is a Biblical virtue) and fanaticism (which is a vice). The difference in not found in Webster’s dictionary, but the fruit of observation. In my mind, zeal is a function of conviction. Fanaticism is a function of personality. People are zealous because of what they believe. Fanatical people, however, will usually find something (sometimes anything) about which to be zealous.
"Nearly three years after apologizing to Christians and calling his advice against dating in his best-selling 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a 'huge mistake,' author and pastor Joshua Harris revealed he and his wife are separating." - Christian Post
"Citing a tip published by Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch, independent journalist Julie Roys, confirmed in a report Tuesday that MacDonald gifted Stetzer a just under $13,000 1971 VW Beetle last April. Stetzer said he had no idea MacDonald used money from church donations to pay for the gift." - Christian Post
"I do think there is a contemporary foible that leads, among other things, to these catastrophes. Why do churches need to have 12 site campuses with everybody linked up by video feed so they can drink from the pure font of one guy’s leadership?" - Rooted Thinking
How many workshops, conferences, videos, and books have you experienced about “leadership?” Ten secrets of that, nine habits of those people, or seven principles about leadership that are sure to transform your ministry? Those who present or write those books seem so competent, so successful, so energized.
I want to tell them, “Chill out, won’t you? Stop with adrenaline already!”
I have long been disenchanted with the evangelical world’s obsession with leadership. Leaders have developed an entire (extra-biblical) leadership science. These secular principles are often “baptized” with Scriptural examples to give them an air of authority.
The emphasis on leadership means spotlighting particular leaders. Both the fundamentalist and evangelical communities are noted to gravitate toward the “personality cult,” a modern day version of, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos.”
Some people are drawn to the mystery and otherworldliness of the great leader. They are looking for someone who is above the fray of normal human existence. It is easy to admire a well-known speaker and/or author who is verbally gifted, filled with unbounded energy, and motivational.
But you don’t know what his family is like, what he is like when he is out of the limelight or in a grouchy mood. Perhaps unlike your pastor who serves a small church and is ready to quit every Monday, the mystery celebrity pastor seems a model for what could be, a man who has mastered life.