I suppose it’s natural for people in the church to look up to Christian leaders as their example, and as the ones they admire.
After all, these leaders have been following Christ longer, and presumably have more wisdom and knowledge than we do. More, we can actually see them, and have face to face conversations with them.
By no means am I saying that it’s bad to look up to people within the church as role models. But the danger comes when we elevate them over Christ. Instead of following Christ, we follow these leaders. Instead of making Christ our example, we look solely at our leaders.
One problem that can come from this is divisions within the church, as the Corinthians had. Some people were saying, “I follow Paul.” Others said, “I follow Apollos.” Others said, “I follow Cephas (Peter).”
And Paul gets very sarcastic saying,
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (13)
In other words, “Who are you following anyway?”
Later, he would tell them in chapter 3,
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (3:5-7)
In short, “Stop elevating people over God. The people are merely servants of God. No one seeks to elevate the servant in the household, but the master. So why do we elevate the leaders in the church when they are merely servants?”
But so many people do. And we have seen it lead to divisions within the church today.
The other problem with elevating people above God is that they are merely human, and because of that, they will inevitably let us down. And if our faith is based on the lives of these people rather than God, then when they fall or disappoint us, our faith will fall as well.
So let us not elevate people, no matter how godly they are, above him who died for us and rose again. Let us not get into fights over this pastor being better than that pastor. Each has their own work as God has assigned it to them. It’s not our place to judge them, and we especially have no right to judge them compared to other pastors. Leave the judgments to God who alone knows what he has required of them.
And let us not rest our faith on the faith of others. Rather let us rest our faith and hope in God alone. If we rest our faith on others, we will inevitably be disappointed. But if we put our trust in Christ, we never will be put to shame. (Romans 10:11)