Appreciating Men But Glorifying God Alone

I love the comments from Francis Chan linked to at the end of this blog, and I agree wholeheartedly.

I think it’s fine and appropriate to quote from Christian speakers and authors we have benefited from. I do this with Spurgeon, Lewis, Tozer, Schaeffer and countless others, and, in this case, Chan. (And I have personally been greatly encouraged by the Lord through people’s notes about benefiting from my books, especially when I have been buried in a difficult project, as I have been recently.)

But while gratefully acknowledging I have benefited from these men and women, I do not put them on a pedestal.  I view them as helpful instruments of God. But it is God himself who is doing the work through his instruments, and God alone who deserves the glory.

We can express appreciation for the instrument, as Scripture does, so long as we do not give status to the instrument, but to God. This applies to our parents, friends, employers, and church leaders, just as it does to writers, speakers, or musicians.

Listen to these verses in Hebrews 13:6-8, and note the admonition to respect and learn from and even imitate Christian leaders in verse 7. However, note also the God-centered emphasis on the two verses that surround it.

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

To appreciate men and women of God and recognize their influence is fine, so long as we understand their flaws and shortcomings, and give God the credit for all that is good in them, and all the good we receive from them.  To glorify men is idolatry. It is terribly unhealthy both for the person who does it and the one who is idolized.

As J. S. Bach wrote on all his compositions, SDG. Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone be glory.”

Realizing that he too is just a fallen man, but that God can speak to us through him, I give you my friend and brother Francis Chan:

Jesus has always blessed his Church with gifted teachers. Unique to our day is the increased accessibility of these teachers. How should we make the most out of these resources while at the same time being committed to the local church? Could you give practical advice on the way forward?

Francis ChanThese are things that I am trying to figure out right now, so I want to be careful not to speak too soon. What I will say is this . . .

I have benefitted greatly by hearing biblical preachers via podcast. I’m glad that there is so much solid teaching available. However, I am struggling with the celebrity status that comes from this kind of exposure. It’s not healthy for the preacher, nor is it healthy for those who talk about their ministry heroes so often (I am guilty of this).

In many ways, we are conforming to the pattern of the world. While it is good that people are talking about what they have learned from “Piper, Driscoll, Keller, Chan, etc.,” I am concerned about how much we speak those names rather than the name of Jesus. It has gotten to the point where I believe we have taken glory away from Jesus. Personally, I am intentionally trying to mention human names less and speak often the matchless name of Jesus. All believers have received the Holy Spirit. We must go forth in his power with confidence. God has placed people in your path. You are called to disciple them.

We too quickly direct converts toward podcast preachers and neglect our God-given mandate to disciple. We must believe in the power of the Scriptures themselves, and we must trust in the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Let’s use the resources God has given to the church at large, but let’s not shirk our responsibility to the local church. Let’s not boast too much of others, and let’s not underestimate what the Spirit desires to do through us.


Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries