Nearly every move of God gets sidetracked when its main leaders fall into the trap of thinking that their own measure of Christ is the full measure of Christ – and thus start promoting their own perspectives and motivations as normative for all.
No one person can ever reflect or express the full measure of Christ. Never – even if they started out truly grasping some essential, needed element of His nature, their ministry initially bore much fruit, and they even once transformed the Christian landscape.
Tragically, it often seems that such leaders slowly and subtly shift from sharing their own measure of Christ, to eventually acting as though it is now the full measure of Christ.
By “measure of Christ”, I mean the unique way that God created them to relate to and understand Him. Out of that perspective, they often have great, transformative insight that initially brings needed, legitimate reform to God’s people.
But then they lose balance as their perspective – their measure of Christ – becomes “all”.
Diversity or Conformity?
In fact, we each have a different measure of Christ. It’s like God gives us different spiritual antennas that resonate most strongly with one or two of His particular attributes – some with truth, some with love, some with service, some with order, some with grace, and yet others with subjective experience or any number of other aspects of Christ.
There are many valid ways that Christ in me will be expressed differently than Christ in you. The New Testament contains various lists of differing gifts, callings, motivations and ministries. But there is no one overarching measure of Christ – in the form of any one perspective, attribute, or transcending truth – that supersedes all else.
In the New Testament, we are repeatedly told to be the Body of Christ – with many parts, different gifts, diverse motivations and various callings – as we are knit together into a local, functional community. Thus, we should never allow one person’s measure of Christ to become normative for all.
The Danger of Past Success
Many leaders fall prey to pushing some perspective – often in the form of a legitimate attribute of Christ that most strongly resonates with them – out of balance. In my experience, and I think history confirms, this often happens as their initial success isolates them from real, functional and accountable local fellowship.
As they become detached from healthy fellowship and overly focused on their own way of perceiving and relating to Christ, they frequently come to believe that it represents some new “revelation” or overarching “truth” that transcends all else.
Sometimes, even the Bible takes second place to their great new revelation – whether it be some “Story” that explains all, everything being merged into their existential vision of Christ, love conquering all, or grace transcending all.
The “all” may be different, but the associated decline into an out-of-balance perspective is the same.
Unfortunately, their past success gives them a platform to now insist that God’s continuing advance through history, our own maturity, and the health of our churches, depends on us grasping hold of their own pet issue or transcending revelation.
It is not uncommon for them to become totalitarian, rigid or doctrinaire, but often in a subtle and personable, but manipulative, way. They retain the charm, charisma, drive and skills that initially elevated them to prominence, but now use those attributes to promote conformity to their unique vision. Such conformity is presented as necessary to become fully “spiritual” or the “bride or Christ” whatever else of they have taught is of paramount, essential importance as God’s ultimate goal.
It is not unusual for their “movement” and churches to fall into cultish practices and beliefs.
Typically, such leaders even give occasional concessions to the need for balance, but in fact their own life lacks it, it is not evident as a practical outworking among their own “tribe” or “movement”, and the totality of their overall writing fails to reflect it.
A Local and Universal Phenomena
This lack of balance is all too prevalent in both local fellowships and the larger Church.
Local fellowships often start reflecting a particular measure of Christ – which may be a very appealing measure! – found in some leader who comes to dominate. Likewise, whole moves of God become limited to the measure of Christ found in their initial groundbreaking leaders.
Many miss this subtle shift from legitimately imparting some needed aspect of Christ, to now making that measure of Christ normative for all and the central truth around which all must revolve. Folks uncritically fall prey to this shift, because they were blessed by that leader’s earlier ministry and can’t conceive that any problem might later arise with him.
So Where Does That Leave Us?
Whenever some respected Christian leader says “Christ is All” (e.g., the “Beyond” or “Deeper Life” authors), or others claim that “Grace Prevails Over All” (e.g., the growing “Grace” movement) or “Love Conquers All” (e.g., the “Emergent Church” movement), be wary.
All too often “all” means their own measure of Christ (which in this age often is extremely existential and postmodern), to the exclusion of all of Christ’s other attributes and all that He has given and commands:
- for our individual maturity;
- for our ability to function together as the truly multifaceted Body of Christ; and
- for us to be engaged as ambassadors of His Kingdom in the world.
We need to be discerning about those who come in the name of Christ to promote their own measure of Christ or some attribute of Christ as being “all” – no matter how anointed their past ministry may have been.