The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. C. S. Lewis
During the Strange Fire Conference, which was basically a slam-fest aimed at charismatic ministries and theology, Reformed theologian Phil Johnson interviewed his mentor John McArthur on stage, requesting one word responses to a series of questions.
When Johnson gave McArthur the name ‘Steven Furtick’, McArthur’s immediate reply was ‘unqualified’, which brought about great mirth from all concerned.
It was an unkind leading question followed by an unnecessarily rude answer unbecoming of a person who considers himself an authority on theological and doctrinal purity of purpose and license, aimed at a Christian man who should be seen as a colleague in the ministry of the gospel, not the butt of rascally jokes.
Steven Furtick has an MA from the Southern Baptist Seminary. He is, then, as far as theological credentials go, as qualified as he needs to be to oversee a local church, which he does very successfully, having started a work in 2006 which has grown to more than 18,000 members.
The real qualification, though, has to be the call of God, because Christian churches don’t grow to this extent without the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Many people could take offence at this kind of public humiliation. Furtick’s response to Johnson and McArthur, though, is not hatred, nor anger, nor resentment, nor hurt. In fact, he has taken McArthur’s daggerly pointed quip and made it into a series of messages that have become his next book, (Un)qualified.
Of course, we are all, without Christ, unqualified. That is the point. God has chosen, called and sent us in spite of ourselves.
God doesn’t automatically choose the wise or the mighty or the noble. He calls the base, foolish, weak and despised. With these He puts the wise to shame through the weakness and foolishness of the gospel. This way He gains all the glory.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
So, far from being an insult, as intended, Furtick took McArthur’s words as a complement, and set about proving McArthur correct, albeit in a completely different way to McArthur and Johnson’s intentions. In so doing, Furtick turned the tables and, out of what could have been an embarrassing episode, gave glory to God in what will almost certainly be another best seller for Furtick, and grow his congregation, too.
There are so many examples in scripture of unqualified men and women that God used for His glory. Paul persecuting Christians before he was called, Moses a murderer and coward who ran from facing the music, fearful Gideon, timid Timothy, Peter, who denied Christ three times, and sliced off the ear of a guard, doubting Thomas, David, an adulterer and murderer, Rahab the harlot, Mary Magdelaine the prostitute – the list is endless. This should be some book.
God bless Furtick for this innovative and gracious way of heaping burning coals on the heads of the antagonists.
As C. S. Lewis pointed out, God is more interested in changing the small, dirty object into a son, servant and saint to send them out for His glory, than listening to the proud and self-promoted noble elevate themselves by putting down His redeemed and chosen.