This morning I took a short jog - OK, a run some, walk some, jog some time around the neighborhood. During this time of physical training (or at least some movement) I listened to a message by CJ Mahaney from the recent Resolved 2008 conference. The message was on the cross and I was so engaged by the work of Jesus on our behalf. After being so moved I thanked God for this man's ministry and headed into my day. Then I began to think - this guy has said something recently that I just do not think is true!
I have heard CJ Mahaney claim on at least one occasion to be an average preacher. In fact, I believe it was at the Resurgence conference where he said that all average preachers should be encouraged by his life and ministry. Now, I have listened to CJ's preaching a few times now, both online and in person and think I want to challenge this statement about the "averageness" of his calling and craft.
For one, I think CJ is a great preacher and one a voice that is engaging and touching many people in many networks of pastors and church planters. He is consistently, and rightfully so, invited to address audiences large and small around the globe. His passion is contagious and his sincerity of heart is compelling. His earnestness and Cross-centeredness honors God and inspires men of all stripes. So my question is this - why average?
I think after reading Pastor Mahaney's book on Humility a couple of years back I think I know why he feels just "average." For one, he cannot say he is a terrible preacher, this would disdain the work of God in his life and it would seem to be false humility...this sort of thing does not come from Mahaney. Second, he would never say he is a "great preacher" for he knows his own sin, the immeasurable grace of God in Christ, and the utter God-centered calling of a pastor. In other words, I think I hear true, heartfelt humility from CJ Mahaney when he says he is "average." Furthermore, I truly think he respects some of his colleagues' preaching so much that he does not think he plays in the same league.
So, I have a plea for CJ Mahaney. Stop saying you are an average preacher. Over and over again I am blessed when listening to this man speak of God and Jesus Christ. I find him to be a great preacher. Additionally, if CJ is average, then I certainly would fall in the "sucketh really bad" range of preaching. Of course, the gospel is sufficient and comparison is not of grace as all true biblical ministry is of God not of the preacher. Yet I still think CJ's claim to averageness does not fit with reality of preaching and preachers I have heard.
One more story to close about the ministry of CJ Mahaney. First, let me say that I do not know CJ and I have never met him. This adds to the story. Some time ago he gave a generous gift to the Acts 29 network to faciliate church planting. Some of the Acts 29 pastors heard about it on a pastor's forum and were quite moved by his gracious gift. I decided to write a thank you note to Pastor CJ for his gift to the network and thank him for how much he is an encouragement to church planters like me. A few weeks later I received something back. What was it you may ask? It was a box of books from CJ Mahaney's office all personally signed. So I write a thank you note and GET a big box of free books back!!?? Such graciousness is not common today.
So I thank God for the ministry and example of CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries...but I refuse to believe Mahaney when he claims to ascend to the middle realms of avergeness. I cannot see how this claim corresponds to reality - it is simply not true.