The first time they did this was last year. I didn’t get to go, but I’ve seen a few clips and the entire video of a couple conversations. It was about as close to a UFC match for preachers as I had seen. For crying out loud the stage was in the shape of an octagon. By far most of their discussion was respectful, but there were occasions where they disagreed passionately. Check out the promo video below to see some of last year’s more confrontational moments:
I’m more of a lover than a fighter, but there’s a part of me that loves to watch a good confrontation. I like to think that it comes from a strong sense of justice and love for truth, but it probably has more to do with arrogance. Anyway, I had gone onto the website and looked at the predetermined conversation topics. I had read brief bios of all 7 pastors who were taking part in it. I had decided which guys I was going to root for and which guys I was going to boo (in my head only of course).
Some of them I was very familiar with, and some of them I had never heard of. Even so, I had already decided that the guys who preach in ties are out of touch with reality and cling to their traditions more than the gospel. I knew which one I was going to consider cocky and annoying. I knew which one I wouldn’t like because he smiled too much and seemed a little flaky. I also knew which one was going to come out wearing a halo because I’ve been listening to him every week for 2 years now and have read 10 of his books. The others I was going to hold judgment on … because I’m a good Christian.
Is there a heretic in the room?
There was one conversation in particular that I was the most excited about. As soon as one of the pastors accepted the invitation to The Elephant Room the Christian blogosphere exploded. It turns out that he has some old affiliations, old quotes, and a current doctrinal statement that have lead some people to believe he’s a heretic. By that, I mean that his beliefs would be off enough that he could not be considered a Christian.
I wasn’t familiar with the accusations just a few months ago, because he’s not a guy I listen to. But I got intrigued once I heard about them. I’m not going to go into the details of the controversy, a simple google search will show you what it is. I have an entirely different point for this post.
So when the conversation started I was on the edge of my seat. Will he be asked point blank about his beliefs? Will he dance around the question like a politician instead of answering it? Will I get to denounce him and tell everyone how terrible he is?
Hang my head
Well he was asked point blank … and answered clearly. He even explained his biblical reason for the foggy doctrinal statement on his church’s website. For the rest of the day he eloquently and humbly gave brilliant insights and encouragements to the rest of the guys. I was ashamed of myself. How arrogant am I that what I looked forward to the most was to walk away thinking about how much better I was than some of those guys?
It turned out I was the cocky one. I was the one who was too hung up on my tradition and out of touch with reality. I was the one who needed to be booed.
I walked away that day with a new found respect for all 7 men. My favorite preachers haven’t changed, and I still have no interest in listening to most of those men regularly. Some of them still have beliefs that are different enough from mine that they won’t become one of my “heroes,” if I should even have those. However, I was wrong to judge them before I heard them speak.
At the end of the day, I learned a ton. I was also grateful that God pointed out a lot of pride that I had explained away as passion for truth. I’m going to be searching for truth in scripture just as hard as before, but I also want to pray enough, and humble myself enough that I no longer need to walk away from a conference feeling ashamed of myself. The greatest truth of the day I want to hold onto is “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” Proverbs 16:18 ESV.