Who Goes in Your Wax Museum

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

Years ago I had lunch with a Mennonite businessman who had a dream. He wanted to build a wax museum honoring Christian leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin. He especially wanted to honor Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonites. He even was willing to throw me a bone, "We’ll even have your guy (Alexander Campbell) in there too." I told him that I didn’t really think people would pay money see wax figures of old Christian leaders

What I could have said was that Menno Simons have most certainly NOT have liked that idea at all. Simons was former priest and Reformation leader who was very influential in the Anabaptist movement. Simons had a profound influence on many later reformers, including "our guy" Campbell. Simons wanted no honor for himself, including having his name on the title page of his books. Instead they were imprinted with "no other foundation can any man lay."

We owe a great debt to those who taught us of Christ. We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. I owe a tremendous spiritual debt to my parents (my primary spiritual influences), my grandmother (for all the Bible stories she read me), Bruce Jackson (my preacher while growing up), Rubel Shelly (my professor in college). And there have been many others.

It is proper for me to respect and to honor them... and to be thankful for their influence in my life. But my only allegiance is to Christ. Respect and honor for our teachers can come to compete with that for Christ Himself. Respecting our teachers can lead us to put them on pedestal... or in a wax museum. We can name our churches after them, dogmatize their doctrines and refuse to go beyond their conclusions and practices.

Maybe ol’ Menno Simons was onto something when he imprinted his books, not with his own name, but rather deflected all attention back to Christ. We indeed stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. But we do our spiritual forebears a great disservice if we point to them rather than to Christ.