Stephen Crosby comments

Stephen Crosby
Stephen Crosby

The emerging news regarding Eddie Long has stirred the usual flurry of blog commentary. There are those who haven't read 1Corinthians 13 lately who seem to rejoice in Eddie's difficulties. On the other hand there are those who seem ready to excuse anything, even if the allegations should be proven true. Their attitude seems to be: "Well, he may be a scoundrel, but at least he's our scoundrel, and we will defend him to the end." Until proven guilty, Eddie deserves the benefit of the doubt. But if proven guilty, he should receive reproof, rebuke, discipline, and restoration.

However it may play out, the situation with Eddie Long is symptomatic of a much deeper, broader, and long abiding problem that I have been meditating on for some time, and will address here. The problem is not with Eddie Long, nor Earl Paulk, nor Ted Haggard, nor Todd Bentley, nor Jimmy Swaggart, etc. These individuals are merely the public faces of a much deeper systemic problem. The problem is not a lack of this or that program of accountability, nor this or that form of church government. The problem is: us-you and I, the Church in America, and to some extent, the entire Western Church.

There's a corrupt value system that permeates the fiber of American Christianity. It's a beast supported by the time, talent, and treasure of people like you and me. It's hidden from public awareness until the beast spits out one of its own, to be mocked and derided by the public (Christian and otherwise) who worship the beast. If not for our support of this beast, these individuals would never have had the platform to fall from in the first place. We built the platform and gave it to them. We made them kings. We feed the beast. The beast is the worship of success.

A theology of success has replaced a theology of the Cross.
A methodology of pragmatism has replaced death and resurrection life.


A theology of success is inherently and eternally incompatible with the Cross of Christ. We demand it anyway. It's what we are willing to pay for. It promises to deliver everything we want and demands only our loyalty and money, not our lives or our rights to ourselves, things the Cross demands. The American cultural value of success (size, money, significance) is promoted every Sunday from pulpits across the land as a kingdom virtue. It is not. Success and the "anointing" are all that matters to us. We embrace the notion that more money, media exposure, and posteriors in seats equals God's endorsement of a man, message, or ministry. By that standard, neither Jesus nor Paul would qualify as successful.

We sing: "Not by might, not by power," but we operate with the might and power of money, size, and significance. We read: "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee . . . but we operate under: "Silver and gold we must have, and the only way to have it, is to be "successful." There are even those who claim to be apostles in this day who are promoting the necessity of being a millionaire in order to be considered as an apostle. Paul would be shocked to hear that. They conduct "wealth building seminars" rather than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. They think the spiritual bankruptcy of the Western church can be solved by more success and money.

The danger to our spiritual welfare is threatened far more by our success than our failures. If our adversary cannot use our weaknesses and failures to drag us down, he will use our success.

In Judges 8:22-27, Gideon successfully defeated the Midianites on behalf of Israel. He refused their offer of kingship, but took the fruit of success, their gold earrings, (money, wealth, the fruit of victory) and made a golden ephod (breastplate/vest) of them, which then became an object of idolatrous worship for them. They worshiped the benefits of their success. The biblical language is strong: they prostituted themselves.

To me, there is not a clearer metaphor for the prostitution of the American/Western church. We worship success and money, and we make kings/celebrities out of the ones who lead us to success. We have worshiped the idol of success for so long that we have lost all spiritual abilities to recognize anything but our idolatry. Our idolatry has been normalized. Dare to call the golden calf of success what it is, and you will be accused of having a judgmental, critical or Pharisaical spirit, or not on board with the latest "cutting edge" revelation.

I once had a conversation on a point with someone of a perceived reputation of being an apostle. The individual agreed with my presentation from a Scriptural point of view, but would not agree to change any of his ways. He told me; "As soon as you are successful with what you shared today, I will listen to you." What this man was saying was: "Show me the money, your retinue, the size of your ministry, show me how many "spiritual sons" you have, then I will change my ways. Since when does Truth and our obligation to obedience have any thing to do with one's spiritual résumé? Again, I wonder if Jesus in John chapter 6 would have been successful enough for this "apostle" to listen to?

The sad and paradoxical quality of all this is that the manifestation of kingdom virtues often results in circumstantial success. But success then cannibalizes the very virtues that brought it into existence. The greatest threat to success is success it self, because it is often necessary to sacrifice the very virtues that made success possible, on the altar of success, in order to sustain the very success we think we desire! The first casualties of success are always the virtues that made success possible in the first place.

Kingdom success is defined by the term fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is a kingdom virtue. Success is the cultural counterfeit. Kingdom fruitfulness is defined by death and resurrection life, not the length of a spiritual résumé and the well-oiled mechanics of an effectively administered organization. Kingdom fruitfulness cannot be measured by the standards of Mammon, Babylon, and Madison Avenue. Kingdom fruitfulness occurs when a life is laid down, not when a "ministry organization" is built. You can effectively build a ministry and never come near any quality of Jesus' life and kingdom. Jesus and Paul would never be invited to speak in our churches, because their résumé was not long enough. Dying alone is not attractive. It's not . . . "successful." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.