Do You Want To Make A Difference Or A Point?

There’s an article in the July issue of Church Executive that just came out last week entitled “Who Speaks Up?” I was skimming the article nodding along with most of what the author was saying until I saw my name. Then all of the sudden it became personal and I stopped to reflect.

Ron Keener wrote,

“I have to wonder: Who speaks for the church now? Billy Graham is 94 in November and we miss his presence in the pulpit. Franklin Graham has a strong message but his attention is rightfully overseas and focused on the parachurch.

When CNN’s Larry King wanted a point of view from the evangelical church he went to Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, as if either of them really spoke for the church-at-large. Occasionally John McArthur, now 72, showed up at the “Kings Table,” and one or two other well-known preachers.

Many of the best speakers for the faith, and for the church in the world, keep busy with their own congregations and avoid the national media scene. Chuck Smith Sr. is 84 and ailing. Charles Stanley is 80. Churck Swindoll and Jack Hayford were born in 1934.

He continues,

“Where are the “young bucks” within the church who bring it fresh thinking? And I don’t mean universalist Rob Bell. Such as David Platt, Pete Wilson, Mark Batterson, Randy Frazee or Rick Rusaw? They are so silent.

The church is under attack like no other time, and if responsible church men and women don’t speak up on its behalf int these turbulent social and cultural times, other, not so well meaning, will.

I appreciate Ron Keener and his concern even if he did somewhat call me out. :) I understand what’s he’s saying and he asks some valid questions.

Here’s my thoughts on this.

I’ve never felt called or led to be a talking head for the evangelical church. My understanding is that talking heads make points. I don’t want my life and ministry to be about making points.

To borrow a line from Andy Stanley, “I rather make a difference than a point“.

Sure, I can go on television and make some “points”, maybe  gain a few fans, get the applause of some church people. But in the process I alienate the very people that are far from God who I want to reach through my ministry.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve seen very few lives changes with preachers engaging the media and making very well crafted points. I’m not sure anyone cares about our points. I’m afraid that in making our points we forget about the very people we’re trying to reach with our points.  There’s nothing wrong with making points, I just think we might have a greater calling.

I’ll make some points in a message.

I’ll make some points in my books.

Along the way I hope some of my points may make you think, question, or even take action.

But more than anything. I want my life and ministry to be focused on making a difference.

So if the evangelical church is looking for a talking head that will cruise the media circuits trying to make points… I think I’ll pass.

If the evangelical church is looking for some pastors that want to go out and make a point by first making a difference… then you can count me in.

37 Responses to “Do You Want To Make A Difference Or A Point?”

  1. Jason Gordon says:

    Great post, Pete!
    I just listened to your message on this same topic yesterday. If Jesus were doing His earthly ministry in our media driven, social media crazed time, I imagine He would do much what He did, impact the lives of real people in a relational way.
    Maybe what we need is not a “voice of evangelicalism” but a voice to evangelicalism that moves the Church to really love people to the point of actually sharing the Gospel of Christ. In my view we already have that voice & it’s the voice of Christ. Maybe we’re just not listening…
    Pete, you have furthered the voice of Christ to the Church within your influence. Thank you!

  2. Mark says:

    My issue (or one of several issues) with Keener’s statements is that he assumes a single individual (or a very select small group of individuals) actually COULD speak for the “church,” ignoring that there is arguably as much diversity in values and beliefs within the church as there is outside the church. Not only do these talking heads in the media potentially alienate people outside the church, then, but they also potentially alienate (or maybe also overlook?) people within the church who happen not to share their views, and perhaps even feel strongly opposed to their views. Which raises deeper issues as far as how we are defining “the church,” or what gets to count as authentically Christian, and where we’re drawing lines in the sand and why. Why CAN’T Rob Bell speak for the church, for instance, and who else are we excluding from having an authentic public Christian voice, and why?

  3. De Jackson says:

    I could not agree more. The only “pointing” I feel we should be doing is heavenward. With our outstretched hands…with our whole hearts…with every beat of our lives.

  4. Sara says:

    This is the exact thing I asked last week on my blog. Kudos Pete!

  5. vanilla says:

    Well said. Fight the good fight; finish the course.

    Too often the designated “talking head” overlooks the fact that the host of the show is in charge and directs the conversation, and has the last word. What is the point?

  6. Portia Keena says:

    You have and continue to make a difference in my life.
    Thank you!

  7. Great post, Pete. Or should I say that you make a great point? :)

    I’d add that this applies not only to pastors, but to all of us. We spend a lot of time debating with people on Facebook, comments sections of blogs, etc., trying to convince others that we are right about certain topics. And I seriously doubt such comments are changing the world in any way.

  8. By the way, I was shocked when I read this post, as I had no idea Charles Stanley was anywhere near 80.

  9. Greg F says:

    Great point Pete!

  10. Hilary says:

    I’m not sure the evangelical church needs someone to speak for it. Is the author looking for a mortal figurehead for the church? That is sort of antithetical to what “the church” is… We already have a figurehead. He wrote a huge book. He speaks all the time. He makes the sun come up every day, for crying out loud – I love Billy Graham, et all, but none of ya’ll can make the sun rise. We don’t need someone young and fresh to speak for the church. Actions speak louder than words, anyway.

  11. Chase says:

    With more and more media being consumed, available and in front of millions of people on a second by second basis, I think its both wise to use the media and shy from it in changing lives.

    Hence the reason why Keener points to the likes of Smith, Stanley and Swindoll. However, those men, being in age as they are also have very seasoned wisdom. They know that one is rarely saved by argument or a “point” being made simply for the reason of making it. The bite about Graham being in his twilight and a different focus also points to an era that doesn’t exist in this “second by second” consummation of media – large tent/rally ministries.

    God is God. He is fully aware of what is going on around us. He is fully capable and using what is around us. Certainly we need wake up calls from time to time, however I agree – change lives, not make points. God is still in control and capable. More than we think.

  12. Heidi says:

    We don’t need more heads od churches. We need more pastors to love and reach the masses of the broken people.

  13. What is “the church” anyway? I never really wanted Jerry Falwell to speak for me. I’ve written some of John MacArthur’s books, but don’t need him to be my spokesperson. I have a couple of degrees from Southern Seminary but don’t understand most of the words Al Mohler uses.

    The church doesn’t need spokespeople. God never asked anyone to speak up for the church. Rather than spokespeople for the church, the world today needs representatives of God to live as if what they heard on Sunday makes a difference on Monday. We don’t owe an explanation to the media; we owe our lives to God.

  14. Anita J. Rawls says:

    So glad I read this. I need to read this today. Thank you, Pete.

  15. JD Eddins says:

    What an excellent point! We should remember the numerous times that Jesus told the people that he healed to remain silent, so that he could continue to preach the gospel. We should remember there was a time when the people wanted to make him king by force, and he left them. Becoming the talk headed for the church could provide any of leaders mentioned with a platform to reach millions, but it might also undermine the more personal work that you and others are already doing in the community where you live.

  16. Jeff Henderson says:

    Another reason why I love your leadership, Pete!


  17. Darrell West says:

    Keep making a difference Pete.

    There have been enough “points” made in the past that we, the church, are still trying to recover from.

    If we continually make a difference, no one will have to ask us to respond verbally.

  18. […] Here is another excellent article by Pete Wilson on making a difference. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  19. tam says:

    many of your points have made a difference in my life. and when that happens it creates a domino effect and change/difference is made on a larger scale. but your ‘points’ are less intrusive than many others points. i know you are not speaking just to have a hugely quotable point or clever line. i always, always see and feel in your messages that you are more interested and concerned with making a difference. you give us tools and truths to show us how we can and you rally with us to put those things in action.

    and for that…thank you, PP. [Pastor Pete]

  20. […] Do you Want to Make a Difference? – Pete Wilson […]

  21. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    Reading your post reminded me of the brief interview you had on CNN during the Nashville floods a few years back. You (and the CP community) were seen making a huge difference in the lives of the people you were helping. I can’t think of a more powerful statement than that.

  22. At first, i wanted to say, “Yeah!” But then I began to think it through and what you said in one paragraph more than sums up my thoughts: Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve seen very few lives changes with preachers engaging the media and making very well crafted points. I’m not sure anyone cares about our points. I’m afraid that in making our points we forget about the very people we’re trying to reach with our points. There’s nothing wrong with making points, I just think we might have a greater calling. how many times can I say, “Preach it Pete so I can Amen it to make my point?”

  23. Darrell West says:

    Timely post. I used this in a conversation with a co-worker today while try to help him understand how his communication style is hindering his progress on a project.

    I suggested he “get over” trying to convince them he is right and try to win them over by helping them understand the new process and how it is an improvement over the current system. It is not about being right, it is about doing what is necessary to reach the goal he has been assigned.

    “Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself” is about making a difference. There is no Point to be made.

  24. Greg says:

    I appreciate your level-headed response to Mr. Keener’s article. Your cool answer to his challenge is indicative of why you are not just another talking head. Instead of choosing to win arguments you have chosen to win hearts. This is how you or anyone else makes a difference–by following Jesus’ example.

  25. Jud says:

    Isnt the correct answer both? Depending upon the situation and the leading of the Holy Spirit of course. There is a Standard, Holiness, and if it simply boiled down to influence then doesn’t it become more about our goodness than Gods Holiness and the Standard we all fall short of. The trail of martyrs both past and present day indicates to me that we are supposed to both live out the “working out” as well as reminding our culture that there is a Standard. I’m afraid, in many cases today that influence has become the Standard.

  26. Billy says:

    Amen and amen.

  27. Patty says:

    I don’t attend your church, but I read your blogs and books. You spoke at my church once (NewSpring church) and that was actually one of my favorite messages. If I’m not mistaken, we had several salvations from that message too. Isn’t that the point? The gospel speaks for itself… young or old- as long as we are in Christ we all have the same Good News to share. Keep up the good work Christians, we’re all on the same team!

  28. While I appreciate your response as well as the other comments, I have a hard time buying into the premise of this discussion. I mean, seriously, David Platt has been “so silent” ?? I just don’t see that.

    And you have just written two very fine books and are proposing to enter into a major move and expansion of Cross Point’s ministry.

    Does this mean you and Platt are engaging the wrong people? That you should be doing Leno and Letterman more often?

    I think a far better question to ask at this time is: Why the heck is there a magazine called “Church Executive?”

  29. […] Apparently Church Executive magazine — it’s usually racked next to Newsweek — thinks the new generation of pastors isn’t speaking out on national issues. As one of those mentioned, Pete Wilson responds. […]

  30. Love your thoughts about making a difference instead of maing a point! It reminds me of a life-changing and ministry-chaning struggle I went through a dozen years ago as I wrestled with the difference between success and significance. It doesn’t always come with applause but I’ll choose significance and faithfulness everytime!

  31. Bogz says:

    Another prophet-saint just passed away i.e. Charles Colson. He made points (tons of them), but he also made a difference (a gigantic one!). I think this is what i see in the life of our Lord, also of the life of Paul. They both made points when necessary. But the point of making points was to make a difference.

  32. […] That line did not win him the day. Lines like that seldom do. We all love movies like “Tombstone” that have some of the all-time best one liners in a movie ever. But in real life one-liners do not save the day. When someone says something, we want to have a great comeback or pithy saying. But as pastor and author, Pete Wilson, says “You can make a point or you can make a difference, but you can’t do both.” […]

  33. Nate says:

    Most of Matthew 23 is Jesus making a point against the Pharisees. It’s hard to make the case that Jesus made much difference with them personally, and even harder to make the point that He didn’t make a difference in the world.

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