The Pen

The Worst Christian of 2018

Who is the worst Christian of 2018?

On the surface, this seems like a foolish or even pharisaical question. The fact of the matter is that there are none worthy to stand righteous before God except his perfect son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every believer struggles with sin every day and will continue to do so until the Lord returns and raises us anew in glory. None of us are really better than another. Yet, we can still fairly ask and answer, “Who is the worst Christian of 2018?” if we consider the question in terms of an individual’s influence on the visible church at large. Who out there, among the professing, has had the most deleterious effect on the health of the body of Christ in the year 2018? Using a number of criteria and identifying candidates from a pool of nominees (obvious charlatans and the theologically heterodox were not included for consideration). I have come up with one professing Christian who can fairly be considered “The Worst Christian of 2018.”

Nominees were as follows:

After careful consideration of the use of power, influence, responsibility, and the expression of theology, I hereby bestow the title of “Worst Christian of 2018” to Thom Rainer.

Mr. Rainer, you famously authored the best-selling book I am a Church Member. An author, leadership coach, and the long-time CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, you are held up by many as some kind of expert on church membership and church operations. Well, Mr, Rainer, I am a church member. As a church member, I can say with complete confidence that your influence on the local church is among the most harmful in all the visible church and Christian industrial complex. Upon announcing your retirement from LifeWay, you stated:

I love the local church, with all of its imperfections and idiosyncratic ways. I want to give every minute God allows me to make a difference to see churches revitalized. 

You love the local church? Either you are a liar or you are remarkably obtuse and theologically stupid. Given that you have a PhD from Southern Seminary and served as a dean there for twelve years, I am not inclined to believe that you are obtuse or stupid. I am inclined to believe that you are greedy and love money more than you love Jesus and His local churches. When I think of you, your words, and what you sell for a profit at LifeWay, I am reminded of the words of my Lord Jesus:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Matthew 6:24

The worst thing about you, Mr. Rainer, is that you do not produce heresy and false teaching, you distribute it for a profit. You do not author new-age montanist heresy unfit to drive the plot of a cheesy network sitcom, Sarah Young does. You sell Jesus Calling and the entire franchise of products which go with it. If not for your allowing the sale of such dung, I wouldn’t have had to snatch it from the hand of a fellow student at the New Orleans Baptist on-campus bookstore and warn her of its demonic content. You do not gyrate on stage, preach prosperity sermons to roaring crowds, and teach detestable Oneness Pentecostal doctrines, TD Jakes does. You sell TD Jakes’ books to people who come to a Christian store looking for godly reading material. You do not write emotionally charged word-garbage disguised as Bible studies, Beth Moore does. You sell Beth Moore’s products to thousands of women who need spiritual direction. You do not write how-to-guides for creating dimly lit rock-n-roll goat shows, Andy Stanley does. You sell Andy Stanley’s leadership books to young men who desire success in the pastorate. You do not teach the heresy of universalism, William Paul Young does. You made his book, The Shack, the “Book of the Month” at LifeWay. You did not make up fanciful tales of Heaven Tourism, Colton Burpo, Don Piper, and Alex Malarkey did. Alex Malarkey admitted his book was fake. You sold it anyway. Perhaps the situation at LifeWay would be less tragic if you had no standards at all, but you do. There is actually a black list of authors you won’t sell. So it’s not as if you won’t sell anything for money, just almost anything.

Mr. Rainer, you are not unlike a drug dealer or distributor of pornography. You do not grow harmful substances out of the ground, you make it your job by making it easier for people to buy them. You do not perform depraved sex acts on a set to titillate the lustful, you distribute the dirty movies to them. Not only do you act in this way, but you actually sell coaching services so that other men, specifically pastors, can learn to lead like you. Your “platinum mentoring package” comes at a price of $249.97 per month. Why anyone, especially a pastor, would want to pay any amount of money for email access, training, and a video call with you is beyond me. It makes me feel equal parts angry and nauseated to know that there are pastors who want to learn how to be a CEO like you. Contributing greatly to receiving the title is the fact that you are franchising your particular and disturbing brand of churchmanship. Your collective influence from selling sub-par Christian literature to training up the next generation to do the same has made you the worst Christian of 2018.

I pray that in 2019 you’ll abandon your plans to start a “church revitalization” business and keep your harmful influence away from Christ’s churches, with the exception of finding one local church to serve, after a period of personal reflection and repentance for your career of serving mammon. While there may be many who would justify your life of profiteering in the name of the money you have raised for evangelism, I am not one of them. The ends do not justify the means.

You, Thom Rainer, are the personification of religious greed. You are a modern day Tetzel. Sadly, I think you are surrounded by sycophantic wannabe yes-men who praise you, want to be the next you, or at the very least want to be promoted by you. I wish more people loved you enough to adjure you to change course.

Thom Rainer, you are the worst Christian of 2018.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant