Popularity is not a requisite for a healthy ministry or church. Nevertheless, people tend to flock to churches that are in vogue or are cool. Rather than just teach the Word of God, many pastors have come to believe they must use gimmicks and props to stimulate their congregation. American Christians have become programmed to be entertained, even in church.
The apostle Paul certainly did not win the popularity award in the first century. Paul had many detractors and he made note of their accusations in 2 Corinthians 10:10; His enemies said his letters came across as stern and pushy, but his presence in person was weak, and his speech was despised. By the standards of some he wasn’t cool.
Whether or not the accusations were true we can only speculate, but what is evident is that many people rejected and deserted Paul throughout his ministry. For example:
- Acts 13:13, John Mark deserted Paul on the first missionary journey and went back to Jerusalem;
- Acts 15:39, Barnabas separated himself from Paul;
- 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas deserted Paul (and maybe even Crescens, and Titus);
- 2 Timothy 4:14, Alexander the coppersmith did Paul much harm;
- 1 Timothy 1:20, Hymenaeus and Alexander (coppersmith?) did some kind of harm to Paul;
- And near the end of his life Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:15, “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermongenes.”
There are probably other examples we could add to this list, but included with all of these desertions from his so-called fellow workers, Paul was mocked, beaten, and left for dead by the Jews and others. Do you think this could cause a man to want to leave the ministry? In Acts 18:9,10 the Lord gave unpopular Paul some healthy reassurance and encouragement to hang in there, don’t be afraid, keep speaking.