Bags of Bran

March 30, 2014, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Biography

“I AM NOT AFRAID TO BE POOR.” John Gill wrote these words in a letter to a friend. He wrote them because he had made certain statements against a certain Abraham Taylor, and some of Taylor’s wealthy friends were liable to stop supporting Gill for those statements. Such a loss would have likely ruined Gill financially.

He did not schedule public repentance, nor did he send out PR tweets. He created no YouTube videos taunting his many haters. He stood behind his statements and let the tide of opinions run their course because he believed those statements in the first place. He did not say things about Abraham Taylor because he thought they would be retweeted, or because they were catchy: he actually said what he believed. He was enough convinced of his own judgments on the matters at hand that he was willing to trade away all of his considerable influence for his integrity. In short, as my Church History teacher liked to say, Gill was not for sale.

As I wrote a few days ago now, for many of the young men I know, Christianity is something that happens at the conference level. Grinding away at sermons and visitation, counseling and bookkeeping, building maintenance and scheduling… this may be necessary for a season, but ultimately, they want a big-church ministry and a seat on the conference carousel. They respect and admire big voices and influence, and hope to have both. But what happens at the John Gill moment, when the whole evangelical empire turns on you for a statement? Do you stand behind that statement because you meant it in the first place; or do you retract it, leaving the distinct impression that the first thing out of your mouth on a matter is generally untrustworthy? What happens if you have an opinion that just doesn’t market well?

Can we find in this generation a few men who, like Gill, are not afraid to be poor, or worse yet, obscure?

And, lest an impish reader out there wax triumphant in the comments section about making statements in praise of obscurity on a blog, let me just say that I THOUGHT OF IT FIRST!!!

I wonder if I could turn it into a book deal…

*To see Gill’s quote in its original context, see John Rippon, A Brief Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late Rev. John Gill, D. D.


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