When the previous conflicts about C.J Mahaney and a former pastor of whom he served alongside hit the Internet with vengeance the middle of last year, I tried to stay neutral and not engage in the out spoken discussions of which so many seemed eager to jump. This was my aim in this previous post about what we simply needed to learn from this very public conflict as pastors.
Yet, I have been and continue to be very troubled by how so many people are quick to dismiss so much of C.J’s fruitful ministry on the basis of accusations of which many have no first hand insight to the validity of them. With this post, I still intend to stay away from the debates and write only on that which I have experienced with him, first hand. Namely, the pivotal and unique impact C.J. Mahaney has personally had on me and my ministry as a pastor.
I first met C.J. Mahaney over 10 years ago through my close relationship with Mark Dever. It has been several years since we have even spoken. However, there were still 3 personal interactions of providence I had with C.J. Mahaney 10 years ago that uniquely set in motion some deep convictions I currently have as a pastor. There is a good chance he does not even remember any of these, but God used them in an immeasurable way to bring me where I am today.
1) My first meeting with him. I experienced what most do when they first meet C.J. You meet a grateful man who is usually gushing with encouragement. Although some find C.J. a bit “over the top” with his gushing demeanor, in God’s kind providence it was exactly what I needed. Because of the lack of encouragement I had received throughout high school and college to embrace my “friendly, warm side” I had suppressed it to a destructive level. It was not cool to be that way. It was communicated by many in my life that it was a crutch. I grew to hate that part of me. C.J. just being himself in our first meeting, help me to see how a warm, friendly, and encouraging demeanor is nothing but a benefit in trying to minister to people. By God’s grace, that was a much needed turning point for me to come back out of my shell of which I had sunk into for many years.
2) A sermon of which C.J. sent and asked me to listen. The sermon C.J. sent me through the mail (tapes then) was given to me for the purpose to help me think through the priority of the local church better. Yet, what I remember most about that sermon was when C.J. talked about his lack of pastoral mentors early in his life and if he ever had the chance to play that role in young men’s lives he vowed to the Lord he would. I resonated so much with that sentiment that I too vowed at that moment to invest in young men’s lives desiring ministry if the Lord saw fit to bring them into my life. My investment in young men (which includes many of you who read this blog) and this book written to outline our process to train men for ministry in our church is largely tied to C.J. Mahaney’s sermon and vow he shared that I adopted from that day forward.
3) The dinner that changed the course of my ministry. I was invited to a dinner where C.J. was in attendance and consequently we sat next to each other. He began to ask me about the ministry I was involved with, which at the time was associate pastoral work where I was having fruitful ministry, despite a struggle to be like-minded with the direction of the church and the Senior Pastor. C.J. asked me this question, “Brian, I am grateful your ministry is being fruitful, but how do you feel this will end?” The Lord used that question to pierce my heart and bring about some serious moments of introspection that led to the undeniable conclusion it was time to pray and pursue a Senior Pastor position to shepherd my own flock where my formulated convictions about the local church could be better applied.
In light of the recent death of my dear friend and pastoral mentor, Jackson Boyett, I have spent more time in my grief thinking of those who the Lord has used to bring me to this place of life and ministry to which I find myself. For these reasons, C.J. Mahaney came to mind. Although there seems to be many who are poised to pounce these days when his name is mentioned, I found myself grateful.