The Transfiguration Syndrome

John ArmstrongAmerican Evangelicalism

A friend informs me that there exists in American evangelicalism a phenomenon that he calls “The Transfiguration Syndrome.” Peter’s desire to build three tents/shrines/retreat centers dedicated to each of the three figures that he encountered on the mountain of transfiguration is the background for this expression. My friend wonders if Peter was a modern evangelical if he might have stayed there on the mountain and build and direct the shrines, with new things to sell at the CBA Convention and a whole line of products for every seeker who came to visit. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

If you look at two mountains side-by-side the smallest possible area is on the top of each mountain. 99.9% of the movement going on is all about going down and then climbing up to the other mountain top. But people are always trying to find shortcuts to jump from one mountain to another. This is especially true with younger ministers who find the "success syndrome" appealing. They want to skip the going up and the going down process altogether. They do this buy into building shrines, or ministries, based upon the thinking of their favorite person or a special cause or event in history. They will build a shrine to the emphasis and language of the Synod of Dordt, a shrine to the most successful seeker churches and leaders, a shrine to Jacob Arminius, a shrine to a modern movement spokesman who markets his message the most cleverly, or even a shrine to a great seminary teacher or key thinker of the past. Such shrines are not only built by our Catholic brothers and sisters, who often have very good reasons for their display of genuine respect for a person of God, but by lots of evangelicals who should know better but obviously don’t.

I think we need some events that are given as gifts to encourage pastors and Christian leaders that are not built around the shrines that we have made to our methods and practitioners. It would be refreshing to be in a room with a group of honest ministers who were not showing off or promoting themselves. Real encouragement and ministry can happen if we could get beyond "The Transfiguration Syndrome."