Every year, during the NBA draft, the commentators from ESPN come up with new ways to measure the potential value of professional basketball prospects. One year it was “wingspan,” the distance measured from one outstretched hand to the other. You couldn’t watch draft coverage without hearing an announcer say, “He’s only 6’9″, but he has a 7-foot wingspan and plays a lot longer than he looks. Tremendous wingspan.” The next year, they talked about a player’s “ceiling,” or the peak performance that player could be expected to reach. “The ceiling on this kid is unbelievable.”
Each season, the way they describe players changes, but not so with the church. We have one word, one central label that we like to give a person. And that word has not changed for millennia. I am of course talking about calling someone “anointed.”
This is perhaps the highest compliment you can pay someone in the world of Christianity. It’s the polar opposite of saying, “God bless her,” which is just a nice way to cover your tracks after you’ve verbally annihilated someone behind their back. The word anointed is designed to indicate that the oil of God, the “major mojo,” if you’ll allow me to get theological with you for a minute, has been poured all over someone. They are blessed. They are getting the pure, unadulterated God fire hose.
Unfortunately, although we can all agree on what it generally means, there’s no chart or checklist that allows us to reach consensus on whether a person is actually worthy of the label “anointed.” I’m sure different denominations approach it in different ways and that we could squabble for centuries about an official process to figure out who is anointed.
Or we could use the Stuff Christians Like Anointed Algorithm.
It’s pretty simple, really. Here it is:
“A person’s potential to be considered ‘anointed’ is directly related to your desire to dislike them and your inability to fulfill that desire.”
Let me explain. I went to a conference once. One of the speakers was this young, wildly successful, up-and-coming minister. I confess I was trying my hardest to dislike him. Please read that sentence again, I was trying to dislike him. I brought judgment (that hair is frosted) and jealousy (why isn’t my ministry growing like that) and doubt (no one that young can be that good) and cynicism (this is just another flash in the pan young preacher) and criticism (I hate how the crowd is cheering like they’re at a concert every time his name is mentioned) to the table.
I was actively engaged in not liking him. I did everything I could, in some really inappropriate ways, to steel myself against liking him. And then I heard him speak.
I couldn’t deny it. There was something about this kid that didn’t make sense. Something illogical and beautiful and honest and true that cut through all of my preconceptions. Yeah, he had a hip haircut and cool minister clothes on. Yeah, he seemed confident in a way I wasn’t used to seeing on stage, but it didn’t matter. None of it mattered because even in the midst of the massive dislike I was trying to muster, I couldn’t get away from the fact that this guy was speaking God’s truth.
He was anointed.
For the first time ever, I used that phrase. It felt so Christianese coming out of my mouth, but I can’t help it. That pastor was anointed.
I wanted to dislike him, but I couldn’t. That’s what the algorithm is all about. The sum of your expectations held up against the sum of your experiences. Will it work for every situation?
Maybe not, in part because you’re probably nicer than me and don’t dislike people you know very little about, but at the bare minimum, it will force you to be honest about what you’re bringing to the table when it comes to other Christians. The doubt and judgments and jealousy. And being honest with all that junk might be even more important than labeling someone “anointed.”
Although I’d secretly, just once, like to hear someone describe their church to me and say, “Love the music, great kid’s department and you should see the wingspan on this pastor. He’s like some sort of prehistoric bird. Just tremendous wingspan.”