After many struggles years ago to have a serious and sustained conversation about the qualifications for elders, I decided there was a better approach to finding qualified people to serve.
I now encourage everyone to focus first on the function of an elder rather than the qualifications. I am very committed to the qualifications, but have found it much more fruitful to get everyone to agree that the three main things elders are and do encompass a life of prayer, commitment to the Word of God, and proving to be examples to the flock (see Acts 6:4; I Pet. 5:1-3).
These three bring much more clarity as to who is truly qualified!
Many things could and should be said about Josh Harris’s announcement that he has left both his wife and Christian faith. I offer here a few things that strike me as underappreciated by many Christians. More seriously, I also think the case can be made that these areas completely pass under the spiritual radar for far too many of us.
Be Sad, but not Surprised
The Bible makes it clear that you can cast out demons and not be a Christian (Mt. 7:21-23). Since that is true, it means that you can be a pastor, missionary, memorize lots of Scripture, lead people to faith in Jesus, and a whole bunch more, yet not be a Christian.
We American Christians are impressed with behavior. Our models for Christian growth tend to focus on what people do, not who they are. Don’t misunderstand. I am a big believer in sharing my faith, memorizing Scripture, and reading the Bible. However, Scripture warns me that these important practices for Christian growth can also be done for less than honorable reasons. Though terribly misguided, it is impressive to see someone who pours gas on his own body and then lights himself ablaze as a human torch. We’ve seen this occur from time to time in various protest movements. Such a stunning sacrifice, yet the Bible makes clear that this incredible act can be done completely devoid of love (I Cor. 13:3, NASB).
I’ve done open-air preaching on the campuses of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve also done open-air preaching on the streets of Boulder, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. Impressive, eh? I can tell you, however, that these were much easier to do than gladly serving my family when I am tired physically. People may be wowed by the public preaching, but I can attest that it was much easier to do than serving my family in obscurity.
Biblical Illiteracy is Causing Much Damage
I’m sixty-one years old. I’ve been in various ministries for over forty years. In many places where Christians congregate, I’ve seen a precipitous drop in biblical literacy. A few months ago, I asked a group of ten college students, all from evangelical backgrounds, whether they had heard at least one sermon on the book of Lamentations. Not one of them had. Here you have a book of the Bible that has much to say in our current cultural moment and yet many are unaware of its riches. I should add that the book of Lamentations is not difficult to understand. The message of Lamentations is certainly difficult to accept which maybe offers some reason why so many preachers steer clear from preaching through it. Sadly, many miss this life-giving book of the Bible that offers unvarnished language for grieving when the unthinkable happens in our life.
Taking Every Thought Captive
In II Corinthians 10, we read that we are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The battle always begins with our thoughts. All of us marinate on things that are ungodly. More than a few of these would be embarrassing to admit to anyone, but a loyal friend. Even then, it is risky. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who will provide a godly and safe environment to give voice to your darker thoughts? Answer: you are left to your own devices, and Scripture makes clear that going it alone is deadly.
I’ve seen this scenario play out before. A person has certain gifts that many are unwisely enamored with. The gifts cause the person to be elevated far past their maturity in Christ. In too many cases, the “indispensable” person is promoted to a position of Christian leadership when their own faith in Christ is uncertain. This, in most cases, only becomes evident later on when the damage is done.
During my various interviews for pastoral positions at four evangelical churches I was never asked about my own walk with the Lord. Everyone seemed quite happy that my two seminary degrees came from the right schools. One evangelical pastor, also with the right pedigree, only asked me about my ministry strategies for motivating church-attending men who are apathetic. In all the interviews, only one asked me about my relationship with my wife, but rather predictably, he is a professional counselor!
Where to Go from Here?
Instead of offering a grocery list of suggestions, and there are several things to consider, allow me to give one. When you think of your own life and the lives of the Christians in your orbit, focus on one thing: Who/what is loved most and why? If our communities are getting healthier, we should be free to say, “I love ministry more than God. I get more excited about shopping or golf more than anything else. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. Please help me with this.” May this be the kind of Christian communities that we build to His glory and our good!
HT: Tim Challies
There are many reasons I am not a Roman Catholic, but one certainly is the pervasive, historic, and systemic secrecy. Many examples could be offered. For example, the secrecy of the curia coupled with the condescending clericalism I’ve seen firsthand from priests in spite of what Vatican II says about learning from the laity are just a few.
It stretches credulity to think the Roman Catholic church can properly handle the ongoing (that word is key) sex abuse given the Roman Catholic’s long and problematic history.
And for the record, I taught in Poland and know many dynamic Christians who are in the Roman Catholic church. I just think the overall system is badly broken and lacks the proper theology in doctrine, leadership, and praxis to make things right.
There are similar, but not identical reasons that I’m not Baptist. Though I am sympathetic to Baptist theology, and though the Southern Baptist Convention is not as secretive as the curia, there is much that still gives me concern.
This interview just went live:
Over the years I have read hundreds of résumés. Actually, it is probably more than that. In any case, between interviewing many people on radio and TV, I have also given input to some churches on pastoral searches. I have evaluated dozens of résumés for a pastoral position. Here are a few things which you may want to share with a friend who is applying for a pastoral position:
*First impressions are huge. I was amazed by how poorly several of the résumés looked. The lack of any attention to aesthetics was shocking. I am not advocating lots of fancy stuff. I am saying that using Courier font and inconsistent borders is not quite passing muster.
*The lack of good writing was painful to see. Poor writing for someone going into a preaching ministry is troubling.
*The word passion is way overused. When I see someone has a “passion” for this or that, I grow impatient. I beg pastors to use some other word.
*Family is listed as hobby and many times not even the first one! Some put family under a category called “interests,” but the same problem remains. I have seen too many put gardening and golf or reading and travel on the same list as family.
*No reason is given for leaving a particular church. One candidate who was candid about the reason for leaving his previous position was put at the top of my pile.
*Stop using trivialities, sloganeering, platitudes, and playing to the crowd. Since this last church I helped leans toward dispensationalism it was painful to read the pandering descriptions of how committed some candidates are to this particular system of theology.
*No references given from previous church.
*Stop saying the predictable “my wife is the most beautiful and my children are simply amazing.”
*Dates of experience have gaps and these are not explained.