“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV)
Having been a Christian for a good many years, I have seen more than my share of church leadership controversies covering a wide range of issues. A consistent thread running through each one has to do less with the issue and more with the judgment that follows.
I suspect that the freedom we in the western world experience—suffrage, freedom of speech, etc.— empowers us, at least in our minds, to pass judgment on our “elected” officials. And to some extent there is some validity to our claim. Our leaders do need to be held accountable. And our concerns should be voiced. But I believe we need to be careful with how, where, and with whom we voice these concerns, especially when they involve our church leadership.
I admit that I am old-school when it comes to this issue. I’ve always been taught that we need to be careful how we criticize and speak against our Pastors and other church leadership. I’m reminded of David refusing to do harm to Saul despite the fact that he had already been anointed to replace Saul as king. “He said to his men, ‘The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.’” 1 Samuel 24:6 (ESV). From the outside looking in David had every right to bring harm to Saul. He could have easily garnered support from the people, as he was more highly esteemed than Saul. Instead, he went on the run rather than supplant the man whom God had anointed king.
I’m further reminded of Romans 13:1-4 (ESV): “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Paul was writing to believers in Rome about a political leader—likely Nero, a violent opposer of Christians—and not about a pastor or other church leader. But if he would have the Roman Christians recognize Caesar’s authority, how much more the authority of church leadership!
How are we to respond, then, to issues with church leaders? I refuse to dip my feet in the waters of confrontation. There are people much smarter and better educated to discuss that. I will go on record, however, that we should always respond in love. I’m going to show our introductory text again.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV) emphasis mine
We will never win over a brother or sister in Christ by speaking evil behind their backs. We will never bring our churches together by backbiting and dissension. Yes, truth does need to be spoken— “with all humility, gentleness, patience, and in love.” It doesn’t matter if we don’t like the person or persons. It doesn’t matter if we strongly object to their words or actions. We don’t have a mandate to gossip or trash talk. We have a mandate to love, and a mandate to pray.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that a leader should always be allowed to remain in leadership. But that is a matter for a different time.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (ESV). They won’t know by our perfection because we are not perfect. They won’t know by the strength of our leaders because leaders make mistakes. When we love those who aren’t perfect, and when we love our leaders—whether they remain our leaders or not—they will know.
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash