leaders must lead by being examples

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Peter 5:1-4

Yesterday I suggested that given certain guidelines, it’s possible for a fallen pastor to be restored. This scripture from Peter is another basic essential passage for pastors and leaders in the church. Here money and power are both alluded to. The passage is rich, and every part important, but what stands out to me is the necessity that the pastor and leaders of the church must be examples in how they live. Of course their calling involves oversight and service, even as a shepherd takes care of their flock.

Paul said that others should follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Being an example is key, along with the service in God’s gifting of the leadership for the church. A great and wonderful calling. To help others realize the “high calling” that is also their’s (Philippians 3), in and through Jesus.

can a fallen pastor be restored?

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders,so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 3:1-13

On questions like this we need to go back to both scripture and the church. It’s not like there’s one uniform answer to this, but the general answer is yes, but only after submitting to a program for restoration. And contingent on the leadership of the church deciding, the decision not automatic or to be taken lightly. And this should take some time, how much, depending. Maybe at least a couple of years, but only with loving, regular ongoing oversight.

The picture I read here is not suggesting a pastor has to be perfect, since there’s no sinless perfection in this life. But there should not be even a whiff of impropriety in matters of morality or money or power, for that matter. And just because a man (or woman) is genuinely sorry not only over the consequences, but necessarily over the sin itself both against God and man, doesn’t mean all is now okay. It takes time to consider the underlying issue which led to the decline and fall, and more time to see the change of that pattern in character which led to the actual misstep and sin. It is one thing to step out of the sin, but quite another to get the sin out of one’s life. And the needed help for those who have been hurt, such as the pastor’s spouse and family, must be given.

When it comes to morality, both adultery and pornography would have to be considered in this category. Power is more subtle, but there should be a mutual submission going on in leadership with much prayer under Christ. Any church should beware of depending on one person to guide them, no matter how much wisdom they have. And money is also a difficult one. Often pastors haven’t been paid enough. They must be willing to be sacrificial in their lives, but the church also must look out for them, and honor them with giving them at least enough, and preferably more than enough. But that’s the ideal. Sometimes in smaller works, like Paul, pastors must work on the side as “tent makers.”

In the end, pastors must be show the way, as well as tell, not giving in to any thing that is wrong, “little” things included. Temptation is one thing, giving in is another. But confession of sin and change is also important along the way. The point is that there should be a pattern of behavior which brings no reproach to Christ or to the church, and is an example for the church. And I believe that this surely can include restored pastors as well. In and through Jesus.

 

back to work

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul’s words need to be seen in context (link takes you to 1 Corinthians 9 and 10). This was all for the gospel, which is all about reaching people. It means the good news, so that is Paul’s aim given his mission. And by extension it seems clearly that he is calling the entire Corinthian church to the same commitment, of course in their various callings, but this one call directing all of that.

It’s our mentality and attitude up front that is crucial, which is why we’re told that we’re not to be conformed to this world, but instead transformed by the renewing of our minds. Paul’s heart and mind were for Christ and the gospel, and involved in that is not only the message, but the medium for the message which must never contradict the message itself. Paul, and by extension we are that medium. Yes, not all of us are called to proclaim the good news like Paul was as the apostle to the Gentiles. But we are all called to be witnesses to it, which will involve both word and deed. Our lives must line up with what we say, otherwise our words will be empty.

It is utterly crucial for anyone in the ministry to take the hard discipline Paul exerts on himself to heart for themselves. When you read the passage in context (again, see link above) you will note that it’s about the gospel, and with reference to sexual immorality and idolatry. Money, power and sex, not necessarily in that order, have grounded many an aspiring person to follow Christ. Or perhaps it uncovered their true heart. At any rate, we are told in this passage that we all must be careful, and beware lest we fall into the same trap (1 Corinthians 10:1-13).

Yes, we are present to work, to roll up our sleeves and be in God’s work by his grace in Jesus. Whatever form that work might take. What God has put in front of us, what we can do and find joy in doing in that work, we must give ourselves to fully. Rest is good, and must be incorporated along the way. But the work is what we’re called to, and what we must not let go of. And that requires a commitment and the discipline that goes with that. All for the gospel in and through Jesus.

keep on reading the entire Bible

I don’t think I’m good with titles. Yesterday to me (ha) the post was interesting. When I had my blog on BlogSpot (or was it Blogger?) for a good number of years before it was lost for a year and a half, I had no statistics, so I wasn’t sure how many hits and reads I would get in a day, and I didn’t want to know. But WordPress, to which I switched, automatically provides that. And though perhaps it doesn’t catch everything, my blog is quite humble even in comparison to blogs like mine, I think, and exponentially so in comparison to ministry blogs, or blogs by scholars. So I will try to do better on titles (knock on wood), but today, related to yesterday, I want to emphasize one thing:

Keep on reading the entire Bible.

We need to read (or listen, both are good) scripture through, over and over again. The end all of scripture is to lead us to Christ and see it in terms of the gospel, which means, the good news in him. And that good news will inevitably challenge us in our thinking, in our living. How do we measure things, what value do we place on this or that, and why? If nothing else, it will humble us into realizing that we simply don’t know on a host of matters, even while we try to hold on to what we are beginning to understand to what might be called core values of God’s kingdom come in Jesus.

The gospel is as big as all of life, since it’s God good news in Jesus, not only for the reconciliation of sinners to God, but also of all things to God. So that a new order ultimately is put in place, the beginnings of which are found humbly in the church, in and through Jesus.

Which for us ought to put in bold relief the lie of the power of this world, and how even the best of it will fall short and fail. That doesn’t mean such doesn’t have its place and value, but that our hope is in King Jesus, and the good news in him, a good news at its heart- for the poor, which is to be expected by those who keep reading their Bibles (Matthew 11:4-5). Helping us look forward to a time we can hardly imagine now, even if we begin to see inklings of it both in actual life changes, and in our imaginations, and in what is on our hearts to pray.

idols in the land

We read in scripture that in Israel in days of old there were idols in the land. An idol is anything we put above God. The irony is that when we worship the one true God in Jesus and have no other gods before us, we can love and enjoy what he has created, the creature, uninhibited by the slavery and sin which comes from being obsessed with this or that, or something else. Idolatry usually takes the form of more than one god in God’s place. Or maybe one could say a multidimensional rival god.

Sin at its heart may be unbelief, but whatever else it may be, it is surely idolatrous. We are turning to our own way, doing what is right in our own eyes, with little or no regard for the Lord, or the fear of him. I agree with John Calvin when he said that there can be many idols in our heart. He read that from the prophet Ezekiel. We are not loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The best opposite of idolatry would surely be worship of the one true God revealed in Jesus. Paul in Romans 1 contrasts the worship of the creature with the worship of the Creator.

Sex, power and money (not necessarily in that order) seem to be at least among the most prominent idols in the land where I live. That fits well with the Apostle John’s description of the world, referring to the world system: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Usually what is deadly for us is not blatant, but subtle. We deceive ourselves into thinking that it is well with us, when in reality we continue to struggle with some form of idolatry. We in Jesus do sin and we are weak in ourselves. I’m not saying we have to sin at every, or even any turn; we don’t (see for example 1 John 1:5-2:2). But we so easily get caught up in this or that, instead of thanking God for his good gifts, and enjoying them for what they are. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” So very true.

All is of grace and we are weak in ourselves. And so we need to make much of  being “in Christ,” everything depending on him. Not just our standing or position before God, but our practice as well. We need to develop a keen conscience and sensitivity about this, by God’s Spirit attuned to his word. And we do well by faith to take up the words our Lord taught us to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

power hungry

One of the chief differences between Jesus and the world is simply the way of the cross. One of the critiques leveled today at most everyone, certainly at Christians, is that what drives institutions and people is a will to power. People are power hungry, and by their words they seek to manipulate and use others for their own advantage.

Unfortunately the ways of the world easily creep into our hearts, even for us in Jesus since after all we are sinners in the sense that we still have sin in our hearts and lives. We see this played out in history, and I’m afraid in culture in ways which may seem justified to us. The question being do we act and live as those serving, or with an agenda, maybe hidden largely even to us? An agenda to promote us, make us look good and right.

As I’ve been reminded and spoken freshly to on this by an excellent fellow blogger (and professor), there is only one way to avoid this that followers of Jesus are called to: the way of the cross. It’s the way of the cross in Jesus which we’re to follow. A way that is willing in the love of God in Jesus to look defeated, yes to be defeated in the eyes of others. No power in human terms, but weakness. But in that, and in that only we will find, along with the world, God’s power and glory through Jesus.

A disclaimer: I would not judge the person who is the subject of the article in the good blog posting above. Maybe my friend’s application there is correct. But I most certainly concur with his application of the answer which lies only in the way of the cross in Jesus.