Friday, July 28, 2006

A Refreshing Article on Leadership

When I was wrestling with the question of eldership and what is the biblical response to an elder who shows himself to no longer be above reproach (Titus 1:6,7) specifically regarding sexual immorality, I sent some messages to various pastors and teachers that I respect. I also made a point to send this question to ministries with varying doctrinal positions (some were more Armenian and some were more reformed) so that I would get sort of a cross section of where different ministries fall on this issue. One of the responses that I received (a very nice and personal one at that) from a leader at a more emergent style church said,

"If there is evidence that character issues that may have contributed to past failings have been addressed and overcome, and if the person has done all he or she can do to repair damage caused by past decisions, our conviction is that the individual may by God’s grace aspire to any ministry he or she is called to."

I responded to this e-mail requesting a response that used scripture, not just vague concepts that may not necessarily apply to this type of situation. I then received this response,
"As Christians we should attempt to be as forgiving and grace-filled as God, impossible as that might be. But that doesn't mean that our actions won't have unpleasant consequences in our lives here with other people. In the case you're describing, that might mean someone taking a break from church leadership while they deal with the 'fallout' from their actions. They might need to rebuild their reputation with those they feel called to lead. They also might need to do some difficult work on a potential character issue that caused them to stumble. Whatever the situation, though, the prayerful and God-led judgment and discernment of church leaders is necessary."

This response (a) didn't seem to be pulled from exegesis concerning church leadership and accountability or (b) reference a bible verse at all. I was not totally surprised with this response because I know a bit more about that specific church and some of its teachings. I did receive a response from another teacher who is definitely not emergent in ecclesiology where he said this, "An act of adultery would make the man not blameless and would also have a bad reputation. 1 Tim.3:2. Let me say this, if I committed adultery, I would be outta here."

If you are at all familiar with my blog, you will not be surprised to know that I really enjoy the teaching and preaching of John MacArthur. I had written a few articles a while back regarding elders and the requirements to be an elder (elders: qualifications and tasks and more thoughts on eldership), and I am becoming more and more concerned with the church and the leaders who she accepts and allows to preach and teach the word of God. Below are some excerpts from an article that John MacArthur's ministry posted online concerning this topic.
"Some time ago I received a cassette tape that disturbed me greatly. It was a recording of the recommissioning service of a pastor who had made national news by confessing to an adulterous affair. After little more than a year of “counseling and rehabilitation,” this man was returning to public ministry with his church’s blessing.

That is happening everywhere. Restoration teams—equipped with manuals to instruct the church on how to reinstate their fallen pastor—wait like tow-truck drivers on the side of the highway, anticipating the next leadership “accident”. Our church has received inquiries wondering if we have written guidelines or a workbook to help restore fallen pastors to leadership. Many no doubt expect that a church the size of ours would have a systematic rehabilitation program for sinning leaders.

Gross sin among Christian leaders is a signal that something is seriously wrong with the church. But an even greater problem is the lowering of standards to accommodate a leader’s sin. That the church is so eager to bring these men back into leadership is a symptom of rottenness at the core."

"We must recognize that leadership in the church cannot be regarded lightly. The foremost requirement of a church leader is that he be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). That is a difficult prerequisite, and not everyone can meet it."

When referring to his body, Paul obviously had sexual immorality in view. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 he describes it as a sin against one’s own body—sexual sin is in its own category. Certainly it disqualifies a man from church leadership since he permanently forfeits a blameless reputation as a one-woman man (Proverbs 6:33; 1 Timothy 3:2).

Where did we get the idea that a year’s leave of absence and some counseling can restore integrity to someone who has squandered his reputation and destroyed people’s trust? Certainly not from the Bible. Trust forfeited is not so easily regained. Once purity is sacrificed, the ability to lead by example is lost forever. As my friend Chuck Swindoll once commented when referring to this issue—it takes only one pin to burst a balloon.

What about forgiveness? Shouldn’t we be eager to restore our fallen brethren? To fellowship, yes. But not to leadership. It is not an act of love to return a disqualified man to public ministry; it is an act of disobedience.

By all means we should be forgiving. But we cannot erase the consequences of sin. I am not advocating that we “shoot our wounded.” I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t rush them back to the front lines, and we should not put them in charge of other soldiers. The church should do everything possible to minister to those who have sinned and repented. But that does not include restoring the mantle of leadership to a man who has disqualified himself and forfeited the right to lead. Doing so is unbiblical and lowers the standard God has set. "

"What should you do in the current crisis? Pray for your church’s leaders. Keep them accountable. Encourage them. Let them know you are following their godly example. Understand that they are not perfect, but continue nonetheless to call them to the highest level of godliness and purity. The church must have leaders who are genuinely above reproach. Anything less is an abomination."1

1 Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored? by John MacArthur (Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church, © 1991 by John MacArthur. )

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