“But you are a chosen race,a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” -1 Peter 2:9,11-12
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” -1 Timothy 3:1-7
Our last post in the Laodicean Project dealt with what I believe the first necessary step in reaching “Christian” societies to be, that being the internal cleansing and living of a life which causes others to glorify God. The second step, though quite similar, is on a much larger level. This step is the step of a corporate cleansing of the Church and a return of the Church to a level of esteem in the society.
Too often today the Church is used as an excuse for not believing the message of the Gospel because, in the world’s eyes, the Church has no special position above anything else in the society. We have dealt with this problem repeatedly on this blog. Most of this has to do with a perceived (or real) hypocrisy in the Church and its’ members or because of overbearing legalisms or because of a weakening in the doctrinal integrity of a congregation. However, in lieu of betting these subjects into the ground I will just give links to those previous discussions.
Instead, what I want to discuss here is the way most of these problems occur, which is in the diluting of the strength of our Christian leadership. Paul in the New Testament lays out for us three times what the qualifications for specific leadership posts are in the church. He discusses the Elder/Pastor qualifications in both 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and for Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Moreover, all of the New Testament authors offer pointers and direction in the way the church should be led.
The problem is, today’s Christian societies continue to move further and further away from these ground rules. One of the most notable examples of this is the rejection of 1 Timothy 2:12, which says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet.” Today it is such common place to “call” female ministers, or at least install female Bible teachers over adult males, that most congregations don’t bat an eye at it, even though this is clearly in opposition to what Paul teaches. To excuse this they often claim that what was written was culturally relevant for then, a time in which women weren’t valued as much as they are now, but that today, since we are much more egalitarian in our behaviors, we are no longer under this restriction. (But note, this argument is inaccurate in its premise since we have already discussed that Christianity has been egalitarian in its teachings since the beginning, and so if this is true then it makes Paul’s instruction not culturally relevant even in the culture he was specifically addressing, which makes absolutely no sense!) We see similar arguments made for every other type of bending being done on the Bible’s instructions for leadership.
So what? What is the big deal about bending the rules a little bit? Well, first, it is disobedience, which is never something we should strive for. Second, if we allow for disobedience and rationalizing away God’s rules at the top then there is no hope for people to respect them further down the totem pole. The Bible says that “not many of [us] should become teachers” since those “who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).” This is because, as a teacher and/or leader, you are acting as a miniature shepherd to God’s people, and so if you go astray then many of them are sure to follow, and the Bible speaks pretty harshly about those who lead God’s children astray, as we have discussed before.
Therefore, if we are to reclaim our Christian societies in the name of Christ and see his name and holiness glorified in them again, then we must hold more closely to the Bible’s instructions for appointing Church leaders. This may not be popular, or comfortable even, since sometimes these bad leaders may be people who are very close to us personally, but in order to see a change it must be done. We shouldn’t allow just anyone with “lofty speech or wisdom” to lead our congregations, but should seek to appoint leaders who have “decided to know nothing among [us] except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).” Only once we have seen individually our lives sanctified, and corporately our leadership sanctified, can we hope to begin seeing our society changed from their cold, dead views of Christianity and into a right relationship with Christ.