Confrontation in the Church, pt 2
Sometimes, it's not about sin.
Did you realize that? Some confrontation in church happens, not because of sin, but because of either preference or qualifications. For example:
1. I am a pastor. I do not lead music. If you were to hear me singing one Sunday, you might confront me and ask me to make sure my wireless microphone is off next service. There is a reason: I'm not qualified to sing into a microphone in the presence of people. Your confrontation is about qualification.
2. Our church has certain criteria for leaders. Our church also participates with other churches to accomplish things we lack the resources to do individually. The smallest unit of this is called a Baptist Association. Our association meets next week to elect leaders. Guess what? Many of you readers of this blog aren't going to get elected, and if you showed up and wanted elected, you would be confronted and told to sit down and be quiet. Why? Because we have a preference that the leadership (and participants) in our annual meeting be people who are actually involved in the area. You may think it unfair, but if your church hasn't given a dime into the Centennial Association, you don't get a vote, no matter how amazing you are. It's our preference.
3. There are times that church leaders have to be selected, and it's a tough choice. Qualifications and preferences come into play. It is not sinful to prefer one leader to another based on those issues, as long as you are honest about where you stand. Moreover, when a leader is selected publicly, presented publicly for debate and acclamation, then that will lead to a confrontation between that leader's supporters and detractors.
Now, as to a confrontation over preferences and qualifications, guess what? It's not about sin. It doesn't fit any actual Biblical model. Why? Well, here's some reality for you: except as it is printed in the Word of God, none of us hears God perfectly these days. None. Nada. Zilch. Got it? You and I are capable of mistaking the leading of the Spirit. Really, we can mistake the printed Word to mean one thing and not another, so how much more the work of God inside of us?
So, for example, having a preference for a leader, or against a leader isn't a sin. You have to back up and see how you are handling that preference. You can handle it sinfully. If you are so against a person that you do not believe they can ever do right, you've gone too far. If you are so for a person that you believe they can never do wrong, you're too far.
Likewise, to question a person's qualifications isn't covered in the Scripture. There are Paul's defenses of his own ministry and God's defenses of Moses, but those are different. How? Both of these heard the audible voice of God and saw God (at the bush and on the road, remember?). Did you? Did this person who claims to be above question? The fact remains that we use man-designed institutions to attempt to accomplish what God called us to do.
It's like this: we know that God has called us to make disciples of all nations and to fellowship and assemble together. God directs in the Bible that we are to study and learn the Word and grow together. So, we, in America, typically we build building, buy books, have chairs, have multiple churches pool money to support missionaries, create schools, orphanages, and so forth. We see these man-made structures as being good stewards of the resources we have to accomplish God's commands.
Except that the qualifications for leading and guiding these institutions gets a little fuzzy. There are some clear guidelines for pastors and elders and deacons, but what about all the other things we have in church and cooperative church life? In these areas, it is not a matter of confronting sin, but rather of questioning qualifications for leadership.
As such, it's not covered by Matthew 18. It's not even covered in Galatians 2, because that's about leading people to sin. It's covered logically from the principles of Scripture: those who would lead should demonstrate why they should lead. And those who would be followers have the right to ask questions about whether or not someone is qualified to be installed as a leader. In fact, it's our responsibility to do so.
The difficulty has come because of this: we have mistaken the notion that we must be completely unified to accomplished our purpose together. While some of the great armies of history were completely unified, do you think every soldier at D-Day was a member of the General Eisenhower fan club? Do you think they all voted for him in 1952? They had a job to do, and they did it, because the overwhelming nature of their enemy was enough to forge unity in the necessities.
My point? Confrontation, public confrontation, is a necessity. The only method we have to select leadership is through prayerful consideration of qualifications and preferences, and to assert that someone can't raise a point about qualifications because they didn't follow Matthew 18 isn't a valid argument. Public leadership requires public discussion of the issues surrounding it. And those confrontations and discussions take the same platform as the leadership level. In a Baptist church, for example, you wouldn't install a pastor that hadn't been publicly introduced and questioned by the whole church (at least you shouldn't). Most small town churches still officially elect every role in the church every year, including the same organist that's been playing the organ for years (and is probably the only person in town that can play it!). Wider platforms lead to wider roles.
As such, wider criticism, and a more diverse medium of confrontation. I wouldn't expect a person to write a newspaper editorial to criticize a small-town pastoral candidate, although a bigger church in a bigger town might rate that. A national leadership role will result in questions being raised in print, online, and in group discussions. It's a necessity, because those questions need asked and answered publicly.
Just a few rambling thoughts. I'll try to get back on track with shorter and better blog posts this week…