Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Humility and Diplomacy

The third of my ponderings is regarding Humility and Diplomacy.  I believe many in the Christian community confuse the two terms and rather than stand up for what is right and say it straight, they try to make themselves appear humble by being diplomatic.  I believe this misrepresenting of the term humility has contributed to a wishy washy form of Christianity which fails to confront when it is necessary.

In the Bible a number of words are used for humble and humility (eg. Strongs 6031,3665,6038,7807,6041,5013,5011,5012) The general flavour being along the of:
  • to depress literally or figuratively or be depressed, in mind or circumstances
  • to bend the knee; hence, to humiliate, vanquish:--bring down, into subjection, under, downcast, condescension, abase, cast down
  • human and subjective (modesty), or divine and objective (clemency):--gentleness, humility, meekness
Interestingly a modern definition of the word humble is: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.  A far softer definition than the bible uses.

The word diplomacy or it's Greek root 'diploma' does not actually appear in scripture although there are various instances of diplomacy through treaties and becoming "all things to all men."  Because the confusion lies with our modern understanding of diplomacy I will use a dictionary definition: The art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way.

Let us also note that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 does not include humility.  Neither does Jesus mention 'the humble' in what we call the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 refer back to Proverbs 3:3 which says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  In fact when we consider the use of the word humble in the Bible it is usually used in regards to mans relationship with God and not with each other. 

And yet we have become so self obsessed that even humility is taken to be in regards to each other.  In Philippians 2:3 when it says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (NASB) it is saying that in your humility towards GOD consider others better than yourself.  We need to reread the scriptures with this premise in mind: BEING HUMBLE IS ALL ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
  • Luke 18:14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
  • Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:21I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
  • Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
So becoming humble is recognising and acknowledging our position in relation to God.  It's not about us!  So why are we obsessed with being politically correct ie diplomatic?  If we acknowledge our position in relation to God we are also recognising his relationship both to us and the universe.  This should be the standard of our convicitons and not our relationship with each other.

Don't try to make yourself appear humble by being diplomatic - sometimes you just have to say it how it is.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Continuing my considerations in the aftermath of a moral failure of a pastor friend let me look at the second in my list: SIN.

As I spent time on the phone with my friend God kept bring scriptures to my mind:

1 Samual 16:4 "... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Romans 3:23 " for
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"

In this God clearly spoke to me with a vision of black and white.  You're eyes are either on God or they are not.  I shared with my friend that when I was living in India, and beginning to see my ministry to Muslim students take off, I had a motorcycle accident that left me unable to walk for 10 months.  During that time of recovery I spent many hours with God - reading his word, praying, writing worship songs.  I am not saying God caused me to have the accident so I would be forced to spend time with him.  However the accident did come at a time when my eyes were off the Lord.  My focus was on the ministry and not on my God.  You could say my ministry had become my God.  It is a danger we all face throughout our lives - other things, even the Lord's work - becoming the focus rather than the Lord himself.  This is sin.

My friend had a moral failure because he took his eyes off the Lord and became preoccupied with the church.  Repentant, he is now spending great time with God.

The black and white is simply that:  Your eyes are either on God or they're not.  For God sin is sin.  Whether your sin is a moral failure or cutting  corners as you work God just sees it as sin.  "Man looks at the outward appearance"  and says this sin is worse/greater/more henious than that.  But "the LORD looks at the heart"  and what is the truth of our hearts?  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

The question is never whether one sin worse than another, rather the question we need to ask ourselves is, "Am I repentant sinner?"  The promise is clear: " For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23)  Why through Christ Jesus?  Because "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43)

Don't fall into the trap of looking at the outward appearance.  Sin is sin.  Given the right circumstances and situation I am just as likely to sin as the next person.
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Church Governance

As I process a sad situation with a pastor friend of mine who has had a breech of pastoral standards (moral failure) I'm left considering four issues:
  1. models of church governance
  2. sin
  3. Christian confusion between humility and diplomacy
  4. The boundaries of Spiritual Family
This entry is a brief look at my perceptions concerning the first issue.

First point to note is that my friend was pastoring a church in a Baptist Union.  Their model of church governance is congregational.  Therefore concerning congregational life Baptists hold that:
  1. The will of Christ for each church is to be found as the Holy Spirit brings direction and conviction to that congregation gathered to seek his will in the light of the Scriptures. On this basis the members’ meeting is the final authority under Christ for a congregation. Finding Christ’s will through the members’ meeting involves mutual counsel through the exercise of the members’ gifts and learning from the experience of other congregations.  
  2. Christ gives leaders to his Church. It is the duty of the local church through the members’ meeting to recognise and affirm Christ’s call to such leaders, and to set them aside to serve, thereby charging them with the responsibility to lead and delegating prescribed authority to lead. Mutual accountability is to operate between leaders and church.  
  3. While not in any way diminishing the autonomy of the local church, it is appropriate for Baptist churches to cooperate in a Union of Churches in which it is essential for all member churches to practise mutual care, support, and accountability.
In his paper entitles, "Why I am a Baptist" Rod Benson, Senior Pastor of Blakehurst Baptist Church, acknowledges that, "if one stresses congregational government as a Baptist distinctive, one must also acknowledge that it has no overt scriptural basis." (emphasis mine)  So using scripture as our basis for modeling our church governance (as Christians it would make sense yes?) let's turn to the new testament and search for the passages where people are appointed into positions of leadership.  I have categorised these in two ways: "who is appointed?" & "who appoints whom?"


Five groups are identified as being appointed in scripture: Deacons, Elders, Apostles, Representatives & Judges.
Acts 6:2,4

Acts 14:23
Titus 1:5

1 Corinthians 12:28
Ephesians 4:11
  • The first apostles were appointed by Jesus: Mark 3:14
  • The next was Matthias proposed as one of 2 candidates by the gathered believers but chosen by casting lots then appointed by the apostles Acts 1:23-26
  • Additionally Paul (Rom11:13), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and James (Gal 1:19 - Jesus' brother not the James appointed by Jesus) were referred to as apostles.  (Andronicus and Junia are referred to in Romans 16:7 as being "eminent among the apostles" which can legitimately be interpreted as them being apostles)

(When the congregation were in doubt over theology they appointed representatives to appeal to the apostles and elders:)
Acts 15:2

(When the congregation had petty disputes Paul instructed them to appoint a fellow believer (no matter how young in the faith) to judge between them:)
1 Corinthians 6:4,5

God ultimately appoints every leader and gives gifts to all. However specifically scripture relates that he appoints certain people & that he delegates responsibility to appoint to others.
God appoints:

Apostles appoint:
  • elders, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5
  • deacons, Acts 6:3 (NB.  The Greek of this verse uses the words 'seek out' and 'appoint' reading thus: 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;)

The body of believers chooses (NB. still don't appoint - that is still the role of the apostles):
  • deacons, Acts 6:3  (from Matthew Henry's Commentary: They therefore desire that seven men might be chosen, well qualified for the purpose, whose business it should be to serve tables, diakonein trapezais--to be deacons to the tables, ... The persons must be duly qualified. The people are to choose, and the apostles to ordain; but the people have no authority to choose, nor the apostles to ordain, men utterly unfit for the office)
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NB: The new testament makes a clear distinction between overseers, elder and deacons:
1985 episkopos ep-is'-kop-os from 1909 and 4649 (in the sense of 1983); a superintendent, i.e. Christian officer in genitive case charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively):--bishop, overseer. see GREEK for 1909 see GREEK for 4649 see GREEK for 1983

4245 presbuteros pres-boo'-ter-os comparative of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; specially, an Israelite Sanhedrist (also figuratively, member of the celestial council) or Christian "presbyter":-- elder(-est), old.

1249 diakonos dee-ak'-on-os probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands; compare 1377); an attendant, i.e. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specially, a Christian teacher and pastor (technically, a deacon or deaconess):--deacon, minister, servant. see GREEK for 1377
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It would appear to my reading and limited understanding that the concept of congregational governance is not scriptural.  Of course if we want to throw out that parts of the bible that refer to positions of governmental oversight that we don't like or have never been taught about (eg. apostles, prophets, etc) then we remove the God delegated responsibility they had in appointing church leaders. 

The concept of the congregation appointing or electing elders, pastors or even deacons would appear to my mind to be an erroneous reading of scripture.  Whilst the body of believers has the right to choose men to be put forth as candidates to become deacons they are still appointed by apostles who can over-ride the congregational choice if they feel the person is unfit for the position.

As I see it whilst the local congregation has it's eyes on the local situation and must deal with local issues, the apostles and council of elders (presbytery) watch over the greater body and must see the big picture.  Appointment must be on the basis of appointing people with the right giftings into the the right congregation at the right time until such time as their giftings are no longer needed and someone with more appropriate giftings for the current situation should be appointed to take the church through the next period.  The apostles and council of elders because of their oversight, their big picture analysis, are uniquely in a position to make these judgements and thus appointments.  This is therefore impossible for independent local congregations and, in the case of the Baptist Union where you have mostly autonomous local congregations.
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