Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Character Matters

We (I) spend alot of time debating and thinking through different philosophies of ministry, techniques of how to do things, and models of organizing the Church.

These things aren't as important as doctrine, or theology. . . . but as a leader in the church we do need to search the bible to flesh out how we're going to "do church" and where the bible is silent, make wise decisions based on our doctrine, history, and gifts that he's given us.

As I was thinking through some of these things this week, it hit me again. . . that the models, methods, and philosophy don't matter as much as the character of the leaders who are implementing those things. Great philosophy, in the wrong hands, is not a win.

You can be the most successful mega-church, seeker, evangelistic pastor there ever was. . . but if you have a deep-seated need to be liked by folks, or to be accepted in what you say. . . .that will sabotage your ministry at some level. Even small "personality quirks" that seem like elementary issues (such as needing to be liked) can get in the way of ministering to glorify God (because in that sense. . . you're ministering for your own glory or "need" at some level).

On the other side of that philosophical coin. . if there is a hard-line conservative pastor who is ruthless in his commitment to the truth, preaching sound doctrine, honoring the history of the church in everything you do. . . . and yet, you have an inner need to "be right" about everything and win every argument, never being proven wrong. . . that will sabotage the effectiveness of your ministry. Again, you're fighting to be right and to "fill a hole" at a heart-level. . instead of feeding Christ's sheep.

Some try to solve these problems with rules and reg's. to "hem in" the pastor's personal quirks and help keep him "in bounds" in all that he does. Others try to solve these problems by protecting the pastor with handlers (kind of like a politician), yes men, and publicity monitors who don't let their pastor come under attack for anything he does or has said.

There's nothing inherently wrong with either of those solutions. . . (we should protect pastors with rules, and personal help). But, it doesn't help at the deepest level.

Colossians 2:20-24 (English Standard Version)

20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" 22 referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Those are pretty strong words; "no value". Bottom line, rules and accountability won't ultimately help if our motivations and hearts aren't changed by the gospel, . . .and continually changed through God's Word and repentance.

This weekend was a weekend for churches to put their best foot forward, theologically, and practically, as many non-Christians were in church and it is the key weekend on the Christian calendar (we like to call it Super Bowl Sunday around here :) ) . But, all of the great methods, services, and successes in the world can't fix a sinful heart, and can't hide character flaws.

Now, none of us has "arrived" on these things. (I've sabotaged myself today a few times already. . . things coming out of my mouth crippling my effectiveness as a minister) But, simply an awareness of our folly and reluctance due to our own sin and wounded-ness is a good place to start. Then comes the oh-so-difficult ability to rejoice in others' success and find our ultimate salvation at the Cross. . . not in anything we've "pulled off" or "accomplished".

Thanks be to God for the Cross, so that we can come and lay down our desires to succeed, be right, and be liked. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who can change us. . since there are no perfect pastors and there is no one who is ministering in the absence of any wounded-ness.

God is at work, and for us to effectively serve Him, we need to ask Him to deal with the subtle inclinations of our hearts, and yes, our character. It matters.


Publican_Chest said...

Good post.

My only question is: who is saying character doesn't matter?

Or is this just kind of a "preaching to the choir" post?

just curious.

aaron said...

I guess I feel like a few of the big name guys (locally and nationally) think they can lean on their gifts in leiu of dealing with some pretty obvious "holes they're trying to fill" in ministry.

I realize I'm being judgmental there, . . but I think some guys, even by philosophy, aren't being introspective and reluctant enough. There's kind of a minimizing of original sin, in the most extreme examples.

Sure, no one would say character doesn't matter. But, I know I (among others) don't always realize how much it impedes what you're doing. Or how it "speaks louder" than what you're actually saying sometimes.

Maybe that comment would've been a better, more pithy blog post :) Good question.

Publican_Chest said...

Alas, even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.

As I was thinking about motives in ministry I did think of Paul's way to reckon it:

"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will {...} what then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that i rejoice."

aaron said...

That's a great word. And, I think, a mark of maturity. . when you can rejoice for the gospel going forth in whatever fashion.

I think, though, that it doesn't remove anyone from accountability or critique. Paul, if given the opportunity, would've exhorted such teachers to examine themselves. He definitely encouraged other Christians to examine their motives and to flee jealousy and conceit. And, in Galatians, for example, he had very strong words for false teachers (different category of folks, to be sure)

I just don't like it when pragmatism and ambition trumps confession and being serious about getting healthy. Just because things are going well doesn't mean we're fully sanctified (which would mean, you'd be dead :) ) .