Monday, April 23, 2018

A Different Approach to our Celebrity Problem pt2

I previously talked about our problem in the pastorate with self-righteousness, and promoting narcissists in ministry. This leads to problems with both small time and celebrity pastors.
Today, I want to talk about Matthew 18:15-18, which I believe provides further solutions to this problem.

1) Matthew 18 implies Pastors should be Correctable.
Matthew 18 teaches us to go to a brother or sister with a problem, and to show them their sin. Sadly, many of us have found that we haven't been successful applying this to pastors. We've tried to share but been given the brush off. Sadly we have too many leaders who will not sit down and hear someone out about how they feel sinned against. So, imagine you're a pastor who never takes correction, how are you going to respond when someone warns you about an inappropriate relationship you're beginning to form? You're not gonna listen, and eventually there will be tremendous damage. Sadly, we're letting too many leaders become bigger names, whilst they leave a wake of people who have been hurt and unable to sit down and do Matthew 18 with them. I'd suggest we don't make people pastors until we've seen them humbly live out Matthew 18.

2) Matthew 18 Implies we shouldn't Promote People under Discipline in another church.
Regularly someone is excommunicated from their church for a serious unrepentant sin. They move onto another church, where the leaders assume the previous church was wrong, and promote them back into ministry. This person goes on to hurt more people in the same way as before. I've seen and heard this happen too many times. I'd suggest we don't make people pastors until they've been trained in how to properly restore people from excommunication.

So who knew? Jesus was onto something when he taught the following:
(Mat 18:15-18 NIV) 15 "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

part 3 may follow if I feel led!

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Different Approach to our Celebrity Problem pt1

I read lots of wisdom in Andy Crouch's article on the problem of celebrity pastors, but I'd like to approach it from another angle because I think the problem is much bigger. We don't have a problem with celebrity pastors as much as we have a problem with leaders! I've seen abusive leaders in both small and big churches, narcissists in small time ministry as well as those who have celebrity status (see video below for narcissism). So I think our solutions need to include the pathways people take to ministry.

1. Character over Gifting
Jesus said, we would know people by their fruit, not their giftings (Matt 7:15-23). We are often putting people into various ministries because we like their giftings. I'd suggest, we put more emphasis into character. How do we know someone's character? It takes a long time observing someone in stressful situations to be able to tell their character. Once a narcissist is given a powerful position in ministry, he will hurt people, and then we'll blame him; but who let the narcissist into ministry in the first place?

2. We're saturated in a culture of rightness.
I naturally desire to be in the right, and my theological tribe does too. This desire to be right has become an idol. I think I've seen this in two ways.

Firstly, we trump intellectual rightness over right actions (orthodoxy over orthopraxy). If you want an example, look at how some conservative evangelicals respond to poverty-- we can easily fold our arms in satisfaction that we haven't fallen for the social gospel, whilst not bothering to preach the gospel to the poor (like Jesus did), or care for the poor in the church (like Paul did).

Secondly, we have a hard time admitting we're in the wrong. Although my tribe 'believes' in Christ's imputed righteousness, I've hardly ever heard a church leader say sorry for hurting someone. I've heard people admit past 'mistakes' in ministry, but this is usually to a third party, not the injured party. When, I think about it, there are only two Christian leaders I remember hearing saying sorry about something, M and B. You prob don't know them, that's not the point, the point is that I've been in churches for over 30 years, and known lots of pastors, and authors, and I can only think of two pastors who say sorry if someone brings something to them. There must be more, surely? hopefully?

In my experience, it doesn't matter whether its a leader of 10 people, or 500 people, we have a culture where leaders so badly want to be in the right, they can't even consider being in the wrong. In some ways this culture starts when we start learning good doctrine - there's a sense that we are in the right. But it also grows when we judge other church groups as not being in the right. For some of us working class leaders, it occurs when we look down on the prejudice we've experienced from other leaders who are not in the right. And we egg each other on with a sense that we are in the right. And then someone comes to us and says, 'I feel you wronged me' and we say, 'Of course not, I'm in the right!' Well actually we don't say that, but we think that.

So the solution is Christ right?
Our character needs to be more like him. And we need to be more firmly convinced of His righteousness each day, so that we are open to being in the wrong.


For a better understanding of narcissism, watch this excellent video by Diane Langberg


part 2 of this article can be found here

Monday, April 09, 2018

Disability: Every day is an adventure

Pretty much each day I wake up wishing I hadn't. I don't feel like I can do anything, as if the rest of the day is mount Everest looming outside my tent.

Then the adventure starts. I have to get ready, and that involves praying and meditating on the scriptures. 

Then I set out, which means actually getting out of the bedroom, one foot in front of the other. Outside the bedroom are a whole bunch of obstacles, not just toys on the floor that my easily-dislocating knees dislike - but also a world of people with needs. Again, I have to pray for the strength to not be selfish, and instead to serve others. 

The day continues, like a mountain climb where you stop for a break occasionally and are either surprised by how far you've climbed, or discouraged that you've not got far at all. 

One lesson I keep trying to learn is that it doesn't matter so much how far I've climbed. What's more important is who have I been climbing for? If I'm climbing for myself, trying to overcome my disability, I've just been selfish, and will be discouraged when my climb doesn't go well. If on the other hand I'm climbing for my Heavenly Father, then I can rest each night knowing he is pleased with me, no matter how slow and short my climb is, or even if I fell, only to be caught by his carabina.

Help me Father to climb for you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

What can a broken hearted person do?

The other day I posted about my heartbreak in 'The Cry of a Broken Hearted Pastor'
Today, I'm talking about what we can do when heartbroken. Obviously, I've already mentioned crying, and I think I almost cried every day for a long time, and the tears still come. But I've been crying them out to the God who hears:
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.(Psalm 34:17-18 NIV)

BUT the other thing I did, was think of the cross. And in the midst of betrayals and abandonment, I wrote this song with my wife, 'At The Cross.'

Notice the lyrics in the bridge:
When I’m feel-ing lonely
when I think God don’t love me
I’ll fix my eyes upon the tree

where you bore heartache for me
where you shed your blood for me
I’m a sinner but you have set me free
The video with lyrics is here:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Cry of a Broken Hearted Pastor

When I saw Aaron Neville sing 'I don't know much' and imagined he was letting out the pain of losing his wife, (his teenage sweetheart) into the mic, I wished that I too could cry my pain into a mic that might somehow empty the emotional pain inside me.

Not the pain of the trauma I faced as a child, because that is now a memory I can talk about with a wince, like running a finger over a scar that has healed much but has a slight tenderness. Not the excruciating physical pain of my medical condition hEDS, But the far worse pain of being hurt by the Christian brotherhood I've invested in all my adult life.

I'd like to cry out the pain of the betrayals whilst my wife and I tried to deal with disability and grief, and the lack of support for a disabled council estate pastor.

And I wonder if I could cry that all out like Aaron Neville, if somehow all of the pain of the last 3 years would be dissipated?

And I could tell you. with tears, that even though I'm so disenchanted with the UK Church, and particularly my theological tribe, I still believe God loves it so much, enough to die for it, and the Church is still his plan, and I love the Church too. And I could tell you that all the badness I've experienced from others, also resides in me; even if it is displayed in different ways.

But, I do so wish, that the Church was a safe place for people like me; cos if it can crush a hard-nut like me, what will it do to others?



See part 2 here

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

RTU conference vids should be online in February [UPDATED]

Hi,
Sorry for all the radio silence, I'm proper busy finishing off my doctorate. God willing, I'll have the conference videos online in Feb.
Blessings
Duncan
UPATE, make that April, very sorry for the delay!