Monday, November 28, 2011

The Double Standard in Churches #1

I know that no one is perfect. The Bible tells us, "All have sinned." Why then do we expect perfection from their ministers? Why do they leave no room for mistakes? Why do so many churches if not all Churches set their minister us for failure in expecting perfection? Is it realistic? In expecting a faultless, sinless, leadership do we not set them up to fail? Do congregation have different standards in their ministers then they do themselves? Isn't that hypocritical? Could a person with the mistakes or actions of King David, Solomon, Peter, Thomas or Paul be a minister in the churches today? Would they hire them? How do we show the church that ministers are people, sinners, too? How do we stop the mass exodus from those in ministry because of the pressure and double standard?

I know many ministers who have left ministry, leaving ministry and discourage even their kids and others from entering ministry because the pressure to be perfect, the double standard and the way the Church sets ministers up for failure. It needs to be discussed.

What do you think?
Share your thoughts.


Blogger Sarah Grace said...

I just want to say I love your blog and your questions. You make people think.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Gil said...

If that expectation of perfection in ministers is there it is in no small part because of their own failure to preaching the council of God concerning perfection.

Your opening statement reflects what I call the bumper sticker theology in America: Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven. It's got just enough of a bible-ish sound for the saints in Christ to parrot it with total misunderstanding.

This falls as much on the leadership from whom merely stating "nobody is perfect" cannot pass for teaching and enlightening the congregation on perfection.

As concerns this subject, I have always preached and taught the call, not to TRY, but to BE perfect as Jesus stated. Clearly, He did not have the nonbiblical notion many brothers and sisters understand as perfection.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

I think you are shedding light on something. Churches do expect minister and view ministers as perfect and in doing so do set them up to fail or when they do sin the church is unforgiving. It is sick and sad.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Tim Spivey said...

I think it's always a matter of discernment. There is no way a church should expect perfection. They should expect their leaders to live with integrity. As to defining what integrity without perfection is..well, it's complicated. Nearly all churches I know are toward the perfection extreme than the libertine extreme.

3:11 PM  
Blogger ~Alii~ said...

A church is consisting of a bunch of broken people in need of a shepherd. People automatically look to you as representing Christ. Some expect perfection. Not all.

As a Pastor, you preach the word of God. You tell them of HIS perfection. You reflect his light. Your relationship with God will prove itself when most needed. God will back you up.

We all fall short of the glory of God, But as your "sheep" grow by your leading they will trust you. I can say by my own experience with my Pastor who has taught me so much. Yes, there have been times of correction, "don't do this" or "You can do better than that" kinda hurt. But his reflecting words, "whom the father loves he corrects" and so forth.

Discern, Pray for wisdom and use the word of God and I promise that the Lord will respond. Yes, we'll make mistakes at times, but God will back you up for your faithfulness. I promise. I've done it myself. Mess up, think i've ruined it, and the Lord steps in and cleans up my mess. Ministry is about building people.Growth. Relationship with him. He wants that just as much as we do. =)

God Bless! Hope that made some sense =))

7:06 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

This is a somewhat complex series of questions, however there are at least a couple of points that it can be boiled down to:

1. What is the theology being taught in the congregation? Is man basically good or evil? Is the purpose of a Christian to made himself perfect, or is it something imputed to him?

2. Is the idea of Law and Gospel in use?

3. What is being preached Sunday in and Sunday out?

When these things are considered, it should tell you a lot about what the standards will be for at least the preacher/minister/pastor/etc. and extending to the congregation.

When we realize that people are not good (Rom 3, Eph 2, et al) it is easy to understand why your brother and sister still struggle and sin. Just like you do. Just like the preacher does. When we look at texts such as "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" we realize that we aren't.

This is where the notion of Law and Gospel come in. That is a law passage. Why? Because it shows us we are not keeping what God commands of us. At this point, the Christian realizes her sin and feels its weight. And much of the time, that is where the sermon ends. With a realization of "Hey, I'm not pulling this off" and an admonition of the seemingly perfect preacher that he and the others around you are.

This is where what is being preached comes in. Are both Christian and un-Christian being peached BOTH the Law and Gospel every time? If the preacher proclaims the Law but no Gospel, then the listener can go into despair, or worse, believe he is actually pulling it off. If the preacher preaches only Gospel, a notion of antinomianism can inset. But if the preacher does both, the Law in its full rigor and the Gospel in its full sweetness, the Christian is comforted and the unbeliever may be given faith.

So to come full circle, the man or woman who is crushed at the phrase "Be perfect....", the Gospel of "It is finished!" brings relief. The atonement of Christ on the Cross paying in full all our iniquities. Being clothed in Him and being imputed His righteousness, that while our sinful flesh still does what it does: sin, through that imputation when God looks at us, we are seen as justified and blameless in His sight. Not for what we have done, but what He has done FOR us.

And knowing that grace, we are now free and even desire to do good deeds for our neighbor. Not for our merit. Not for our salvation. Not to show others how great a person we are. But because of what God has done for us already, will do at our death, and then at His second coming and the resurrection of our bodies.

So when a preacher sins, we should not be surprised. Look at the Biblical text. Paul tells of us not only a time when Peter was falling into sin, but pours out his own confession in Romans 7. Why would we hold our ministers now to a higher standard than the apostles? That is crazy!

Instead, when someone, anyone, in the church sins, let us not condemn, but support. We are just as guily as they, and the forgiveness that comes at the cross, at our baptism, and at the table covers all these sins.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Joshua Tucker said...

There's no doubt that many churches have unrealistic expectations for their ministers, yet I wonder where it comes from.

I think at least some of it is a culture set up and maintained by ministers, though probably unintentionally. As a minister you constantly want to "put your best foot forward" and be the best example you can for people. Sometimes, though, if you're always wearing the preacher hat, people start to see you as a robotic holy man who isn't real.

Maybe some ministers like it this way. Maybe they want people to hold them in high regard to maintain influence and power. Maybe they like being on a pedestal, even if they wouldn't admit it.

Maybe they do it because they're afraid of what will happen if church members see their real side. If people saw that they had their own struggles (and even a personality) they're afraid it would be abused. And this isn't uncommon, where a minister "lets his hair down" with some people and those people end up using it as ammunition later.

I find that as a minister I need to intentionally set a specific culture up for expectations of me. I want to be a spiritual man people can look up to, but I'm also careful to show them I have plenty of weaknesses, too. To do this I do things like spend time with people in normal settings (going to a movie, going out to eat) as well as inviting them into my home to develop actual friendships. I also try to relate to people's struggles with my own. I don't want to be seen as someone who has all the answers, but someone who constantly looks to Jesus for answers, and can help point you toward Him, too.

I also do some other simple things. For example, I rarely, if ever, dress up more than the average person. It just further propagates the idea that I'm a holy man or some kind of "professional."

A lot of it is also determined by my own expectations. If I am constantly worried about others' idea of a preacher, I may end up furthering those expectations. Instead I try to focus on pleasing God and just being me. As best I can, I try to daily put my mind on what God expects of me and put out of my mind what others are trying to pigeon-hole me as. It's such a freeing and stress-free way to be in ministry if you ask me.

Good questions.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Old Man's Wonderings said...

This is a question that is way to broad. yet I will attempt to answer; God calls leadship to a higher standard than non-leadership. "James 3:1 (NLT) 1Dear brothers and sisters,£ not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly." Here I am interpreting the word teacher bit more broadly. I would say that those in leadership/who teach God expects to have in together better than those who are not leaders. Just as I would say God will hold those who claim belief to a higher standard that those who do not claim belief.

I wonder what issues you are dealing with in asking this question. If you are meaning expectiong things that God does not then the church is in sin! If you are meaning at which God declares sin should be over looked then no; the church should hold a leader to a higher standard. If a pastor/leader forgets who he/she is married to, then that leaders need to be removed from leadership. Look at the mess the Roman Catholic church is currently in because that did not hold male leadership accountable! If a leaders is sharing unbiblical teaching then again accountable that leader is.

Is there room for repentance? Yes; Restoration? Maybe. For someting I am not sure if restoration to full leadership is a wise course of action.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that ministers are in a precarious situation. The pressure they are under is large, but some of the time the failure or disagreement can be foreseen.

I believe a lot has to do with the individual congregation the preacher ministers to. Usually a minister works with a group of people with similar ideas of how things are done. Differences in those ideas are what usually creates the problems between the two parties. I've seen mistakes done by both sides in this type of situation.

On the ministers side it usually depends on differences in the congregations and his philosophy. We all know that different congregations have different views on ideology. Is it one song leader or a praise team, are youth songs allowed in worship or not, can a person who has not become a member of that church lead songs, the list goes on and on.

Here's where the preacher might make mistakes: The minister must choose what "battles" he will fight. Most times the "grey area" practices for worship or teaching are known by everyone and they all have their opinion on the subject. Checking with the elders is a must if there is a doubt. Sometimes the minister wants to take on the "monster" and push an idea he knows the group will not like. The proof must be scriptural for the minister to avoid argument. If an idea or practice cannot be backed by the bible pretty clearly, it will not stand. To change a large group you must have very strong backing from the bible. If you choose to fight the fight without that backup... you can never win.

On mistakes, if one is made then the minister just needs to admit the mistake. Unfortunately you have members who seem to think being rude is their given right and you have to deal with their desparaging words. When a mistake is made the quicker you admit to it the better. If none is made the group will think you do not respect them. If there is more to the situation than just a mistake people will use that as their excuse to try and change things to the way they want it.

On the congregations side: As stated above there are many people who do not have a diplomatic bone in their body. If the minister rubs them the wrong way or they have a problem with the eldership they will use it as an excuse to make the preacher the whipping boy. I actually witnessed church of Christ members in a lie trying to get a petition signed at a lumber yard to get rid of a minister. Very sad. They were part of a small group who disagreed with an elder and made it their business to judge anyone the eldership chose. It's always hard for a minister to have everyone in the congregation appreciate his work. As said people are imperfect. The preacher and his family must be very strong.

Those same people may also make judgement calls without knowing all the information and try to to smear the minister. Unfortunately the minister is the only one who deals with this in a public manner. Unless those in the wrong confess, they can stay hidden in the pews.

Without understanding the particulars in any situation it's hard to comment or give an opinion that is fair and objective. To say something is a double standard or hypocritical we need examples. Again I've seen both sides make mistakes on how they handled the situation and how they reacted to it.

The one thing we have as Christians is the bible. If you do and teach what it says then you have no worries. God knows what is in your heart. If your motives are honorable and scriptural then you have no worries.

It's when you get into that grey area where there might be room for interpretation, you have to be careful.

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