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Posts Tagged ‘deacons’

We Southern Baptists say that the Bible is without error, that it is God’s authority over our lives, and that it is sufficient for leading us to God and rightly ordering our lives. I wonder, though, if we really believe what we say we believe.

It seems that we have our belief system that we profess and we have our “but’s” that we live. We say we believe that God created all things, but it looks really dumb to believe he did it in six twenty-four-hour days. We say we believe that men should lovingly lead their wives and that wives should lovingly follow that lead, but we engage in the best (worst?) of the battle of the sexes when our partner is not treating us according to our satisfaction. We say we believe in the church government taught in the Scriptures but many of our churches have deacons acting as though they were elders or, even worse, a church council acting as an elder board. We claim that church membership is to be taken seriously, but Southern Baptist Convention churches have millions of members who rarely, if ever, attend corporate worship in the church where their name persists in being on the roll.

We say we believe a lot of things, but our actions reveal what we really believe. Maybe that’s the reason denominational leaders are constantly trying to devise new means to renew our churches. Perhaps a more effective strategy would be to repent of our sin of violating our professed beliefs with our unbiblical actions and really become submissive to the teaching of the Word of God.

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There is really no easy way to say this, but the state of far too many of our Southern Baptist Churches is poor. One has to look no further than the deacons who serve as de facto elders in many churches.

Those coming from other denominations may be unaware of the leadership model commonly found in Baptist churches. In these churches, the deacons function as ruling elders. They are the authority in the church, superseded only by congregational vote. Instead of a plurality of elders having oversight of the church in teaching and administration, most SBC churches (and most other Baptist denominations as well) have deacons functioning in that role. (Even more egregious than this model is the one that has a church council operating as ruling elders, but that is for another discussion.)

Usually these deacons are nominated and voted upon by the congregation. Business sense and popularity are often the criteria for getting elected. Spiritual requirements found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 are seldom acknowledged. These deacons typically have little awareness of the Scriptures, no knowledge of church history, no understanding of why they are Baptists other than immersion as the mode of baptism, and yet have authority over the church. When someone in the church has a complaint about the pastor, these deacons confront the pastor to change in order to keep peace in the church. Heaven forbid that a disgruntled church member offended because his sin is confronted through the preaching of the Word should leave and take his money with him. At all costs, the budget must be met!

But why do we have this situation? The blame cannot help but be placed upon pastors who have been more concerned with keeping their positions than being faithful to the Scriptures. Pastors have before remarked about some particular doctrine with this: “I believe that, but I can’t preach it in my church. They won’t stand for it.” Didn’t the apostle Paul warn us of this very thing?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4, ESV)

So now we have church after church led by deacons who possess little understanding of the Scriptures and yet determine whether the church’s pastor stays or goes. Too often they are more concerned about the budget and attendance than with sound doctrine and godly living. Have our churches ever been in a more deplorable condition? I doubt it. May God have mercy on the pastor who seeks to be faithful to the Scriptures in such churches. Unless God intervenes, he will find himself either without employment or with a drastically-reduced congregation (as well as reduced compensation). And often his antagonist will be some curmudgeon retired pastor who has remained as a member of the congregation, the very cause for the congregation’s wretched spiritual condition! (I have in mind a church in which this has recently occurred.)

May God be pleased to change the hearts of our people to be submissive to his Scriptures, to seek to glorify him in all things, and to rejoice in having pastors who preach the whole counsel of God.

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Timothy Geithner and Tom Daschle have been in the news lately because they failed to pay sizable sums in federal income taxes. They failed to pay, that is, until they were nominated to prestigious positions in President Obama’s cabinet.

President Obama has promised an ethical and transparent administration, yet he continued to affirm his nomination of Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services after each was discovered to have been derelict in paying his taxes.

Now, of course, the men have ‘fessed up and paid up and are “embarrassed” at their “oversights.” Geithner was approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Daschle, according to press reports, will be. We have been told that these men are too valuable, given the current set of crises facing our nation, to have their nominations derailed by something evidently as trite as a pattern of failure to pay all their income taxes.

Little reveals the hypocrisy of leaders as when they promise one thing and then renege on basic promises. President Obama has pledged to lead an ethical administration, but nominating men who have failed to pay their income taxes reveals that ethics are really not that important. The pledge was great for votes but evidently worthless for governing. It is little wonder that Americans share a pervasive cynicism about their federal government.

Though few would dare say it, Geithner and Daschle have revealed themselves as either white-collar crooks or irresponsible ninnies. Either way, neither has displayed the personal character needed to lead these vital departments of the President’s administration.

That said, think about our churches. We place in positions of leadership elders and deacons who fail to display the character needed to lead and serve their congregations. A fellow pastor told me of a situation in his small church in which a deacon was known to have left his wife and was living with another woman. This deacon continued to serve in his office, continued to attend worship services, and remained unrepentant about his sin. In addition, the pastor was warned not to do anything about the situation. The deacon was too valuable for the church to lose him. That’s the same “logic” we heard about the need to confirm Geithner despite his tax woes.

As poorly as Geither and Daschle reflect upon President Obama’s administration and upon the President’s judgment, an even greater evil exists when churches ordain and continue to support men who have shown themselves to be unfit for their sacred office. Pastors who fail to pay their bills, deacons who fail to honor their wives, elders who put their children’s soccer practice above the appointed meetings of their churches–these and countless other offenses are much more troubling than the affirmation of degenerates such as Secretary Geithner and soon-to-be Secretary Daschle. The purity and honor of God’s church is at stake.

It is not without good reason that elders and deacons are to be men who are “blameless” (1 Timothy 3:2, 10). That doesn’t mean they never sin, but it does there is no valid accusation of a pattern of wrongdoing that can be held against them. Perhaps the reason our churches are viewed cynically is that we continue to be led by men of disrepute and no one raises a voice of concern.

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