Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Importance of Christian Reputation in a Community

One of the most fascinating characteristics listed for a "bishop/overseer" is found in 1 Timothy 3:7 which states, "Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, let he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." Isn't it interesting that a potential pastor should have a good testimony to those outside the faith? How often do pastor search committes check out that qualification?

I point this out to demonstrate that our conduct outside of the church and outside of the fellowship of believers is important. It is vital for a pastor, and it is important for everyone else as well. (You didn't think that everyone else gets a pass on this characteristic, did you?) It is important because those outside the church cannot help but observe us and take note of our behavior. Jesus' words to the disiciples underscore this truth, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). If the world knows that we love one another, we can safely conclude that they must be watching how we treat one another. That's part of the testimony of the local church.

So what does it say, I wonder, when the SBC funds a church plant one block from an existing SBC church? How tight do we seem to be with one another at that point? It's not as if the outside world cannot see this. Well, maybe they can't. It has become somewhat passe to put the name "Baptist" on any new work. (That's a rant for another time.) Still, the point is that we are supposed to cooperating with one another with the mentality that we are in this thing together. We are not supposed to be competing like Walgreens and CVS.

So why do we do that, then? Quite frankly, it is because we do not think that the smaller, older church is worth the effort to revitalize. They are too old to chew the leather, and so we send them off to the happy hunting grounds. Indeed, we often look forward to the time when the place shuts down because, well, their quaint ways and lack of zeal embarrass us.

If you have any familiarity with SBC speak, then you have probably heard this type of stat ad nauseam, "90% of SBC churches are plateaued or declining!" (I made up the percentage there, I've long since tuned out to such speeches because they all end up the same anyway.) If this is true, which I do not doubt that it is, why don't we have programs geared towards ministers going in to these little churches and working towards reformation? Why is it that the only solution is to put the powder in the Kool-Aid and let them die?

I know that many of these churches do not want to change. I guess. We all know horror stories of pastors going in to little churches and getting their lunch eaten by mean old deacons and spinsters. This is tragic and it happens too often. But I'll bet that sometimes...sometimes we get our lunch eaten because we come in with the attitude that we are Pastor Wyatt Earp come to clean up this little dying one-horse town. Pastor, an attitude that demands respect and authority without putting in the years required to earn it says something about you. God does not call a pastor to save a dying church. He calls a man to pastor it. The Lord saves His church by His gospel for His glory. The point? The point is that sometimes old saints in old churches get treated like unwanted step-children as often as pastors do. They see the new church start across the street too, you know.

If we are supposed to be in this thing together, it seems that we could do a better job of working with what we have. Observe the words of Jesus to the church in Sardis in The Revelation: "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God" (Rev. 3:2). Strengthen that which remains....strengthen that which remains. I like that. I like that alot. It does not tell us to give up on that which remains and start over. No, the Lord's command is to strengthen the thing that is about to die. No doubt, there is a harsh rebuke here. But the Lord did not give that dying church up, rather, He wished it to be strengthened.

When we give up on a church, we give up on a reputation. If it is a bad reputation, some will be glad to be rid of it. But I say that it is better to have a reputation restored and changed than a witness lost. I think that we ought to have more pastors trained and helped to go into these little, neglected places and work there for revival. I think that if we concentrated on this, the world might see that we actually love each other, and that some things are more valuable than good music and marketing.


Norma said...

Great points. It is happening in all denominations.

Russ Reaves said...

Amen Brother! Glad you're saying these things, and praying lots will read them. I am going to post a link to it.

Even So... said...


Tim Rogers said...

Brother Brad,

Great insights into the church planting movement. You provide insight into an area we seem to have forgotten--the world is watching.

I also plan to link to this article.


Sista Cala said...

Amen! If it had not been for some 'old saints' standing in the gap for me, there is no telling where I would be. Yes, they are set in their ways, but there is much value in many of those old ways.

I am reminded of the passage of scripture regarding the removal of ancient landmarks/memorial stones. If we hap-hazardly discard them, who will we go to for wisdom, encouragement, and strength when our hip-hop/pop "high" is gone?