Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Truth In Labeling

The government requires that the information on the labels of our food tell us exactly what is inside the package. When the label doesn’t tell the truth its possible that people could suffer an allergic reaction and in extreme situations die.

Wouldn’t be great if pastors came with labels. When pastors candidate and don’t tell the truth about their doctrinal positions, belief systems, or Christian practices their churches suffer and in the process pastors get hurt, too.

I recently ran across an article about a young pastor and his wife who were transplants from the liberal East Coast to the prairies of the conservative Midwest. The wife writes the letter sharing their frustrations and struggles serving a community with a different belief system then theirs.

But do the people who fill the pews each week really know us, my husband and me? . . . The painful, real life answer, here in the reality of our life, in the midst of the prairie winds, is no. We find that we can not [sic] be completely and wholly authentic with our church. Being in ministry, in this traditional context, allows us no such opportunity. That makes us appear to be hypocrites, to be people who tear down the notion of church rather than build up and edify all that Christ showed us it was and is to be. But, to us, the reality of life is that we live each day as a balancing act that we have to uphold in order to “fit” and to “minister” effectively. . . We were called to this church family, and they are completely unlike us. They were pre-fabricated before we came; they had their presuppositions, their lifestyles, and their ideologies set in place. We weren’t friends with them first. We were jammed into a place where we had never been before,
We weren’t friends with them first. We were jammed into a place where we had never been before, in the midst of their already formed relationships.Many of our lifestyle choices, presuppositions, and ideologies do not correspond with theirs, nor that of the church affiliation. Do I think alcohol, in moderation, is wrong? Do I think smoking is bad? Do I think “bad” words are wrong? A resounding “no” to all of these. Do our congregation members know we think these things? Again, I say no.

As the preaching minister (and spouse) of a conservative rural church, we are not afforded the opportunity to be real and authentic. It would scare people; they would call us heretics, they would more than likely run us out of town and take our livelihood with them. We have been called here, for whatever purpose, and have not been afforded the opportunity or been led to be somewhere else, that more fits who we are. . . .

We have no where [sic] to be real anymore. The isolation begins to grow. We will continue to walk the balance beam, to know when to hold back, to know when to not say more or share more. We will continue to walk along on this journey, feeling somewhat empty because we can not [sic] find somewhere that we can truly call home. accessed 11-10-2007.

You can’t help but feel for this wife and her husband. I know the feeling of being trapped in a ministry where you don’t fit. It is disheartening, discouraging and often debilitating.

Yes, I know that this couple believes that God called them to this ministry. I can’t help but wonder if these folks missed something. It appears that they were more interested in finding a place to minister rather then finding the place where God wanted them to be. They were willing to obfuscate the truth of their Christian walk to gain the opportunity to minister.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Cor. 4:1-2 (NIV)

Believers are commanded to speak the truth to members of the body
16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; Zechariah 8:16 (NIV)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25 (NIV)

I understand their desire to minister and the temptation to omit some of their personal convictions to gain a ministry. It’s easy to fall into this trap.

Having to hide your true beliefs will not only be chaffing it will ultimately cause you to hate your ministry.

My most effective ministries have been those that I owned up to my potential doctrinal differences, Christian convictions, ministry goals, and values.

I remember one such ministry where during the interview process I was asked my position on using contemporary praise and worship music in the services. I thought to myself “Oh brother, here we go. This should shut down this interview pretty quickly!”

After explaining why I would use contemporary P&W music I sat back and waited to here their reaction. The search committee chairman eagerly exclaimed, “Great! When can you start?”

Over the next 9 years when some people questioned our use of this style of music I was able to remind them that I had been honest with them from the beginning. I had not hidden anything from them and had no secret agenda. . I ministered in integrity and I believe that God blessed our ministry in a miraculous way.

17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony,
but a false witness tells lies. Proverbs 12:17 (NIV)
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, Ephesians 6:14 (NIV)

Sometimes it’s hard to be true to your convictions.

It’s tempting to shave the truth so I can get busy ministering (forgetting that I am ministering where I am while I wait for Father to launch me into His next place to serve.

I am waiting on the Lord to open a new ministry in His time and like in the past, I’m going to be true to what God has taught me. I’m looking forward to sharing with you and the new ministry he has in mind for me.

Until then I’ll try to continue to speak the truth in love.

Dr. Val

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