Tag Archives: family

The upside down leadership model of the Christian church

Felicity Dale has written an excellent series of posts intended to answer the question “Do organic/simple churches believe in leadership?”.

Here is an excellent video which I believe summarizes what the Bible teaches with regard to leadership in the Body of Christ:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

-Matthew 20:25-28

Share/Bookmark

Blind guides: What professional church leaders think about members who ask questions

In a recent Baptist Press article titled “When people criticize church leadership”, Thom Rainer took on the task of addressing why it is that

The level and frequency of criticisms toward pastors and other leaders has increased significantly in the past several years.

Thom’s observations begin with:

First, the standards of church membership have been low in many churches for many years. As a consequence our churches have more and more unregenerate members. Frankly, I would be not be surprised if some of the most vitriolic criticisms come from those who are not Christians.

I’ve heard this line of reasoning offered by several professional pastors so its hardly surprising that Thom would offer this as his initial point. What is surprising is the amount of arrogance required to sustain such a position. Who is Thom or anyone else to call into question anyone else’s commitment to Christ? Oh sure, we could if the person in question fit any of the Biblical criteria for doing so, but as far as Thom is concerned, merely asking questions is enough grounds to call into question one’s salvation.

Second, church members have been unwilling to take a stand when they see and hear unwarranted criticism toward the pastor and other leaders. This silence is shameful and sinful. Belligerent critics remain critics often because other church members are fearful of rebuking them. In some ways, the silent majority is just as wrong as the constant critics.

I’m not sure what churches Thom has been to, but in my experience quite the opposite is true. A member of the congregation is expected to face considerable odds if they wish to even raise a question regarding their pastor or leadership. And when they do, there is an inevitable wall of deacons and other groupies that usually descend on them like jackals to corral them back into line. This is what most pastors consider “unity”.

The first seven verses of Acts 6 tell the story of complaining by a group in the early church. In this case, the concern was warranted because a group of widows was being neglected. The Twelve appointed seven men to take care of the widows and thus, stopped the criticisms.

Though it may not be the central thrust of the text, we see clearly that a divided and critical congregation was a serious concern for early church leaders. The ministry had to continue, and the divisiveness had to stop. We also see that the entire congregation had a stake in this issue (verse 5, “The proposal pleased the whole company”). There was no sinful and silent majority unwilling to tackle this issue.

This exposes a common trait among professional church leaders. Thom assumes here, with admittedly no Biblical support, that the primary focus of church life is on the leaders. So much for that whole bit about the greatest being servants and all that jazz. No sir, that’s not the sort of stuff that will allow pastors to build massive churches based off of the tax free donations of others.

At least in principle, the solutions are simple. The standards of church membership must be held high, and the benefits are numerous beyond just dealing with critics. We can’t expect unregenerate church members to act like Christians.

Apparently regenerate church members are people who don’t cause any waves. They don’t ask questions. In fact, the really regenerate church members are barely distinguishable from zombies.

Its little wonder that churches today are bleeding members left and right. Or that the average “regenerate” church member is unable to answer even the mildest challenge to their faith.

Second, church members must be willing to confront the sinful behavior of the perpetual and ill-intentioned critics. While no church leader should be above legitimate criticisms, the tide has turned too far in the other direction. Criticisms are paralyzing too many good leaders.

Its fascinating that Thom spends so much time assuming that the bulk of criticisms are illegitimate and yet provides no concrete basis on distinguishing between the two. In fact, Thom’s remaining article addresses how to throw out what he considers to be threats to the church business. Little, if any, consideration is given to the question of how we are to tell if the pastor and leaders is wrong and what to do if they are.

My guess is that this omission is due to the underlying assumption of most pastors that they are “god’s men” and have somehow been rendered infallible (likely by their supposed special calling and subsequent ordination into the ‘priesthood’).

Even though Thom’s article is almost 100% wrong, it is useful in pointing out one thing. I believe the attitude Thom displays here is a large reason why men like myself steer clear of most institutional churches as much as we can.

Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. -Matthew 15:14

Why libertarians should be opposed to same-sex marriage

During a discussion on same-sex marriage with one of my more liberal friends, I mentioned not wanting the state to encourage self-destructive behavior like homosexuality. My friend asked why I, a libertarian, would want the government to interfere in people’s lives.

Unfortunately this is actually a common libertarian position. So in an attempt to persuade my fellow libertraians, let me outline why I believe all libertarians ought to be opposed to same-sex marriage.

Libertarians believe in limited government. Same sex marriage greatly expands the role of government in peoples’ lives. Ergo, I am opposed to same-sex marriage because it would necessarily entail an expansion of the government just like it has in every country that has embraced same-sex marriage.

Here’s a great article about the effects of normalizing aberrant sexual practices weakens the institution of marriage.

Weakening marriage means the state needs to grow to take on the roles the parents once filled. Today that means the state becomes the husband (provider/protector/teacher) in the lives of millions of single-parent homes (which are predominantly female).

When we make sex out to be a private pleasure divorced from any public good (like the production and care and raising of children) then we end up with fewer children (because they are seen as a nuisance) and fewer marriages which provide the most stable environment for the raising of children.

And you know what’s great about properly functioning marriages? The state doesn’t need to interfere with them, so it doesn’t need to grow in order to provide anyone with an imagined “right”.

The family is the fundamental building block of society. And for that reason, all libertarians should be opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

How does the younger generation view marriage? And what does that say about our society’s future?

At a wedding the other night I wittnessed an event that charactarized the state of marriage in America.

This event ocurred when it came time to throw the bouquet and fling the garder belt, a tradition which supposedly determines or indicates who is the next to be married.

First the women

When the bride went to throw her bouquet the single ladies dutifully lined up. Their attitude was less than enthusiastic. They reluctantly shuffled over to the area where the bride was to throw the bouquet. And when it came time, the bouquet was begrudgingly caught by the woman it hit.

Now for the men

Likewise, the men were not enthusiastic about catching the garter belt. However when it came time to catch the garter belt a strange thing happened. No one caught it. Not only were the men not enthusiastic about catching the garter belt, they were actively opposed to the very idea! After hitting one of the men in the chest with the garter belt, the groom walked over and shoved the garter belt into the hands of the man he had hit. None of the men wanted the garter belt!

And their attitude was not mere apathy. I can fully understand not being overly enthusiastic about something that takes a lot of hard work to produce so little personal pleasure. What struck me was how openly hostile the men were to the very notion of marriage.

Observations

Marriage is an unpopular endeavor to say the least. Having fun with a member of the opposite sex is desired, but making the tough decision to build a life with someone is not. Even after deciding to get married, the decision to have children is generally held off (if nature does not interrupt the couple’s plans that is) until the woman decides she wants to accept the role she was designed for.

Among young adults today, marriage and children are not seen as logical next-steps on the road to maturity. In fact, outside of attaining gainful employment (and for some even that is a stretch) there appears to be a great lack of ultimate goals being aimed at.

Perhaps that’s why one of the biggest problems we face today is a failure to launch. Why bother to launch when you haven’t yet decided on the destination?

Wounding children

I got into a discussion a while back about the legitimacy of corporal punishment. Liberal parents are fond of labeling any form of punishment child abuse1.

Corporal punishment aside, lets look at the notion of child abuse a bit more.

Let’s say a couple has casual sex, sex outside of marriage, sex outside of a framework that is designed to facilitate the life that could result. If a life were to come about under such circumstances, I believe the couple has committed an act of child abuse by not providing a suitable environment for this newly created life.

Now the parents of this new life could decide to terminate this life. This inconvenience. This parasite. And this would be their last and final act of child abuse as far as this tiny, but no less viable, life is concerned.

But lets say they aren’t as heartless as so many millions of parents are each year. Let’s say they have actually have a bit of moral fiber in their being and decide to care for the life they have created.

If the couple does not decide to start rectifying the unsuitable environment for the new life they have created, meaning they get married and start working on building as much of a home as they can in 9 months, then they are further abusing the child by depriving it of it’s natural right to a family (which means, at minimum, a mother and father who are committed to each other and the new life they have made).

Being in a single parent home (mostly the mother) is the #1 indicating factor of childhood poverty. So when a couple decides to not create a suitable environment for the life they both participated in making, why don’t we call that what it is? It’s child abuse.

When it comes to what is commonly understood to be child abuse, that is the inappropriate application of physical pain, studies have overwhelmingly shown that the greatest threat to the well being of a child is not their biological father. It’s their mother’s live-in boyfriend.

So if people are serious about ending child abuse, why isn’t there more focus on alleviating the situations and factors that lead up to the cases commonly understood to be child abuse (like the mother who stabs her children to death in a gas station bathroom, or the mother who drowns her children in a bathtub, or the mother who shakes her child to death so she can play farmville)? Why don’t we stand up for all abused children?

Sometimes the worst abuse is the kind that leaves no visible marks at all.

  1. That discussion led to this post on the sovereign status of parents over their children. []

The family and the state

Recently, a friend of mine posted a link to an article which details how Sweden views corporal punishment.

KARLSTAD, Sweden, November 30, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Swedish district court has sentenced a couple to nine months each in prison and fined them the equivalent of US $10,650 after they admitted to spanking three of their four children as a normal part of their parenting methods. Corporal punishment of children by parents was made illegal in Sweden in 1979, an early step in what a U.S. parental rights lawyer called the nearly total take-over of parenting by the state in Sweden. Court documents, quoted by Sveriges Television, said that the parents, who have not been named in the press, “explained that they had used, what they themselves described as spanking, physical punishment as part of their methods for raising the children.” There is no indication of abuse by the parents in the released documents, with the court noting that the parents “had a loving and caring relationship with their children.”

Families are the building blocks of society, and so it logically follows that parents are sovereign over their (plural possessive) children. Now some might object that this sounds like slavery and that they “don’t think anyone has sovereignty over anyone, whatever the status of any given institution in society. Responsibility, yes, and certainly parents have authority over their children, within the constraints of what is morally and socially acceptable.” However this poses a couple of problems.

Parental sovereignty

Humans are contingent beings. As such we cannot be our own sovereigns. Children in particular are dependent. The question is “dependent on whom?” Naturally, I would argue, they are dependent on their parents, the beings responsible for their existence. So when I say that parents are sovereign over their children I am simply pointing out their unique relationship with their offspring.

Social acceptability

As I’ve written elsewhere, a standard of morality based on societal norms is, by definition, not a standard. The reality is that the sovereign gets to make the rules. That means God as our ultimate sovereign, parents as their childrens’ sovereign and government as the sovereign of free men1.

Government serves families, not the other way around

Here in the US, during our “wild west” days, a constraint was placed on lawmakers and courts to honor that unique relationship above all else. Consequently state intervention in family matters was rare and required a great deal of justification on the state’s part. And even then it was seen as a failing all around if the state had to intervene because that meant violating the societal flow of families being the building blocks of society and consequently government. So when we look at cases like the article above we can confidently say that Sweden is a bad place to live because it has a wrong view of how societies are built. It is not the government’s job to raise children, it is the job of their parents. At best the government can and should encourage and equip parents to form healthy and stable families, but under no circumstances should governments or voters be tempted to think that it is anyone other than the parents who get to decide what is best for their children. Signed, A father of three and a husband of one.

  1. It may shock some people to think about children as not being free, but that’s life. In fact, I would argue that a human child’s extended dependent status provides a clear rebuttal against Darwinian evolution. []

Little platoons

One of the first symptoms they discover of a selfish and mischievous ambition, is a profligate disregard of a dignity which they partake with others. To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Reflections on the French Revolution. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The “little platoon” Burke was writing about is the family.

Families are important.

Thanks to Whom?

Last year my daughter helped shed some insights into Thanksgiving. And since she reminded me of her insights again this year, I thought I would share them with everyone. Enjoy!

My daughter’s recently had a week where the emphasis was on “being thankful” before Thanksgiving this year.

Curiously, or typically rather in our politically correct society, she and her classmates weren’t told who they were supposed to be thankful to. Just to have a general attitude of thankfulness. But that raises an interesting question:

Thanks to whom?

My wife immediately recognized the problem such an ungrounded view of “general attitude of thankfulness” presents. We’ve been teaching our children to pray and they typically begin “Thank you Jesus…” Right from the start we’ve tried to make them understand that what we have is not our own1 and that the thanks we offer has a specific object in the form of Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all things Colossians 1:16-17.

Whether you have a deity such as Krishna, Allah, or the I AM of the Bible, or an inanimate object like genetics, “mother earth”, or an impersonal force like fate, our thanks must be directed at something.

So this season our goal has been to further instill (as much as possible with a 4 and 2 year old) the understanding that thanksgiving without an object is a contradiction in terms. Who knows, maybe they will be able to pass that bit of information on to their deistic friends. Wishful thinking, I know, but hey stranger things have happened.

Happy thanksgiving!

  1. That is, not of our own making. We may earn the physical things we buy but the existence of those things is beyond our control. In fact, even the ability to gain the resources needed to obtain the things we are thankful for are beyond our control. So while we work hard and want to teach our children to do the same, we also want to teach them that every moment we’ve been given is a gift from above and we should be thankful for even the very breath in our lungs. []

Church as family

Elroy Bosch has recently written an excellent post titled “A (not-so-secret) Secret to Great Church Life”. Here are a couple of highlights:

  • Families Genuinely Take Care of One Another.
  • Families Spend Time Together.
  • Families Show One Another Affection.
  • Families Grow.1
  • Families Share Responsibility.

I think he sums it up nicely in the outset:

Today, the overbearing metaphor influencing the way we think in the church is not family but the corporation metaphor. And not only is it absent from the New Testament, it does violence to the spirit of Christianity. Because from God’s standpoint, the church is primarily a family. His family, in fact.

Alan Knox comments:

Those first Christians knew all about hierarchy and organization and even corporate structures. But, instead of employing that type of language, they referred to the church as family.

  1. Numerically and in maturity. But families do not grow exponentially because that would hinder the growth in maturity of all the members. []

The epistemology of pornography

Much has been said regarding pornography. It’s use, it’s consumption, it’s effects on both groups, and it’s effect on society.

I want to step back, however, for a minute and discuss how pornography itself constitutes a “way of knowing” regarding sex and how this method of knowing, this ideological grid, colors how we think about sex in general and our own personal sexual relationships in particular.

To begin with, we need to take a look at what pornography is, and isn’t.

The etymology of pornography is basically “writing about prostitutes/harlots/whores”. For our purposes we’ll take the first definition from The Free Dictionary: writings, pictures, films, etc., designed to stimulate sexual excitement So pornography is not merely a subjective description but one which is based on the intent (either stated or implied) of the author.

With that in mind we need to look at how pornography is often transmitted. The preferred medium pornography uses is often pictographic.

Videos and images.

Sure, there is such a thing as text-based pornography in the form of erotic stories and harlequin romance novels. However these are not what has propelled the pornography industry into a multi-billion dollar enterprise1.

Why is it important that most pornography is conveyed in the medium of images? Because the medium shapes the message.

In short; Context.

Pornographic images and even videos do not generally convey much context. Aside from a small amount of foreplay, mood-setting pretext, and, on the rare occasion, an “ending” to round things out, not much time is spent in pornography delving into the actor’s thoughts or feelings. Aside from obvious physical compatibility, the viewer is left not knowing what kind of person either participant is.

And herein lies the rub.

Pornography systematically destroys the context wherein sex normally lies and thereby produces a wholly unrealistic fantasy world.

Unfortunately many people in our culture, no doubt conditioned through countless hours of exposure to both soft and hardcore pornography, have tried to live out in real life what they have seen acted out in pornography. They embark upon serially monogamous relationships. Or, as is becoming more common, they embrace “open relationships”, “friends with benefits”, and the lure of so-called sexual liberation with wild abandon.

Why? What are they looking for?

Cheap entertainment.

You see, the antithesis to this sort of sexual epistemology is the one that has been traditionally accepted throughout the ages. That is, the idea that sexual activity takes place within the context of a long-term monogamous relationship. Or, to put it more specifically; the sexual epistemology of the past was rooted firmly in traditional marriage and family.

In the end, there are really only two ways of thinking about sex. Either it is within a specific context or it isn’t. Context-less sex is made to be appealing through the widespread proliferation of context-less pornography.

  1. You’ll be waiting quite a while if you’re waiting on a “Girls Gone Wild” novel. []