Monday, October 13, 2014

I Don't Go There Anymore

A few years ago I was a deacon in a church whose pastoral staff asked us to submit, in writing, our evaluations of each individual pastor and to provide reasons for our approval or disapproval.

I protested at the outset; I believed the process would be unbiblical, fruitless, divisive, emotionally stressful, and just plain stupid. Nevertheless, the “powers that were” insisted that we should proceed. We were assured that our input would be completely anonymous and confidential.  I knew better and, as it turned out, I was right.  My input was instantly associated with my name.

In my evaluation I revealed, what I believed to be, a careful and objective analysis of a pastoral team  that was ideologically and philosophically conflicted concerning the ecclesiastic work and purpose of the church.

Basically, it boiled down to this; there was an evident and recognizable division among leaders in which one side possessed a strong and sincere, evangelistic desire to implement a popular church growth plan that would effectively change our worship services, practices, and programs for the purpose of being more relevant, attractive, and acceptable to contemporary cultures and the local unchurched community.  On the other side was an obvious attempt to preserve traditional and conservative methods usually associated with biblical  orthodox Christianity.

I maintained, without interjecting my personal opinions, beliefs, or preferences, that both ideologies could be wrong but it was absolutely certain that both could NOT be simultaneously right. Therefore, I concluded, there was tension and conflict in leadership that was confusing to the people and dangerous to the health of the church.

Now, it is not my purpose here to expound any further on the nature or the result of the rift; I simply want to point out that my entire six-page analysis was wasted and lost over my use of ONE SINGLE WORD.

When they received my input (which, remember, THEY ASKED FOR IT), one of them became fixated on the word, “orthodox.”

“Orthodox? Is that the kind of church Ralph thinks we should have?” he sneered.

The truth of the matter was that I offered no personal opinions or preferences at all.  I simply made the case that they, the pastoral staff, had the ability to decide, among themselves, what would be their ministry direction and what practices they would employ to realize their objectives. We were a baptist church, for cryin' out loud, and baptists are self-governing; it was certainly within their prerogative to do what they believed they needed to do.  Once they reached consensus and were united in purpose, they should openly declare it courageously and unapologetically, and then defend it biblically (if possible) so that the people could make informed decisions about their personal support for the ministry and their leaders.

I guess it was just ignorance on the part of my critic but, I admit, I was disappointed that he would criticize the word I used without even understanding its meaning.  My guess is that he ignorantly or errantly associated the word, orthodoxy, as some sort of a stiff-collared style of worship and formal practices usually associated with liturgical high churches.

I am NOT a Greek scholar but, as near as I can determine, the word, orthodox, derives from two Greek words:

Ortho - meaning correct or straight as in orthodontics (to straighten or correct teeth) or orthopedics (to straighten or correct bone structures).

Dox – from which we get the word, doxology (having to do with the form of worship or praise).

So orthodox Christianity would be defined by worship and teaching that is doctrinally straight and correct according to the authoritative Word of God.

Yes! As a matter of fact, I guess that really is exactly the kind of church I want.

They never did settle their internal disunity.  The people were confused and the church was damaged. Needless to say, I am no longer a member of that church.

original post-July 25, 2009

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