Monday, January 3, 2011

Let Us Be Careful About Questioning Motivation

As is obvious by now, I like to ask questions about the church. In particular, I ask questions about pastoral ministry. I read many others doing the same thing.

We must be careful in how we go about this. There is both what we should question and what, I believe, we need to avoid questioning.

We can and should call into question church practices that do not line up with scripture. This obviously applies to pastoral ministry as well as numerous other things. We can see practices. We can read what is in the bible. When these two things do not match up, then we both can and should ask, "Why?"

Where we must be very careful is calling into question the motivation behind the practices. The reason for this is that we cannot see the heart of the person who may be doing something that we believe does not line up with scripture. Concerning pastors, we have no way (other than asking them directly) of knowing why they do what they do.

Let's take an example: the traditional sermon that involves no group discussion. The practice of a pastor preaching a sermon to a church with no discussion involved is foreign to the New Testament. It is fair for us to call this into question. However, it is unfair for us to call into question the motivation of the pastor who does this. Instead of questioning his motivation in the blog-o-sphere, we should ask him why he does this. We may find that he believes this is the best practice for the edification of the church body. We may find that he is trying to gradually move toward opening up a discussion time after the sermon. We may discover that his church is transitioning to evening small groups that will talk over the morning sermon.

I'm troubled by the tendency in the blog world to openly question the motivations of institutional church pastors. I fairly frequently read very broad statements about how these pastors desire power, want the church people to think of them as "an expert," crave Pope-like status, seek domination of all aspects of church life, etc.

It strikes me that when we question pastoral motivation in sweeping brush strokes we are at the same time violating Matthew 7:1-5, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

I've written about this subject before so I'll stop now. Please let me close by exhorting you (and myself) to ask good questions about any practices we see that do not correspond to biblical standards. In doing this, we do well to begin with self, for we can judge both our own practices and motivation.

We simply do not know the motivation behind most pastoral practices. We have no right to stand in judgment over their motivations. We must avoid doing so.


Jack Watkins said...

Eric that is a great point and will be taken to heart by me.

I don't read your blog enough. Just saw Alan's link to your series on home church. Going to get caught up on it.

Eric said...


Thanks for reading and commenting. As for the house church concept, I'm excited about it. This series is helping me get my thoughts in order. I'm happy if it can benefit others and encourage conversation.