The Public Church Figure

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S (Scripture): 1 Timothy 3:This saying is reliable: if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor [bishop] in the church, they want a good thing. 2 So the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching. 3 They shouldn’t be addicted to alcohol or be a bully. Instead, they should be gentle, peaceable, and not greedy. 4 They should manage their own household well—they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, 5 because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church? 6 They shouldn’t be new believers so that they won’t become proud and fall under the devil’s spell. 7 They should also have a good reputation with those outside the church so that they won’t be embarrassed and fall into the devil’s trap.

O (Observation): Seems like a tall order. Be perfect? Well, Jesus said something about being perfect. Maybe all of this language about being perfect and striving for the Kingdom is about doing all you can do serve God in your context on this earth.

Bishops and deacons are mentioned in 1 Tim 3. Those taking public roles in the church have a responsibility. To serve God and to do so full of confidence and humility is a tough challenge. Yet that is the call.

A (Application): If you don’t want to be scrutinized, don’t go into public church work. You will be scrutinized and critiqued and challenged.

Now, with a humble spirit, you can take all of that public scrutiny and work it towards good for you and for God.

If the critique is good and honest and given in a constructive way, then by all means: bring it on!

If the critique is given to push you down so that another can lift themselves up, then that is not helpful. In fact, that is destructive.

I can gladly say that over my years of ministry, almost all of my critiques have come in loving ways that have helped me to grow. That encourages me to keep serving God and Church. (For those few times I received negative comments in a spirit of fear, I tend to dismiss rather well…though they do affect me.)

Please remember all of this when you are using 1 Tim 3 to constructively criticize your public church leaders. We aren’t perfect. We strive for the greater things by striving for the Kingdom. We know that God will guide us and shape our work as leaders in the church.

P (Prayer): God, mold us into the leaders you call us to be.

The Public Square

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S (Scripture): Acts 26:24 At this point in Paul’s defense, Festus declared with a loud voice, “You’ve lost your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you mad!”

25 But Paul replied, “I’m not mad, most honorable Festus! I’m speaking what is sound and true. 26 King Agrippa knows about these things, and I have been speaking openly to him. I’m certain that none of these things have escaped his attention. This didn’t happen secretly or in some out-of-the-way place. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you trying to convince me that, in such a short time, you’ve made me a Christian?”

29 Paul responded, “Whether it is a short or a long time, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today will become like me, except for these chains.”

O (Observation): The debate is quite interesting. Arguing a case for faith in front of a government judge is like explaining photosynthesis to a rock. It just doesn’t need to be. The courts and the religious leaders served two different purposes in Paul’s time. The religious leaders stuck to questions of faith and the political leaders were concerned with control of their people and lands.

So, in his attempt to defend himself, Paul takes the opportunity to explain that he has no beef with the state, except that he is currently in chains.

Paul then brings faith into the debate, because he is trying to appeal to the king’s faith. You believe in the prophets, right? They foretold of the one to come. Jesus!

King Agrippa won’t be pulled into a debate on faith, but I admire Paul’s struggle to make the king’s faith part of his decision regarding Paul’s possible incarceration.

A (Application): How often do we appeal to our own calling as Christians in the world when making decisions in the public square? We like to treat our faith lives separate from our everyday lives. In doing so, we miss the opportunity for God to shape us and to work with us through our everyday struggles.

When I see injustice, I consider my own self and how I am only where I am by the grace of God. Don’t others get to experience that same grace by God and the community?

When someone decides that they want to not sell a cake to someone or not marry someone because of a religious (Christian) conviction, I would suggest that their use of religion is one that looks to defend an ideology, rather than embrace the person and teachings of Christ.

First and foremost, we extend mercy, because we have first received mercy. So our following is made of worship and fellowship and service in which we can embrace this mercy and give it as we have received it.

Second, we extend mercy and lean on Christ’s teachings so as to connect with others through a shared sense of being broken. Our shared faith is not because we can confidently and boldly profess our faith, but rather we proclaim that we share a lack of perfection and wholeness. As we share our faith, we don’t just make a faith claim, but rather we speak as a people who knows they need Christ to bind them up in their woundedness.

May we be as bold as Paul to speak of our faith in the public square, and may we do so out of a response to the grace and mercy shown to us first by Christ.

P (Prayer): Lord, heal me, a sinner. Cause me to speak in your name always. Amen.