How far are we to respect our church leaders?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Tom Hart, Apr 15, 2018.

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  1. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    How far are believers to respect our church leaders? What might a layman do if he sees his church countenancing sin?

    For example, your church puts up a giant portrait of "Jesus" near the door. Should you say something? Or just let it slide?

    Or your church does something in worship that goes against Scripture (ie. pretended holy days). Should you speak with the pastor or should you stay quiet?

    Or your church routinely disregards the Sabbath, the congregants along with the pastor going out to lunch or coffee after the Lord's Day worship. Is it best to keep your mouth shut?
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  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Churches differ in belief and application. If you are a newcomer to a church and they've had a picture of Jesus up for decades or have gone out to eat on Sunday for a long time, you'll likely make little headway making it your own personal crusade to change the climate of the church. No church is perfect, I'd recommend finding a different church or trying to enjoy the one you've got.
  3. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    It’s such a tough situation, Tom. I do know that God hasn’t appointed us lay members the responsibility for reforming a church.

    It can be such a painful thing to come to convictions on Reformed doctrinal things but be in a church where those things aren’t known or cared about. It’s grievous I know to be in a congregation that is too careless about God’s Law.

    Sometimes I need a break from thinking about it, and need to read things designed to help me be a better Christian, rather than stirring me up about all that’s wrong in the churches. It’s good to look for and appreciate the good, rather than focus on the wrong- way easier said than done! I feel for you and will pray for you today, for wisdom and patience.
  4. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Is the church otherwise preaching Christ in all His fullness, which is to say, the Reformed faith? Likely not, and that should form the center of your concern, prayer, and labor in that church, with the things you mentioned taking their proper place in the hierarchy of concerns.

    And in all of it, don't forget to look in the mirror. Whenever I start growing impatient with situations about me, whether I've addressed them or not (it's proper humbly to share your views with your leaders, but only in true love and lowliness), I seek to remember that I've a long way to go personally in terms of sanctification.

    I should never address any perceived problems without an acute awareness of how far I myself fall short of the requirements of the law and that I am, in every sense, a debtor to grace. This helps me deal graciously and patiently wiht those about me, realizing how gracious and patient the Lord is with me in my weaknesses and shortcomings. I need to learn to deal with others more like the Lord deals with me (Eph. 4:32).

    All this is to say, that I should not be overly focused on perceived problems in my local church, especially when those problems are likely, by far, not the greatest problems present.

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  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Thank you for your replies. They're quite helpful, as I really did not know what I should do in this situation. I have struggled to understand the relationship between this kind of Christian charity (if that's the right word) and the law of God.

    In private conversations with the pastor of the English congregation he has come to know some of my views. However, I have told him that I respect the authority of ordained leaders enough to not oppose them, unless they begin to promote allegiance to a pope or some such.

    I recognize the danger of focussing on the bad. It is easy to fall unto such a mindset, and I admit that have been there before. I ought to first remember the grace God has shown me and be made keenly aware of my own faults.

    I'll pray for my church, and for humility and patience for myself.
  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    This approach is most sensible. You also have to take into account the doctrinal standards of the church to which you belong. I currently attend an evangelical Anglican congregation, which is Reformed in a 39 Articles sense (I am trying to move them to embrace the more modern and progressive Irish Articles of Religion that the Westminster divines largely copied). I do not judge them by the same standard as the Reformed Presbyterian Church to which I used to belong, which had a much more detailed set of doctrinal standards. Oddly, though, the preaching and general ethos of my current congregation are much more overtly Reformed than that of the RPs.

    There are stain-glass windows in church with pictures of Jesus on them, which reflects the fact that the building was erected at a time when Romantic architecture had infected even evangelical Anglican churches. However, a very famous Australian Anglican theologian bluntly told my minister, "Those windows are idolatrous." A few of the more Reformed ministers in the Church of Ireland would agree with that sentiment, but it is very hard for them to do anything about it in their congregations.
  7. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Basically, Tom, I would adopt the approach of John Calvin (and Alan) to such issues. If you attend a fellowship of believers that is basically orthodox and is right on the main things, then you should patiently encourage further reform while keeping in mind that you are in need of further reform yourself.
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
    A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word;518 particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ;519 the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word;520 the administration and receiving of the sacraments;521church government and discipline;522 the ministry and maintainance thereof;523 religious fasting;524 swearing by the name of God;525 and vowing unto him;526 as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship;527 and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.528

    Sorry late to this, but I would just note that as a member we not only can but must address leaders on issues like this per the 2nd commandment, keeping our place and station and the scope of the fifth commandment also in view (see the LC on that as well) as others have already well noted. If these are not hypothetical, the first item is scandalous. If the idolatry is new, it will be far easy now than later to bring it up when it is accustomed and treasured. It is a crying shame even Reformed churches would rather live with the scandal of such prominent idolatry. If you are committed to the church you will have to look at this as long term if not multigenertional work to address things, prioritizing them as seriousness and opportunity dictates and approach each thing with prayer and planning and marshaling material for your case/plea.
  9. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    It is always much easier to nip a problem in the bud. If pictures of Christ have been recently introduced somewhere, they can more easily be removed. Moreover, it is likely that a significant number of the congregation will be resistant to the innovation and willing to see it removed.
  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Indeed (posted before seeing yours); it is far more likely if one comes into a church with a treasured icon front and centered of long standing admiration (and from a prominent family), that the image will stay and the potential reformer will be shown the door.
  11. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    None of this is hypothetical.

    Right when you enter the building, you'll see three massive portraits of "Jesus". (Actually, I think one of them is a Scandinavian hippie.)

    This is quite normal in a Korean church. The English ministry pastor is is not a fan, but he has little influence. He did say he'd say something after he saw the horrible calendars they put out. that Scandinavian hippie was on every page sporting a grin and clutching a sheep. I e-mailed the church about that one, but they never replied. I assume that's because I wrote in English.

    In the whole church, there must be dozens of pictures hanging about. One is expressly Roman Catholic, a medieval painting of the crucifixion. In addition, on every one of the envelopes used for the offering, there is a picture of that goofy statue in Rio de Janeiro.

    All this was well established long before I arrived.

    The list of bad stuff goes on and on, from the café selling coffee on the Sabbath to the prosperity gospel books being peddled in the entranceway. On a Sunday morning there are often salespeople at the front door trying to advertise new apartments. During election season there are hired workers promoting their candidate.

    The church is nominally Presbyterian, and in no sense Reformed.

    Most of the negative stuff is on the Korean side. The English ministry is more like a contemporary Western evangelical service.
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Ugh. Idols, idolatry and money changers. If they are everywhere you, particularly if alone in a large church, are expendable over against retaining precious idols, antinomian coffee and monetary interests of the money changers. I think you mentioned your options were difficult. At some point you need to consider if it is your place to reform such a huge mess, or for the sake of you and yours seek out something for your souls' good rather than all that provocation of conscience constantly before you. At some point it is not just excused ignorance but entrenched and confirmed ungodliness.
  13. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    On point would be the 5th Commandment Qqs 123 - 130. The answer is that we should always show respect to our elders until such time as they might be de-frocked.

    That doesn't mean that we shouldn't get to the Second commandment with regard to the second question - the issue should be rightly raised - but it must be done with respect and in due order.

    Edited to address issue raised downthread.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  14. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Where exactly did I not adduce the fifth commandment Edward?
  15. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    First establish one even has a duty (otherwise, be quiet and trust your elders), then note the requirements in doing that duty of respect and following of the fifth commandment.
  16. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    You are correct. I apologize and have edited my post to delete that reference.

    If I haven't cured the problem, please let me know and I'll work on it some more.
  17. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you and accepted.
  18. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    This is how the following early church writer reacted to your inquiry...

    Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403):
    Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. NPNF2: Vol. VI, The Letters of St. Jerome, Letter 51 - From Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, In Cyprus, to John, Bishop of Jerusalem, §9.

    I'm sure that any poor recipient would have been pleased.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  19. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I want to say there is a balance and an principle we need to follow.

    Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

    Heb 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

    (1Pe 5:1) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
    (1Pe 5:2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    (1Pe 5:3) Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
    (1Pe 5:4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
    (1Pe 5:5) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
    (1Pe 5:6) Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
    (1Pe 5:7) Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
    (1Pe 5:8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
    (1Pe 5:9) Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
    (1Pe 5:10) But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
    (1Pe 5:11) To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    If that is a place the Gospel is preached and lived give them time to grow out of the sin we all find ourselves in. Do not be overbearing but gracious. There are many ways to expose sin and win. There is one way to lose and make everyone scatter. Anger does much harm. It may take generations or just a revival of truth in a short time. You can have correct doctrine and still be lost. ! Corinthians chapter 13 reveals that.

    There are a lot of things to consider in your life though. We are only given three score and ten. If that. I have had to deal with what my children deal with. I believe I have placed myself in the best place locally for what they will have to learn and deal with. I suspect you have some of those considerations also.

    Either way, Love your Elders and learn how to make appeals instead of learning to be confrontive over issues you struggle with.

    BTW, I know a little bit about Korean culture. It is not like ours. Your situation is more complicated and family patriarchs and matriarchs have more influence and rule. That culture is very hard to show a difference of opinion in. Especially if you marry into it as an American. I know of a few guys who have done that. One was a boss I worked for. He was a Christian in the military. Saving face is real important for family and culture. So it will be hard.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  20. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    It may also be helpful to consider that you respect them 100% as officers. This doesn't mean you are obligated to agree with them 100%. I'm convicted every time I read the account of David and Saul. We can glean much from their relationship.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  21. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Amen to the above.
  22. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    You might want to get the book by D.R. McConnell " A Different Gospel" about the word of faith movement, and Hagin, Copeland, etc.

    There is a great deal we must prayerfully accept and patiently pray about in churches and people, but "prosperity gospel books" sounds like a different gospel entirely if it is the authors I would guess it to be. You can no more tolerate that than you can tolerate Mormons. It is outside the boundaries of basic essentials that define the broad and differing world of Christians. If you can possibly find another church that avoids this great error, please do so. I will pray for you, and I am sorry for your struggles.
  23. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I assure you that I am not exposed to prosperity gospel. The English ministry is headed by a doctrinally sound Baptist (sort of) pastor.

    It is the much larger Korean congregation that would be exposed to this kind of thing. I don't actually know what the teaching is like in their services. It may have a tinge of prosperity stuff, as much of Korean Christianity does, but I strongly doubt that it is full-on Osteen stuff. However, even if they are not openly teaching it, they fail to see the danger of these false teachers and you'll find their stuff in the library and sometimes for sale in the lobby. More than anything else, it's an issue with doctrinal shallowness and naïveté.
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