I think Christians should read the Book of Lamentations, at least once a year.
Why? It tells us what happens to a nation that has the covenants and the promises of God, but continually rejects God’s Word, for hundreds of years. The Bible promises us that
the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it (Prov.2:21-22).
Jeremiah’s Lamentations are a fulfillment of Biblical promise to the wicked and the treacherous. That was how far Judah had walked away from God. I think we are in the midst of something similar today.
The church has a lot to learn about Biblical accountability, from the top down. Church structures very commonly, have been set up to protect leaders from accountability, while giving the people in the pews little opportunity to hold those people to account. Consequently, time after time we’ve had to endure the embarrassment of scandals, while church leaders have to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign on to Constitutions or codes of conduct, that ensure their lives are scrutinised.
I have a friend in a Baptist church. He told me that the pastor is trying to maintain his power, defy the wishes of his church, and marginalise the dissidents. Sounds like he’s a tyrant, to me. But there is nothing in the church’s constitution which requires him to submit to the local leaders. Where’s the constitution when the people need protection? Where are the Biblical elders? (There aren’t any).
Another Brethren church friend in central Queensland was surprised to hear one Sunday morning, that the elders of his church had appointed a new elder. He asked some questions:
Consultation? We don’t do that.
Opportunity for nominations to come from the grass roots? No.
Opportunity for the members to vote? No, we don’t do democracy.
The danger of nepotism? Well, there could be that. The new elder happens to be the son in law of a recently retired elder. It just happened that way, you see.
And I haven’t even mentioned the long litany of sexual abuse cases, right throughout the church, along with financial scandals that have rocked the church for thirty years. And it all keeps happening. Money, sex and power: the usual points of challenge for the human heart.
How can there be any optimism, in the midst of all this? It will be based on the church choosing to be faithful to God’s Word, and requiring Biblical accountability of its leaders and members, because “…it is time for judgement to begin with the household of God…” (I Pet.4:17).
The importance of this cannot be overstated. Isaiah reproved Israel,
How the faithful city has become a harlot, she who was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your drink diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them. Therefore the Lord God of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, declares, ‘Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries and avenge Myself on all My foes. I will also turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye and will all remove your alloy. Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city.’ Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness (Isa.1:21-27).
I suppose one at least of my readers would say now,
But Andrew, we’ve got an excellent pastor, and we trust him. He’s great.
Well, that sounds good, but remember this passage:
Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation (Ps.146:3).
The one man band church leadership pattern has no validity in scripture, and commonly brings frustration or pain. That means that every church needs elders, then deacons. If there is a pastor, he should be an Elder, one of a Board. That way, he has no authority over them, ensuring there is plurality of leadership, and accountable leadership.
What do we really need? A proper and serious case of Biblical reconstruction, where the church diligently investigates what are the Biblical responsibilities and roles of elders. Then, they (ie, the members) choose men who fulfil the Biblical criteria, are vigilant and vigorous and who fear God, and actively care for His flock.
I’m a Teacher, in a Distance Education school, working from home. I’m responsible to keep a daily log of all my activities, so that my superiors know what I’m doing, daily. Why couldn’t paid pastors complete a Work Log daily, for their fellow Elders to examine whenever they wished?
Elders who are asleep at the wheel? Elders who preside over nepotism? Elders who are indifferent to not just what is done, but how things are done? Those days would now be over, and the sooner the better.
It would lead to the church developing a reputation for caring for people, and accepting the responsibility for some real and substantial tasks. That would lead to the church developing some authority in the community. Now that would be something special.
Paul had some words of reproof for the Corinthians, when he pointed out to them that
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? (I Cor.6:3).
It’s the purpose of God that the church becomes significant and powerful in the community again. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? And it will begin, in the language of Nehemiah, with the gates and walls of Jerusalem being built up, and her judges being returned their positions, ruling in the gates, bringing justice and righteousness in the local community.
What if every nation had thousands of those churches?
Is that what you’d like to see? Isn’t it time to act on it?