Archives For NAE

The Character of the Minister

Greg Strand – June 28, 2012 Leave a comment

In light of the “Code of Ethics for Pastors” released by the NAE, I thought this statement by Spurgeon was fitting. The importance of character and integrity for those called to be undershepherds of the flock, under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has always been. In his requirement (“must be”) for elders, Paul notes that “an overseer must be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2, emphasis mine). This is the foundation of what Spurgeon writes below and the recent publication of NAE’s “Code”: 

When we say to you, my dear brethren, take care of your life, we mean be careful of even the minutiae of your character. Avoid little debts, unpunctuality, gossipping, nicknaming, petty quarrels, and all other of those little vices which fill the ointment with flies. The self-indulgences which have lowered the repute of many must not be tolerated by us. The familiarities which have laid others under suspicion, we must chastely avoid. The roughnesses which have rendered some obnoxious, and the fopperies which have made others contemptible, we must put away. We cannot afford to run great risks through little things. Our care must be to act on the rule, ‘giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.’

By this is not intended that we are to hold ourselves bound by every whim or fashion of the society in which we move. As a general rule, I hate the fashions of society, and detest conventionalities, and if I conceived it best to put my foot through a law of etiquette, I should feel gratified in having it to do. No, we are men, not slaves; and are not to relinquish our manly freedom, to be the lackeys of those who affect gentility or boast refinement. Yet, brethren, anything that verges upon the coarseness which is akin to sin, we must shun as we would a viper. The rules of Chesterfield are ridiculous to us, but not the example of Christ; and He was never coarse, low, discourteous, or indelicate.

Even in your recreations, remember that you are ministers. When you are off the parade you are still officers in the army of Christ, and as such demean yourselves. But if the lesser things must be looked after, how careful should you be in the great matters of morality, honesty, and integrity! Here the minister must not fail. His private life must ever keep good tune with his ministry, or his day will soon set with him, and the sooner he retires the better, for his continuance in his office will only dishonour the cause of God and ruin himself.

Charles Spurgeon, “The Minister’s Self-Watch” in Lectures to my Students

Dear Lord, we know these words from Paul well. Forgive us when they become words we know and truths we preach that are divorced from the lives we live. Forgive us when we confuse knowledge for maturity. Forgive us when we live as if we are the exceptions to these biblical mandates we know and preach faithfully to others. Forgive us that when we fail to live lives that are above reproach we justify, rationalize and make excuses rather than repent. May we keep in step with the Spirit, may we be pursue holiness and righteousness, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, and may we progressively be conformed into the image of God the Son, all to God’s glory (in His Trinitarian fullness), the good of His people, and our own spiritual well-being. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

HT for the quote: Jeremy Walker (through Bob Burris)

Principles for Immigration Reform

Greg Strand – June 20, 2012 1 Comment

Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform

From the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) website:

At a time when immigration has become a partisan talking point for campaigns on both sides of the aisle, these Christian leaders are uniting to call on Democrats and Republicans to lead our nation to a bipartisan solution on immigration.

Evangelical leaders formally announced the creation of an “Evangelical Immigration Table” to advance a cohesive immigration reform message and strategy while building political will in the pews. The “Table” was more than one year in the making and represents an unprecedented coalition of evangelicals from diverse political and theological backgrounds. The leaders made the case that humane immigration reform should be a moral priority and told stories of how concerted outreach to evangelical churches and colleges is already shifting opinions on immigration reform among the evangelical grassroots.

This is the heart of the brief document.

As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:

• Respects the God-given dignity of every person
• Protects the unity of the immediate family
• Respects the rule of law
• Guarantees secure national borders
 Ensures fairness to taxpayers
• Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

This is a good document for what it sets out to do. The strength of this document is its brevity; the weakness of this document is its brevity. That simply is the way it works. If the document would have become much longer, it would not be as useful. As it is, the concern and criticism is that it is too simple. However, remembering its intent, it must be read as general principles, not specifics. It is these general principles that ought to frame the specific outworking of immigration reform.

Joe Carter, “Evangelical Leaders Call for Immigration Reform” (June 15, 2012): , is one who affirms the evangelical leaders for their attempt to find bi-partisan agreement and for their commitment to provide a framework by which evangelicals ought to process this issue. But his concern is that it is “too vaguely worded to be of use as a guiding document on actual policy.” My guess is that most evangelical leaders who drafted and have since signed this document would agree. But this limitation does not negate the importance and usefulness of these principles.

Earlier this week the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) released the “Code of Ethics for Pastors.”

As this document was being written, the NAE March Evangelical Leaders Survey revealed that “71 percent of evangelical leaders are not required to sign a formal code of ethics.” Leith Anderson, NAE President, notes “For many churches and Christian organizations, there are unspoken rules, or guidelines, for ethical behavior. The problem with unspoken rules is that no one has agreed to a standard. That yields mixed expectations.” (“Most Church Leaders Don’t Sing Codes of Ethics” April 30, 2012)

David Neff, vice president of Christianity Today, interviewed Luder Whitlock, the chair of the NAE task force responsible for writing this Code: “Why the NAE Issued a Clergy Code of Ethics,” Christianity Today (June 13 [web-only] 2012)

Whitlock’s general impression of evangelical pastors today is they are committed to serving the Lord and His people. He gives pastors a high mark. The reason he believes it is important to have a document like this today is that even though pastors “intend to do the right thing,” in this cultural climate with eroding standards of morality, “in many instances there isn’t adequate clarity and a strong enough sense of obligation to what’s right.” And in the midst of this malaise, “pastors need to be paragons of moral integrity for other believers and examples of moral integrity to the world.”

As part of this longer interview, Neff asked Whitlock about denominational support, moral areas of which pastors must be aware and moral temptations that pastors are susceptible to rationalize and justify.

Don’t denominations provide enough guidance for their pastors and churches?

Denominations have produced a few things, but most haven’t. The few existing statements tend to be truncated in scope or overly legalistic and rule specific. There is no broad statement or code that everybody adopts, like we have the statement of faith.

Years ago we realized we needed to outline financial accountability for organizations, so the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability came about.

Strangely, no one has done the same for clergy’s ethical behavior. Everyone kept assuming, “We know what’s right. People know it, why don’t they do it?” But really, when you have a world that’s swirling with change like ours and so few people know the Bible well, it’s all the more imperative to come up with something like this.

When we think of unethical clergy, sinful sexual relationships immediately come to mind. What are the other areas you want clergy to be cautious about?

The most important thing of all is the development of character, of personal integrity. When spiritual, moral maturity is the standard, then it helps bring all other issues into alignment with biblical standards. Having said that, financial issues quickly come to mind. Close behind are family matters. Inadequate concern for the reputation of others, including other pastors, resulting in tarnished reputations.

What are the sneakiest temptations pastors face? What do they find it easy to rationalize?

Their use of time, family obligations, playing favorites, plagiarizing, personal use of church resources without permission, accessing pornography via the Internet.

A lot of ministers don’t have a strong sense of obligation regarding how they spend their time. They seldom have anyone looking over their shoulder. That’s one area that needs more attention than it will get.

Whitlock responded to the question of how to balance between sin and holiness, either responding with a “all have sins” and thus lessening the call to holiness, or with a strong commitment to holiness that tends toward legalism. Whitlock speaks to the issue of how to think about and approach this “Code of Ethics for Pastors.”

Because Christian theology says we are all affected by an interior drive toward sin, we’re not surprised that pastors do things they shouldn’t. Yet we’re also called to a life of holiness. In dealing with clergy, how do we balance realism about human nature with our strong commitment to holiness?

We need to be very honest about the standards the Lord gives us. We also need to avoid turning the standards into legalism.

We must realize that we are all sinners and will in some ways fall short. If we expect perfection of a minister or a congregation, we will be disappointed. How do we find the right balance? First, by making our dependence on the Lord and our obedience to Him of paramount importance. Second, by being the same person in public that we are in private, by being people of integrity. Third, by coming to grips with any serious deficiency or disobedience. We must then confess our failure and sin, find forgiveness, and move on.

Nevertheless, we want to avoid the pettiness that flags every deficiency or mistake a person makes. How do you draw the line? That’s a process of education and maturity. And in a way, it’s a little of what we were doing with this document. We did not create a document filled with prescriptions and rules—but we took a principled approach saying, “You should understand the kind of person you need to be.” When pastors learn that, it’ll determine a lot of the specific issues.

We in the EFCA have discussed numerous times over the years such a document. Inevitably we have not pursued it beyond drafts and discussions because of the fear of how the document might be used, either legalistically, or as a club against someone who was not abiding by the standards. Do you remember some of those discussions? What do you recall from them? What were the arguments for and against such a document?

Here is a document that many in the EFCA will likely consider helpful. I am thankful to see its publication and to read of how carefully its proper use is framed. Of course, original intent does not guarantee it will be followed in its implementation. But fears and concerns of how this may be misused must not prevent us from its use at all. That has often been the default response, which is more reactive rather than proactive.

Some questions: Do you presently have such a document? If not, why not? If so, how has it functioned? How have you kept from the twin errors of “we all sin so no one can hold another accountable” and legalism? Will you plan to use this Code? What do you find its strengths to be? What would you like to see included/added?

Earlier this week, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) released the “Code of Ethics for Pastors.” This document was developed over the past 18 months by a task force that included pastors, ethicists, editors and denominational leaders, including our own President Bill Hamel. After several drafts, on March 8, 2012 the NAE Board of Directors unanimously adopted the “Code of Ethics for Pastors.” Please see a copy of the document in English and in Spanish. (If you are interested in who has signed the Code. If you are interested in signing the Code.)

Luder Whitlock, chair of the task force, was grateful to Leith Anderson, NAE President, and the Board for this important statement: “Thanks to the leadership of Leith Anderson, the board of the NAE has prepared a long overdue Code of Ethics for Pastors. This succinct statement provides guidance for pastors who desire to honor the Lord by their example as well as by what they confess and preach. We expect it will soon become indispensable as a reference for pastoral ethics.”

For Anderson, long-time pastor who recently retired, this is an important document for pastors. He encourages discussion and adoption. Anderson’s ultimate desire is that pastors will live by these standards, not in a legalistic manner but in dependent and joyful reliance on the Holy Spirit, so that their (our!) lives would be lived “above reproach” and that they (we!) would live in a “manner worth of the gospel of Christ.”

This is every pastor’s opportunity to know, commit and tell others about a personal and professional standard of biblical pastoral ethics. I invite every pastor and every church board to put this code of ethics on the agenda for an upcoming meeting. Discuss. Adopt. Live these standards.

I include below the major themes and issues addressed in the “Code of Ethics for Pastors” (please read the whole document, cf. the link above, where this is delineated further).

Code of Ethics for Pastors

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. (2 Corinthians 6:3)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27)

All who are called by God to the ministry of the gospel solemnly commit to a life of joyful obedience and selfless service in order to glorify God and enrich his people. Therefore, a minister will:

Pursue Integrity

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. (1 Chronicles 29:17)

          • in personal character.
          • in personal care.
          • in preaching and teaching.

Be Trustworthy

It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

          • in leadership.
          • with information.
          • with resources.

Seek Purity

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

          • in maintaining sexual purity.
          • in spiritual formation.
          • in theology.
          • in professional practice.

Embrace Accountability

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

          • in finances.
          • in ministry responsibilities.
          • in a denomination or a ministry organization.

Facilitate Fairness

Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. . Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)

          • with staff.
          • with parishioners.
          • with the community.
          • with a prior congregation.