Known for Good Things

Paul required that elders be of good reputation among those outside the faith (1 Tim. 3:7)–and this in a culture that sometimes accused Christians of atheism and cannibalism, that crucified us, threw us to the lions, burned us alive. Paul himself had quite the criminal history as a Christian. So did that escaped jailbird Peter, and many others. They were all following the condemned and executed Jesus, after all. Plainly Paul did not mean that you can’t serve in church leadership if anybody has bad things to say about you. He cannot mean that your godly conduct hasn’t ever been misunderstood by the world. 

Yet we are surrounded by Christians who think that’s exactly what having a good Christian testimony means. These credulous folks have been lulled by a few centuries where being a Christian was generally considered a good, healthy thing, if a bit like kale — a little too wholesome and not a lot of fun. But it has not always been that way. Actually, have a look around. It is not really that way now. 

We are increasingly viewed as enemies of society. We are going to be misunderstood. Sometimes it will be an honest misunderstanding brought about by simple confusion. The devil excels at manufacturing that sort of thing. Sometimes it will be a tactical misunderstanding, and the wounded party will be flopping about like an Algerian soccer player, even though nobody was within 3 yards of him. There’s a great deal of the latter, actually, and our National Evangelical Leadership (all rise!) has been steered by the flopping soccer players of the secular world for some time now. Steered straight into severe compromise, and all in the name of empathy for guy with the pretend-injured leg.

Forget that. In Paul’s mouth, “having a good reputation” means being known for good things. It does not mean that the unbelievers always recognize the good things as good. Suppose a man in your church takes a strong biblical stance on sexuality. Someone objects, and the man doubles down on the truth. Miffed, the objector takes the conflict to Twitter, where your potential elder is accused of “literally killing LGBTQ+ people” by holding the “deeply problematic” views that the Christian church has maintained for two millennia. Suppose the people in your town all agree with the objector and his Twitter post. For the purposes of eldership, does your potential elder have a good reputation, or a bad one?

If you’re at all struggling with that question, you’re already deeply compromised. The man is known for saying true things, good things. He is known for refusing to knuckle under when the truth is unpopular. He is eminently qualified. If you can’t see that — if you take the existence of a coalition against him as disqualifying in itself — then you are giving the pagans veto power over your elder selection process. If you do that — and Big Eva certainly has done that to a large extent — then the leaders that rise in your ranks will always be the ones that soft-pedal, weasel-word, or flat-out deny unpopular truths in order to mollify pagans.

Don’t be that church.


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