To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Pastoring’ Category

Personal Appearances

Generally in church, and particularly as an elder, there is need to be great wisdom exercised about how we speak about each other’s personal appearance. Great damage can be done by needless throw away comments which can cause frustration and distress to people.

Humour, in particular, can be particularly destructive. By way of example it is best to steer clear of joking about someone’s summery clothing. You may think that their appearance provokes a response, but is it called for for you to joke about it? The person may have issues of health or personal comfort. If you think their clothing is immodest then you need to speak to the person about it seriously.

Men making comments on the clothing of women, particularly those who are younger to them, should be a completely embargoed. If such is done it can arouse all kinds of feelings in the woman about the man being interested in her.

However, when the clothing of a woman is unseemly and not fulfilling the call of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to be discrete. The Word there says: likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. In such a situation an elder or older sister should approach the lady involved.

In all this husbands should encourage their wives as regards to appreciating them and treasuring them. They should tell them of how they appreciate their appearance.

I just feel it is area where great care be exercised. In everything we say we need to think about whether this is contributing to building someone up.

Homosexual Inclination

Sexual activity, according to the precepts of the Lord, is to be only between a couple joined together in marriage. That couple is to be made up of one male and one female. According, to God’s pure and established order the sexual inclination of the male is to be towards a woman and vice versa. The full physical expression of this inclination is be be enjoyed within marriage.

Our Lord Jesus gives an important nuance on all this teaching, when he observed that not only is the physical expression of sexual lust outside of marriage sinful, but so also is the expression of this in the heart. So we read in Mathew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

Alas the way of our beings has been marred by the fall. We are malfunctioning beings. This is clear for anyone to observe, given that we all gets colds and suffer in our bodies in many ways. Even Christians suffer in this way. However, the suffering is not just in our bodies. Our minds are affected as well, as also is our sexuality. One of the ways that our sexuality malfunctions is when people experience same-sex attraction. Their inclination deviates from the norm as established by God.

To give expression to their warped sexuality physically is clearly wrong, given what we have said already. It is also wrong for lust to veer into lusting in our hearts.

However, is the inclination wrong in itself? I would argue that it is as wrong as it is to have a broken leg. Both of them are manifestations that we live in a fallen world. Creation does not function as it was originally intended to and we, as humans, are part of that creation. However, to say that it is sinful to someone to have a same-sex inclination has to be viewed in the light of someone having a broken leg. If having a broken leg is not wrong then neither is having same-sex attraction.

Now there can be cases where people move on to be freed from same sex attraction in the same way that a broken leg can be healed, However, others have to live with this for the whole of their lives. Like someone with arthritis, for example, they have an affliction which they have to live with.

To have the affliction is not sinful. To give expression to that affliction is sinful.

This being the case, means that there should be great sympathy in the church for those who suffer in this way. Harsh, insensitive attitudes towards those with same sex attraction should be banished.

Those who commit themselves to celibacy because of their endemic same-sex attraction, are, in a sense, those who are described in Matthew 19:12b as eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Such are to be admired for their courage to commit themselves to this course. They should never be despised, mocked, rejected or ignored. Their lives are modelled by a daily taking up of the cross and following Christ, their Lord.

Shepherds And Their Sheep

Peter exhorts elders to shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Pet. 5:2a). Shepherds must take an interest in their sheep or else they deny their calling. This means those who are called to the role of elders must take every opportunity to find out about the sheep under their care. If we don’t know those sheep then we will not be able to care for the Lord’s sheep into our care.

This means we take every opportunity for find our about those sheep. There is a countervailing force in this though because we are not to be busy-bodies. We are not prying into people’s business out of some kind of malign voyeurism. Neither are we meddling in peoples business in order for us to use that information to our advantage. Both those things are reprehensible sins.

Rather, our desire is to find out about our sheep in order that we can care for them. This finding out is in order that we have the most background knowledge possible of our sheep. With the benefit of this we are most likely to be able to fulfil our caring ministry to the best effect.

Gathering such information only comes when we are among the sheep. When we are among the sheep we see how they actually respond in certain situation. When we are among them we speak with them and find out information about them.

However, we also speak to others including elders of previous churches of which they have been members so as to bolster our knowledge. An eagle eye on social media participation can also yield helpful insights as to the spiritual and moral condition of the sheep.

In all this we must guard our hearts against abusing our position to obtain information personal gain. All our seeking of information is because we love the sheep committed to our care.

Definitive Statements

.I want to write here about how people make definitive statements This theme is closely related to that which I wrote about on Tuesday here. I am thinking about how we, without fully considering an issue, hastily rush to make definitive statements on a matter. Accordingly, people’s tendency to impose a narrative, can cause hurt and dismay by the definitive way people speak about situations without having fully considered those situations. Without fully considering a situation people make statements which categorically affirm a certain understanding of the situation or proposed course of action.

What we need to do is fully consider a situation by speaking with either the person or people involved. When we have fully considered a matter we can then make a response. Very often the most generous and tender thing to do is to make suggestions about what you consider the best way forward in the pertaining situation.

I, must emphasize though, that I am not advocating that there should be never definitive statements about anything. A parent who does not clearly establish what has happened when a child has carelessly used a knife and cut themselves. for example is being neglectful. And not to make definite statements about what the child must do is similarly neglectful.

Moreover, when someone has clearly done something wrong, as measured by the Word of God, we should be unhesitating to declare it to be such.

However, we need to be careful about making unconsidered definitive statements. This is, I would observe, very much against the spirit of our social media age where all sorts of things are slung out with unconsidered definiteness. Let us not fall into the trap of following that spirit in our dealing with others.

 

Imposing A Narrative

What I am thinking of here is the issue of how we respond to peoples’ situations. This can be an issue for parents with their children, friends with one another, employers with their employees. In fact it applies in many situations. I want to think about how we interact we the situations of others.

General. In all situations we must impose the narrative of the gospel to understand the situation we are dealing with. The malaise of this world, as manifest in peoples’ lives, is caused by the entrance of sin into this world. The remedy for the issue of sin is the blood of our Lord Jesus. His salvific work to redeem lives, will work ultimately to retrieve this world form disorder and chaos.

There must be great wisdom and sensitivity in applying the gospel narrative into the situation with which we are interacting. Simplistic cause and effect reasoning are very much cautioned against in Luke 13:1-5. That passage reads:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

However, that passage also indicates that in a destabilized world, it is sin in the world that is the root cause and as sinners we need to repent. In all this our Lord is imposing a gospel narrative on the situation.

Specific. On the other hand when we come to deal with specific situations we need to be wary of imposing any pre-conceived narrative. I have been very much aware of this through my being afflicted with depression. People may or may not have been right about the narrative they were bringing to my situation. However, what took me aback, at times, was the unwillingness to actually establish with me what had happened to me. People either would not ask or, if they did ask, would not listen to what was said.

I am arguing that always before we jump to conclusions we should stop and consider what has happened. This means we actually listen to the person and find out what there experience is and what they have been through to get there.  For parents, I feel we will fulfill the requirement to not exasperate our children (see Eph. 6:4) if we follow this approach.

Always remember, as well, that even though two people are experiencing something identical that does not mean that the causes of that experience are the same. So don’t assume when you come across someone displaying certain things that you have seen in someone before that the cause is the same in both cases.

It is very frustrating to be on the end of certain counsel or certain views about your situation from people you believe have not taken time to find out about your situation.

So my conclusion is when interacting with any situation always impose a gospel narrative, but never impose a personal narrative.

Bad Communication Leads To………………..

……………………..frustration. I want to address this matter specifically in the context of church leadership. However, the principles also play-out in other realms of life whether that be business, family or community.

For any group of people to function well there has to be good communication. Particular responsibility for providing this communication, and exemplifying it, is with the leadership. When communication is bad by a church leadership then the church starts to malfunction; bad communication leads to frustration. When people are not been told what is going on then they start to get frustrated. Some of the evidences that the communication is bad are:

  • People having to approach the elders to find out about what is going on regarding a specific situation. Now there will be times when such an inquiry is just busy-bodying. Also there will be times when information is confidential and cannot be shared. Generally though, elders should be regularly be keeping all the people who need to know about a matter informed.
  • People say “nobody told me”. This is when certain church members believe that they are not a party to information that others have been given.
  • People start murmuring among themselves about what is going on in a situation.

When these things starts to occur you end up with a frustrated church and the consequences will be:

  • People are deflated. They don’t know what is going on. They feel things are not being dealt with.
  • People are distracted. The duty of church leaders is to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12). Rather than people being released to works of service, they are being distracted by having to spend energy figuring out what is going on with other stuff in the Church. And this is all because they have not been communicated with.

So church leaders need to:

  • Always veer towards over-communication rather than under-communication.
  • Be sending out information at the same time to those who need to know. A bit here and there to different people can cause upset.
  • Make sure all communications are sufficient so all know enough. Long-winded documents put people off.
  • Communicate with warmth and encouragement. Being too business-like and curt can offend some people.

References.

Given the nature of my position I am in, from time to time, I am asked to be a referee for someone. Here are some thoughts on this:

  • If you are putting someone down as a referee ask their permission first.
  • As someone who writes references, I find the fact that the practice nowadays that jobs are offered ”subject to references” very unsatisfactory. As far as I am aware historic practice was that references were considered before making any offer. But now not so. So if someone has the job offer withdrawn they know that it was the references that precipitated this and that could well have been your reference. This puts much pressure on writing the references. Previously everything would be considered, including the reference, before the applicant was communicated with regarding their success or failure with their application. I suppose one way round this is to say to a person who you feel you will give a negative reference to that they should go to someone else. But this raises its own issues.
  • Overall I so very often find doing a reference to be a great heartache. I am bound to be truthful, my conscience before God binds me to that. However, I want to help the person to further their career and get the the job. My practice, as a rule, is to get them dome asap. Having them hanging around can lead to all kind of mental anguish. In all this I so very often wrestle with whether I have sacrificed the truth in order to be seen to generously write favourably about the person.
  • Everybody has plusses and minusses in their charachter and abilities; you want in writing a reference to accurately reflect these whilst helping them progress in their lives.

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