Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
This week I took a call from another pastor who expressed concern that the Church was coming under an increasing number of attacks in the media over the last few weeks. Nearly every night this week on prime-time TV, there has been a damaging report on the state of the Church. On Monday night Four Corners aired a damning report on the Roman Catholic diocese of Philadelphia’s appalling handling of pedophilia committed by priests. A Current Affair, Today Tonight, have each exposed financial and psychological abuse of vulnerable people. On Tuesday night, The 7:30 Report presented a sickening exposé on how domestic violence is rife within the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Australia. And this Sunday night, 60 Minutes is reporting on a Baptist church in New South Wales that is in hot water. As I told this fellow pastor, it’s not that the media are attacking us, it’s that they have guns and we keep giving them bullets to fire at us! I want to pastor the kind of church that gives the media reasons to put down their guns. Here’s how we can do it.
A Church Should Be A Safe Refuge
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
The Psalmist declared that God was a safe refuge. The church needs to reflect this aspect of God’s character by also being a safe refuge. We want broken, hurting, damaged, lost and confused people to have good reason to feel safe when they come into our church on a Sunday. We do not want our message to sound like an attack on anyone – most especially, the vulnerable. For those who have observed us over the years, it has soon become evident that we help all-comers. On the occasions when I have been publicly attacked by someone opposed to Christianity, I have tried to engage with them which has often led to face-to-face meetings where I have heard their stories and listened to their pain. In nearly every instance this has ended amicably. When issues have arisen in the public arena we have used our profile and platform to contribute into the debate. (People still talk to me about our role in the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill development saga.) Of late, we have been quite outspoken about domestic violence and the sexual abuse of children. In each of our services we present God’s Word without shouting, screaming, or ranting, and while we always try to persuade people that the God of the Bible is worth trusting and that His offer of forgiveness is worth accepting, we do so in a way that people are free to choose to accept it, reject it, or come back and hear more.
A Church Board Should Ensure Safeness
But all things should be done decently and in order.
First Corinthians 14:40
The Board of our church takes our responsibility to safeguard the welfare of those who enter into our community very seriously. We have installed video security cameras throughout our buildings and facilities. We are rolling out movement sensor lights around our facilities. We are replacing solid wooden doors with glass doors. We have mandated that every leader undertake Childsafe® training to be aware how to prevent, detect, or best deal with the abuse of children. We now require that everyone who serves on our rosters undertakes our Partnership course so that we can ensure that no-one in our church is put at risk and that we can vouch for everyone who serves in our church.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
First Corinthians 12:28
Local churches are designed by Christ to governed by divinely appointed, spiritually gifted, competent, elders and deacons. Elders govern the spiritual climate and health of a church. They are required by Scripture to be people of exemplary character and spiritual discipline (1Tim. 3:1-7). They do this prayerfully through teaching, preaching, and counsel. Deacons are required to administer the affairs of the church – property and finance management, regulatory compliance, staffing, discipline and development of leaders and ensuring that policies and procedures are adhered to (1Cor. 3:8-13). We don’t necessarily call each one who serves in this administration capacity a ‘deacon’ (which means servant), but those who serve on our church Board fulfil this Christ-ordained appointment for the welfare of His Church.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, ¶ To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Not Just About ‘Souls’
¶ Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
Third John 2
The extent to how much we care about people is not limited to their involvement on a Sunday. We want children to be safe in their homes. We want wives to be safe in their homes. We want husbands to be safe to be around. We hope that the peace people experience on a Sunday from being with God’s people in God’s presence is transferred into their lives and their homes. We hope that our worship of our Servant-Saviour translates into each of us increasingly developing a servant attitude toward those we live with, work with, learn with, and play with.
We will continue to strive to provide care for the hurting, assist the needy, counsel the troubled, train new leaders, and equip believers to be better ambassadors for Christ in their homes, schools, workplaces and clubs. Thus, for us, it’s not just a motto, it’s our public mission statement to be a church that is helping make life better.