I may be slow, but so is molasses and it’s sweet too. I don’t konw if I have figured something out, or if I just now opened my eyes to the reality of certain affairs circulating in the Baptist world today.
Even though I am not in the Southern Baptist Convention, nor do I want to be, I do pay attention to those Baptist pastors who are conservative and landmark in their doctrine. It is always encouraging to me to see pastors who are doctrinally conservative with large doses of influence.
For those who are paying attention, and have been paying attention, the plethora of controversies on blogs, articles, and opinions is a fairly familiar trend. Accusations are made daily against Dr. Ergun Caner. Mac Brunson has had his fair share of criticisms, as well as Steve Gaines and Robert Jeffress. Paige Patterson is not immune, (in fact he seems to be viewed as the godfather by less conservative men.) Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, and generally anyone viewed as a Conservative Baptist is subject to having their failures and flaws called on the carpet. Somewhere between the pulpit and the pew a line of scrimmage seems to exist so that one side can stand ready to resist the other.
Now all of that being said, I do think that I have found that line of scrimmage in the seemingly everpresent conflict; and that line of scrimmage is not necessarily the issue of accountability, as much as it is the issue of accountability to who!
Speaking personally, and looking naturally into my own heart and mind, I view myself completely accountable to my family, my friends, and the church that I pastor. Nearly anyone of them can come to me at any time and question me about why I have chosen to lead in a particular way, why I preached a particular message, or to clarify something that I have said, and I have no hesitation in giving my best explanation.
You let an outsider, a perceived foe, a third party, or someone with a clear agenda ask me those same questions, the very first thing that is going to happen inside of me will be outright refusal. “It’s none of your business.” “I don’t owe you an explanation about anything.” “You can get happy in the same britches you got mad in.” “You’ll know what I want you to know, and when I want you to know it.” – Those are just some of the thoughts that would be fighting for the front of the line inside of me.
I personally do not know of a pastor who has any real issue with being held accountable. That is almost never a real problem. In fact any pastor, or Christian for that matter, who does not understand the necessity for accountability, is in no condition to be trusted with any real responsibility. The reality is that most of the time the problem lies in the question of “who is demanding” the accountability. Generally speaking, a friend will get answers, while a foe gets the door. That’s not just between pastors and people that’s between people and people.
Who then is onus on in this particular standoff; the questionor or the questionee?
The answer is both.
Questionors must be honest and true about their motives. If they are seeking information for the purpose of damaging an individual, then it is encumbant upon them not to ask their questions until their motives are pure, and the friendly establishment of fellowship, or a clear resolution of the question can be the true intention for the question.
The Pharisees laid in wait seeking to “catch something out of his mouth that they might accuse him.” David said in Psalm 56:5 – “Everyday they wrest my words; all their thoughts toward me are evil.” Whatever the intentions of the questionor may be, if the questionee senses the spirit of the Pharisee, or makes the observation of David, then rest assured that there will be very little cooperation with getting questions answered.
The Questionee must realize that the scriptures are very plain. Romans 12:17 tells us, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” 2 Corinthians 8:21 underscores that by saying, “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” These are to be Christian qualities, not merely pastoral requirements.
Now that doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as privacy; that just means that the verbal checks we write can be cashed by anyone. Jesus did say, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.” Jesus did not answer every question that his enemies asked of him; “Because he knew what was in them.” There is to some degree some credibility to not giving answers to your real enemies for practical reasons.
I believe that this is the core of the issue as to why some “questionors” are viewed as attackers, and why some questionees are viewed as arrogantly unquestionable. The dynamics of the problem must be understood if anyone is ever going to make real headway in these sinful standoffs. Proverbs 13:10 tells us that “Only by pride cometh contention.”
In this world of blogging, articles, and opinions, and dealing with the current of conflicts, it appears to me that the rubber is meeting the road to some degree at the point of pride. Sometimes it is Pride that says, “Give me an explanation.” Sometimes it is Pride that says, “I do not owe you one.”
Until both hearts and spirits humble themselves, and repent of their own personal pride, nothing of signficance will ever really change; but when they do, it will be a change worth making.