I’m sitting in a Christian Ministry class intended for Master’s students about to graduate. I often get in trouble for being too honest, but I’m going to do it again…If I had taken this class 5 years ago – just before starting in ministry – I don’t think I would have gone into ministry at all.
We’re addressing some of the unhappy issues in ministry that probably need to be addressed. Issues like taxes, job search tips (which you would think I’d be excited about right now…but no, because I’ve learned that churches shouldn’t hire unemployed people – Super!), sexual misconduct, and then one that really bothers me…liability issues. Over and over we’re being told “avoid this”, “don’t do that”. “This is sad, but its how culture is…”
One of my friends (I won’t say who…I’ve really been getting in trouble for that lately) has said (I’m paraphrasing) these issues are important for us to deal with, but not like this. This is not godly – if we’re going to have such conversations they must be covered in an environment of prayer and meditation on God’s Word, not with cold, calculated businesslike efficiency.
Before anyone decides to make this an “evil seminary” issue, please know that this is also a common discussion in churches…one that I’ve been involved in with all the churches I’ve worked with.
I understand the importance of ministers not putting themselves and their families in undue jeopardy. It is vital that we understand the law and how situations can be perceived (avoid even the appearance of evil) but lets talk about the Church’s (note the big “C”) responsibility. Does the Body of Christ have any redemptive purpose in this culture? Does God expect us to simply cope because He’s done all the transformation he intends to do?
All too often it seems as though we have decided that being responsible means not doing anything that might be viewed as odd to culture. We should hire professionals to do projects around the church because what happens if a volunteer falls off a ladder? Not to mention we need the work to look professional. We shouldn’t speak out against culture because if the Church starts interfering in politics then the government might start interfering with us and restricting what we can and can’t do – after all, the only way the Church can be faithful is if we have protected status in society.
I don’t want to be sued. I don’t want our elders or the church to be sued. But I won’t let the fear of lawsuits make spiritual decisions for me.
Perhaps I’m naïve, maybe I’m foolish. Does that mean that I plan to drive 25 kids in a 15 passenger van? No way! Will I drive a 16 year-old girl home by myself? No way! Will I ask somebody to change a light bulb in the youth room while standing on a broken chair? No way!
Endangering people and being faithful in the face of risk are not the same thing. So when the convicted pedophile wants to come to our church we don’t allow them to volunteer in the youth ministry. But we shouldn’t tell them “stay at home, we’ll bring communion to you.”
Redeeming society doesn’t mean taking over the government in order to legislate Christian morality. But if we are called to a ministry of redemption then we must have something to say about ethics. It was recently noted that we should be very careful hugging people – even those who really need a hug – because society equates hugs with sexual intimacy. I don’t doubt this appraisal of the situation. I don’t argue that as individuals we need to be very careful regarding the messages we send with our touch. I am very cautious how, when and for how long I hug teenagers. But in a culture that is starving for appropriate physical touch should the Church’s response be to withdraw from physical contact? Maybe we should for a time. Perhaps we let the water settle a bit. But when are we going to reengage?
I’m going to leave with one of the great scenes from Top Gun.
Goose is dead and Maverick is carrying the guilt of having been the pilot when it happened. For a long time people have been warning Maverick to be more cautious. He’s done things his own way and been a radical daredevil. So Maverick has finally disengaged. He’s flying cautious, not taking any chances with his aircraft or the lives in his jet. But now Ice Man is in trouble. The question that is placed before us all is, “Will Maverick reengage or not?”
If we can honestly answer that the Body of Christ has no redemptive mission, then by all means, let’s not chance wrecking a million dollar jet! Otherwise, the world, like Ice Man, is saying to us, “Don’t you leave me Maverick!” and perhaps God, like our cigar-smoking commander is saying “Dang it Maverick, get back in there!”