About Me

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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Practice what we Preach?

Over the last couple of weeks I have been struggling with the role of integrity in the ministry. Actually, I have been struggling with what matters and what doesn't as it applies to integrity. I am well aware of the matter of non-essentials and how the Church has been called to look past these matters of debate in favor of the big issues of Church unity and the cause of the Gospel (Rom. 14). But what about when something is a non-essential and a person chooses to be deceptive about it?

For instance, through my years as a seminary professor I have often come upon ministers who take the term "Dr." on their name, though they alleged doctorate that they have is either honorary or from a degree mill. Now, it is no secret why a person would do such a thing - a doctorate adds "standing" to his or her work (and admittedly some churches won't look at a person who does not have that title). Furthermore, I truly believe that degrees are non-essentials in many respects. My brother has only a Bachelor's degree, yet I would not hesitate for a second to place my family and myself under his leadership as my pastor.

So, what is our demeanor to be when we run into a person who has a "doctorate," even though they did nothing to earn the degree? What does it say about a man or woman who is willing to falsify their credentials for a title?

Paul outlines the qualifications for a overseer/pastor/elder in 1 Timothy 3. The first of these qualifications listed is that the man must be "above reproach." It would seem to me then that integrity is considered the primary qualification for a man who seeks to be an overseer/pastor/elder. If that is so, when one goes down the path of claiming a title which one did not truly earn, I think the church has a responsibility to call him on it and to require an answer. It's not the degree that matters, it's the integrity of the heart claiming the degree that does. And I would venture to say that a person willing to cut corners on such a menial matter, will also be willing to cut them in other places - places that may leave the church in real trouble.

This is but one example of the matter of integrity - we all could be held to account for places where we cut corners. My focus here is not an individual or even pastors as a whole, my point, rather, is the call to be "above reproach" as a Christian. For we must all realize that Paul's list of qualifications in 1 Timothy were not meant to be understood simply as things desirable in Pastors, but pictures of the mature Christian we all seek to be. We ALL need to practice what we preach (myself included)!

Francis Bacon put it this way: “It's not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”

May we all seek to find integrity in what we do!

3 comments:

Mark Austin said...

its always a good reminder to place first what Scripture places first. Good post.

Tony said...

Great thoughts brother...Integrity seems to be the first and foremost casualty in the ministry today. I find it not only in the pulpit, but also with those who are in the denominational work. I believe a question needs to be asked of those who minister in the Word..."without our integrity...what do we really have to offer the people of the Lord?"

I rememeber in college in Greek class a classmate had written the English translation in his Greek NT...I asked him what he was doing and didn't he realize it was cheating and dishonest. His reply was he just needed to get done with the class and school so he could start his ministry. This guy is now a pastor...wonder what other things he has "cut the integrity corner"?

Denyse said...

Why don't you tell us how you really feel about it? =P