Making excuses. Posturing and chest pounding. I’ve learned as a human that I do not like to admit it when I am wrong. I would rather fight to prove I’m right (and win), or make excuses or blame someone else. I remember a sermon I heard dad preach before I was 10 years old. He said only three people in the Bible said: “I have sinned” and one of them was Saul who followed it with a desire to cover his sin. Maybe that’s why the old “Happy Days” clip of “the ‘fonz” trying to say “I was wrong” is so funny, it strikes a cord of truth in most all of us.
Contrary to James, “Confess your faults one to another” we encourage people not to admit their wrong. Let me illustrate a little:
- If I said: “I’m sorry I missed our appointment the other day I got really busy” we’d excuse it easily. But if we said: “I’m sorry I missed the appointment the other day I was taking a nap” or “I really didn’t want to be around you”, we’d react differently.
- If the preacher gets up and says: “I’m a sinner in need of grace” we may applaud his transparency. If he said: “I am a sinner in need of grace. I had a problem with viewing pornography” - many would check out. If he said: “I am a sinner in need of grace. I have a problem looking at porn while I should be studying in the church office” - most would pitch a fit if he wasn’t fired! And to make it a little worse, if it was the guy in the cubicle next to us saying these things we might be disgusted and we’d want him punished but most wouldn’t get too upset if he wasn’t fired.
So we make it hard for our leaders to be real. But they/we are. We all sin in many areas and it is not going to stop. There is no excuse built into that statement, it’s the same thing Paul said about himself in Romans 7 “O wretched man that I am! Who shall save me from this body of death?”
I’ve preached for over 30 years now and in 30 years I’ve never seen nor heard of an eldership getting before the church and saying: “We made a decision about _____ and we were wrong.” Or “we did _____ and it was a sin.” I’ve seen elders after a decision went wrong pull power plays and make power statements of unity or justification and dismiss their mishandling of matters. Yet I’ve never known an eldership who thought themselves to be perfect or infallible. They all know that both collectively and individually they can do wrong and probably know they have. But it is the admitting of it that is in question.
I’m sure there are many reasons for this. It doesn’t inspire confidence and I’m sure under the gun I could come up with some other reasons. But what if after a decision has gone bad, or a feeling has been hurt, or someone leaves “our church” we were to start asking, honestly and with a critical eye: “What part did we play in this?”, “What could we have done differently?”, “Do we bear any responsibility?”, “Did we do wrong or act unwisely?” or “Should we publicly correct what we did/said/didn’t do/didn’t say?”
I find instead that I like to make statements that helps me justify any part I had in it. “They never really fit in”, “They didn’t make any effort”. Or, “We were right” without investigating if we were wise. Or could we have handled that better?
As a result elders tend to “run in packs”, suspicion mounts that they are hiding something and rumors about how things were dealt with flourish. Sometimes it’s because they are good men who refuse to slander others even in the midst of slander. I was in a service many years ago when a man stood up and called the elders liars over a matter in his attempt to make himself look good and hurt the church. I had been present at the meeting where what he accused them of supposedly happened. The liar was the one at the mic - but, for good or bad, the elders let him rant and “turned the other cheek” rather than getting in a mud-wrestling fight with a pig. As a result some believed bad about good man spoken by a bad man. I still wonder what the correct response would have been. I’ve dealt within the last two years with a similar situation where an individual left the church and told it was for one reason that made the elders look bad but was entirely fabricated.
All of this said, I’ve worked with great elderships and some of the finest leaders I have known. There is something about the system that most have that seems to make us posture rather than take honest looks at ourselves.
I’ve said a lot here that I’ve felt for many years. I’m sure people will read stuff into it cause that’s what people do. So, just so you will know, I love my present elders and have no issue with them...but just in case, I do run “The Scoop Blog” :).
I’d like to hear your thoughts on all of this. Remember, it is my blog and if you start being just mean or try to turn this into elder bashing I will censure you. That does not make me a homer, I just think we must respect the challenging, unappreciated, time consuming role that God put in the church.