Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Roaring Silence

In recent decades there has been a welcome renewed emphasis in many churches of ensuring that everyone is 'well taught'-of being clear that understanding and applying biblical truth isn't just an issue for leaders but is a normal expectation for all believers.

I've blogged before about my concern at examples of some churches moving away from that-of some leaders saying about key issues that 'the majority of people in our church wouldn't be interested in understanding x', which does beg the questions 'what does it say about the type of church you're building if you're saying that most people within don't have an appetite for understanding biblical truth' and whatever happened to the Ephesians 4 role of leadership gifts being to bring everyone (not just leaders) to maturity?

However there are a couple of examples of particular concern recently. One is of churches moving towards significant change without, as far as I have been able to detect, teaching into it, and the other is of churches closing their eyes and ignoring a subject.

The first of those two issues is that of women in leadership and teaching roles. I think that it is possible to make biblically-based arguments both ways on this matter-and that there are separate issues depending upon whether it is in relation to women in eldership, wider leadership or in teaching roles. My concern is I see a number of churches moving towards women operating in leadership and teaching roles without, as far as I have been able to find out, any acknowledgement that this is happening, or any teaching or explanation to the church on what the leadership considers the biblical roles of men and women to be in these areas. It gives the impression of just trying to slip the issue under the carpet, of putting women into those roles and just seeing if anyone comments (and, if no one does, move further, still without any teaching or acknowledgement). That isn't leadership.

The second issue is of equal concern-that of how churches are dealing with, and teaching into, the whole issue of same-sex relationships. Perhaps that would be more accurately expressed as how churches are not dealing with, and teaching into, the issue. At a time when this is a subject of so much controversy and change in the world, it is all too striking how many many churches have had nothing to say. On one level I can understand where I think some are coming from-out of concern that too many non-Christians wrongly think that Christians are obsessed about the issue anyway, and so do not want to reinforce the cliché. I understand that and, whatever one thinks about same-sex relationships, there is clearly much work to do in ensuring that Christians and churches show just as much grace and wisdom on that issue as anything else. However, staying silent does nothing to advance that. All it does is leave too many people with a totally unclear understanding of biblical perspectives on the issue, and with individual approaches that vary from basing their approach on Leviticus and Old Testament law, to instead saying that grace means 'anything goes'. Both of these approaches totally miss the mark in terms of a biblical perspective on the issue.

You only have to spend a small amount of time speaking to young people in churches to realise that there is a ticking time bomb in the variety of views, and lack of a biblical basis to them, and that is a product of too many churches' silence on the matter.

However, it would be an even bigger trap for a church to say ' well we should do something in the youth group about the issue'. There are people in their 40s, 50s and older in churches who have never heard this issue taught in a biblical manner. For some this has an effect on how they react to people they meet who are in same-sex relationships. For others it is an issue they have struggled with themselves for decades and have never been in a situation where issues like that are taught-and, importantly, discussed in an atmosphere of community, grace and wisdom, so they have an opportunity to work through the matter with others.

Might raising these issues in a church have the risk of raising controversy and the risk of misunderstanding? Absolutely, but dealing with such issues is in the nature of leadership. Far better to know where people are at, far better for people to be able to express the issues they have questions about, and are perhaps struggling with, and for a church community to address them together with love, grace and truth, than to close our eyes and hope they will go away.