Thursday, April 05, 2007

Attributes of a Serious Church: Respectful

“Respectful” makes the list of attributes of a serious Church.

Respectful: Do the leaders of a Church make unnecessary demands on the members of a Church? Do the members make unnecessary demands on their leaders? Are visitors treated as honored guests or are visitors treated as sales prospects? Are those who disagree with the Church leaders given a fair hearing or are dissenters automatically condemned? Are non-believers treated as lost souls or are non-believers treated as less intelligent than believers? Does a Church treat those in and out of the Church with dignity?

Marriage counselors claim the first crack in a marriage is when the couple quits treating each other with respect. Most humans start every relationship with respect for each other; even more so for relationships that could lead to a marriage. Over time though, the closer we become to someone, the greater is our tendency to become more selfish and less respectful of the other person. We let our guard down and become who we really are where our primary concern is our own wants and needs. Long term relationships require a commitment to maintaining long term respect. Perhaps this is why so many marriages fail and so many friendships wither.

Relationships within a Church are no different. New Pastors and new members get treated with lots of fanfare, but over time, the daily grind usually takes its toll as individual wants and needs start to surface and become a priority. Sometimes Pastors end up making demands on members as if the members were employees who couldn’t survive without their next paycheck. Sometimes members end up treating Pastors like employees who should feel lucky just to have a job.

Serious Churches do not treat their Pastors as employees. The role of a Pastor is a calling to a particular place at a particular time. The responsibility of the Pastor is to minister to the Church and the Churches community. The responsibility of the Church is to take care of the Pastors and their families in a way that will allow the Pastors to accomplish their ministry. Serious Pastors do not treat the members of a Church as employees either. Volunteers in ministry are not pawns that need playing. Volunteers are the soul of a Church; they should be honored, not taken advantage of.

Belief in Christ can be supported with some very solid evidence, but belief in Christ is not solely a function of brain cells. Smart people can sometimes come to wrong conclusions. Mentally handicapped people can sometimes come to correct conclusions. There are plenty of very bright people throughout the world who do not believe in God or Christ the Savior. Many believers are under the illusion that spreading the Gospel is just a matter of educating the poor souls who have never been taught the truth. However, the minute we assume a superior to inferior relationship with non-believers, we usually eliminate the chance that they will hear what we have to say because we come across as disrespectful to their intelligence.

Serious leaders of serious Churches do not consider non-believers to be foolish. Serious leaders respect the intelligence of non-believers. Churches with leaders who use multi-level marketing techniques instead of Biblical evangelism are not serious.

Churches, like all organizations, have a tendency to become inbred over time. People tend to associate with like minds and leaders tend to identify others for leadership who agree with their point of view. Inbreeding can be an asset in maintaining high standards, but inbreeding can also be a detriment to making necessary changes. There are enough stories in the Bible of individuals stepping away from the crowd in obedience to God to remind Church leaders of the importance of contrarian views. Serious leaders of serious Churches encourage and respect dissent as much as they encourage and respect conformity.



Rusty said...

Thanks for this series, David. Very good stuff.

David M. Smith said...

Thank you Rusty. There probably isn’t a Church or a Christian anywhere that would agree with all of my attributes or points, but by thinking through these attributes, I think I will be better prepared to discuss my views with the members of my new Church.

I could still use some criticism from you if you have any to give.

Buz said...


This is a very good point.

I could say a lot more, but it is still too soon for me to talk about this point without some resentment.


The Count said...

Hey thanks for updating your link to my site. You must have done it immediately- and with out me asking. Truly, you are a good internet friend to me. Much appreciated.

I have been quite blessed and tickled to hear you have found a church you can actually attend. I hope they know what they're in for... live ammo in the house of God!

Respect is indeed key to good relationships. It is a sad priviledge that our spouses become so close to us that they get to experience us as we really are.

I'm sure you would agree that intelligence is not the only place where we can respect others. Everyone has a spirituality of some sort- some trancendent values that animate them and give purpose to their lives. It is important to respect that spiritual life they have, even as we try to encourage them to draw closer to the fullnes of that life in Christ. It's tricky, because no matter how you put it, an evangelist is implying some deficiency in the hearer. Perhpas that's why preaching Christ- and not dwelling on those deficiencies we all share- is key, as is pointing out our common nature and struggles.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Grec,

Actually, I didn’t intentionally mean to differentiate between insulting a non-believer's intelligence or their spiritual beliefs, so I’m glad you clarified it for me. I think we have to be respectful of both. I also agree with you that preaching the Gospel to non-believers is a bit tricky. That’s why it upsets me to find preachers who want to cram their beliefs down the throats of non-believers. A lot of potential believers have been pushed away by the aggressive marketing of Christianity.

I’m honored to keep a fresh link to wherever you post. It’s easy to preach to the crowd. I respect the way you are humbly going about defending your changed views to your [so far] unchanging friends. You and your efforts are in my prayers.

This Girl said...

I can believe the respectful thing concerning marriage. I have been thinking about and writing (in draft) about the relationship between church visitors and unbelievers with the Church. It is interesting to think out the way I have been taught to treat non-believers and see it for what it really is, as you said a superior speaking as if the other is inferior. If you were to say that to the church, they would say they are not doing that. But that is how I thought. I had the answers and you were stupid if you didn't listen to me (appalling, but true). I'm learning a lot with my husband about this very subject. It can seem overwhelming, but that respect to others is necessary to even have the right to speak. For me, your last line is definitely something I would need in a church and would want to do as a person, "Serious leaders of serious Churches encourage and respect dissent as much as they encourage and respect conformity."

David M. Smith said...

Hi this girl,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

I would like to hear more about your thoughts on Church visitors. Surely there is a better way than the way most Churches treat visitors.

You sound a little contrarian; are you? : - )

Buz said...

On your serious church stuff, so far I have:

- Purposeful
- Holy
- Non-manipulative
- Introspective
- Sacrificial
- Frugal
- Transparent
- Integrity
- Humility
- Respectful

Are you going back to that series? I was really appreciating the thought that you put into those attributes.


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

That’s my list. I was planning on doing a wrap up, but then decided to let it sit for a while and see what else percolates through my brain or gets raised by reader comments.

I know the list is missing elements that are surely important like “Love”, but I figured some attributes can be present without the Church being serious. “Love” was too big of a topic for me. : - )

Thank you for your contribution and compliment.