The Church’s Biggest Problem?

The Church’s Biggest Problem? December 31, 2013

People. We all know it.

So the biggest challenge for church people and ministry is relationships and getting along with others. John Stott’s chapter on relationships in his newly published book, Problems of Christian Leadership, offers golden wisdom on relational challenges of church life.

His first principle is respect based on worth. Good relationships are based on respect, but respect is only pervasive when the other person is seen as worthy — or worth establishes pervasive respect. He opines that secular humanists don’t have the same foundation for respect that Christians ought to have. Creation and redemption: we made in God’s image and we are redeemed by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:38), and these form the foundation of worth and therefore respect. Notice with Stott that worth is not reducible just to a creation ethic, but is rooted in a redemptive ethic.

Second, what I’m going to call the “reciprocal Christ.” Stott pulls two verses from Paul together to observe that we are treat others as if we are Christ and to treat others as if they were Christ.

Col. 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Col. 3:23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters…

Stott: “According to the first verse, I’m to treat my neighbor as if I were Jesus Christ, but according to the second I’m to treat my neighbor as if he [or she] were Jesus Christ” (50). That means both persons are Christ. We represent Christ to others.  They are Christ to us, and he connects this second element to Mother Teresa.

Third, learning to listen. He gives two stories here from his own life. Listening is right, it is therapeutic and it is productive. He tells a story about working with Art Johnston, [who was my first advisor at TEDS when I commenced seminary], and working with is not the best expression because Art wrote some harsh words about Stott’s commitment both to evangelism and social justice, because Art thought it would lead to the social gospel and the diminishment of evangelism and the way of the World Council of Churches. Stott and Johnston learned to listen to one another.

Finally, decision-making. Stott thinks church decision making on the basis of majority rule is sub Christian. That is, among Christians there ought to be substantial agreement — as we listen to the Spirit. He tells the story of his church at All Soul’s deciding to use modern language (no thee’s and thou’s), and how when they first met there was a lack of substantial agreement, and they could have voted… but they waited one full year only to find unanimous support of moving into modern language (this happened years ago, of course).

Browse Our Archives