Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Corrosive Culture? (Carl Trueman)

Carl Trueman warns about the danger of conferences:

A Corrosive Culture? (Carl Trueman): Paul's post on elders and accountability is most apposite.  One of the elements which the recent celebrity culture in American conservative evangelicalism has fostered is the unspoken conviction that the primary ministry of a church leader does not take place at local level but at large conferences, through ministries detached from ecclesiastical structures or even on websites.   Conferences, specialist organisations and websites have their uses and are extremely helpful in many ways; but they should never be a priority for anyone.  They are occasional tonics and supplements, an encouraging boost or a source of alternative opinion; they are not the real thing. One might say that real Christianity takes place at local level, through the ministry of properly constituted churches with biblical oversight and accountability.  To give conferences, independent 'ministries' and websites decisive influence on anything theological or ecclesiastical is to hand over that which requires careful and clear biblical accountability to those things which have no clear lines of accountability at all.   Eloquence, good writing skills and the ability to market oneself and one's organisation with panache do not amount to what Paul describes as necessary for the preservation of the faith in the Pastoral Letters.

Christian church members who do not spend the vast majority of Sundays each year in the church which is their home congregation are making themselves dangerously unaccountable to those placed in authority over them and charged with the care of their souls. And the minister who does not spend the vast majority of Sundays preaching for the congregation which has called him does the same, only with even greater culpability. He is, after all, unlikely to be held to account for the souls of the people who heard him at the conference; but he will most certainly be held to account for the souls of those who have called him to the pastorate in their congregation. 

As for the free floating Christian leader with his own independent 'ministry:' well, surely the same strictures apply to him as to any other member of the church.  Are there not six days of the week when he can do his thing?  He ought to be back in his home church most Sundays.  And if he is not there, he is scarcely qualified to speak to those who are.

Christians -- all Christians -- need to be rooted in, and serving, local congregations in order to grow under the word.  The current culture therefore needs a reality check.  The contemporary politics of evangelical influence is not conducive to biblical polity.  In fact, it is decidedly corrosive of the same.

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