December 4, 2006

The Day the Pastor got Sent Home

Last Sunday was a gratifying outcome to a year of hard work and prayer concerning our constitution—and the addition of elders to our church leadership structure. We selected Gary Vaught, Mark Wells, and Scott Harig as our deacons…and Keith Gorby, Charles Tassell, and myself as the elders. I thank God for my congregation - their patience, prayer, and unity throughout this process. I love my church family. They have been amazing!

Way back at the beginning, when I first began to put forward the idea of adopting elder-leadership, one of the advantages I mentioned was accountability for me. I needed a group of godly, well-equipped, courageous men who would be on equal footing with me—men who could and would hold me accountable if and when I sinned, misinterpreted, or just made foolish decisions. One specific example I gave was of elders in the church helping the pastor wisely organize his schedule so that he makes ample time for his family, his congregation, and his own soul. Well, it did not take long to see that this God-ordained system works! Accountability works! Elders work!

Two Thursdays ago, Tobey and the children were at home, quite sick. I was at work, plowing ahead through my normal routine—studying, preparing for Sunday. About 4:30 in the afternoon one of our newly elected leaders showed up with a sheet of paper in his hand. He asked if we could talk, and we went into my study.

He seemed a little nervous—which made me nervous! He began with prayer, then asked: ‘What are you doing here?’ I knew right away what he was getting at, even though I played dumb at first. I should have been at home nursing my wife and chasing my sick, but surprisingly energetic kids. Instead, I was up here working away as if everything was just fine at home.

As we talked, I realized the sheet of paper was a print-out of several scriptural passages which speak of how a husband should treat his wife. He handed it to me and asked me to read them all. That was important! He didn’t just come with his opinion, but with a word from God.

I would like to say that I immediately wept, went home, and apologized to my wife. I didn’t. I thanked him (I really did appreciate his concern). And I went home. But I was bent out of shape for a while because my little routine was interrupted. And thank God it was! Tobey really needed me…and the rest of the weekend went much better because I had been sent home—even if against my will!

I would also like to say that I would have responded the same way had any member of the church come to me like this leader did. But, prideful sinner that I am, I am not sure that I would have. I think it took a man whom I knew God was setting apart as one of my fellow elders to get my attention. It took someone whom I knew had spiritual authority in the church and in my life to make me obey God.

So what is the point? That I am really humble and obedient? No. I was not really excited about being sent home, you’ll recall. So what is the point? That the person who reproved me is super-spiritual? Again, no. The time may someday come when I will have to visit him with a prayer, a sheet of paper, and a kindly rebuke. So what is the point? The point is that even leaders are sinners. And even leaders need accountability and authority in their lives. That is why God gave us plural elders—because we so desperately need accountability to one another; and because having elders works!

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