Many years ago, I heard an account that came out of a Baptist Church in the former Soviet Union. The story recounted how we were qualified for leadership in the local church. Those responsible would interview the neighbors and co-workers of the person being considered. They would ask, “Do you think that this person is an example of a good Christian?” Before moving on, or objecting to this invasion of privacy, consider the significance of the process for being in a position of leadership.
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, yes, there are always those people easily disgruntled or offended. I have a great relationship with the neighbors surrounding our church property. There is one person that got upset because I asked them to move a car that was parked. She was quick to let me know that I was a terrible pastor. Yes, it happens to all of us. We are not talking about the exceptions. We are talking about your testimony to those that do not yet know Jesus. Would they consider you to be an example of genuine follower of Jesus.
The leadership in the Russian Baptist Church probably developed this process from Paul’s instruction to the younger Pastor Timothy. One of the qualifications for a Pastor is, “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:7) The first half of this verse is common sense. People’s perspective on Jesus will be colored by our actions or inaction. Like it or not, you are the face of Jesus to those that do no yet know Him. It is easy to be an outstanding Christian in the four walls of the church. Sadly, it is to common to find a conflicting testimony of these same individuals outside the church.
I have no shortage of accounts from my years of pastoring. One involved a sister church that had a fence line issue with a neighbor. A leader in the church. unknown to the Pastor. told the neighbor to take a hike, so to speak. I got a call from the neighbor trying to find the person in charge of the “First Baptist” churches. Our church had “First Baptist” in the name. They did not know that most Baptist churches are independent. The situation was resolved and the conflagration avoided with a call to the pastor.
The last phrase reminds us that Satan wants to destroy the testimony of Jesus’ followers in the eyes of others. “so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” We need to think of every conflict as a trap set by Satan. Destroying the testimony of a Pastor, Church and Christians has to be a top priority of our adversary.
Many years ago a major cola company hired a consultant to do a survey on the importance of customer satisfaction. It found that a person will tell from 10 – 16 people of a negative experience. It has been discovered with the advent of the internet these numbers are now much larger. Many times, it can reach hundred of thousands.
Some of the best advice I experienced many years ago on pastoring in a smaller community was, “Be on your best behavior, because everyone is connected!” It was great advice that I have striven to practice ever since. Let me encourage you to take a moment to evaluate your testimony with those that do not yet know Jesus.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson