It’s not often the New York Times features a story about the inner turmoil of a church and its pastor on the front page. Without going into the saga that is Mars Hill Church (you can follow the links below for details), let’s just say that it’s a mess.
And not just for Mars Hill.
It’s a mess for all churches as such things unfold before a watching world. Every time something like this happens locally, or nationally, I groan. Not simply because it grieves me, not simply because of the damage to our collective witness, but because it makes it so much harder for so many men and women in ministry who don’t create messes.
But, sadly, will get painted with the same brush.
And let’s be clear: we’re not supposed to be leading in a way that creates a public mess.
The Bible lays out certain qualifications for church leaders, most notably that they have demonstrated capable leadership of their own family (I Timothy 3:4-5, Titus 1:6). The idea is that the church is a family, so how can someone lead the church if they can’t seem to handle their own home life? There are other qualifications as well, including being self-controlled, not quarrelsome or greedy (I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9).
The heart of the matter is being “above reproach,” which points to an absence of behavior in public settings that would harm the reputation and ministry of the church. As John Stott aptly noted, “This cannot mean ...