Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ern Baxter Correcting the Balance ...

I have been unable to get this whole manhood/womanhood issue off my mind for the last couple of days. For those who have just joined the discussion, the whole thing has been sparked off by the publishing of Dr Wayne Grudem's latest book. In it he seems to be drawing the line in the sand - no longer can we remain safely in the "radical middle ground". He claims that if you hold an egalitarian position then you are starting on a road that will end in accepting homosexuality as a lifestyle. My good friend Jul has written an excellent response to my thoughts called, "Feminism - the greatest threat to the church?". I am grateful for this. It seems to me that the loudest voices in this are on the one hand the egalitarian feminists and on the other the complementarian men (i.e Grudem). We need to hear from complementarian women!

For my part I said that I don't really have much to contribute to the debate. After all I am no Grudem. But what I do think we can do is to begin to fill the internet and the discussion forums with positive teaching on how men should really be men. Maybe if Christian men started behaving how God intended, then Christian egalitarian women might follow suit. Has anyone stopped to consider the fact that it seems women often rise up to do men's jobs when weak ineffectual men seem to fill the earth? That's how Deborah became a Judge in Israel. That's how Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in London.

So here's my contribution to beginning the positive drive for real Christian men. This is an extract from Dr Ern Baxter's book, "The Chief Shepherd and His Sheep".

"A Shepherd's Characteristics.

In 1 Timothy 3:2-7 God tells us specifically what a shepherd should be. (These characteristics also appear in the paralell passage of Titus 1:5-9).

Blameless.

A shepherd must be above reproach - irreprehensible, unassailable. He is a man whose life cannot be spoken against. Enemies may bring all manner of accusationss, but these charges are proved to be empty whenever fair methods of investigation are applied.

The Husband of One Wife.

This requirement is restrictive not imperative. It is not necessary that a shepherd be married but if he is, he should be married to only one woman. This requirement may have some special significance in Paul's day because the pagans to whom he preached were coming out of polygamy.

Vigilant.

The lexical definition of this word is "temperate" or "circumspect" and it connotes that a shepherd be filled with spiritual and moral earnestness. He is not given to excess but is moderate, well-balanced, calm, careful and steady. This pertains to his physical, mental and moral habits.

Sober.

This means "sound-minded". The self-controlled or sensible man is a man of sound mind. He is discreet and sane. As a result he is not swayed by sudden impulses over which he exercises no mastery. A shepherd must be an example to the flock. He must represent, as it were, Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd. He must reflect the character of Jesus Christ in such a way that the sheep will see His character and in turn want to have the same kind of character. This is a high calling.

Of Good Behaviour.

A shepherd must have a disciplined life that consists of inner moral excellence and outwardly orderly behaviour.

Given to Hospitality.

At the time when Paul wrote this, Christians on a journey could not stay at public inns because these places were often ribald drinking houses and houses of ill fame. Nor could they resort to the houses of the heathen if they wanted to walk in holiness. Staying in the home of a pagan meant exposing himself to all the crudities of ungodliness. Therefore the home and help of any Christian was welcome. An overseer was thus to be an example of hospitality always keeping his place open in his home for visitors. The principle still holds. A shepherd, in his desire to care for people, must know the pleasurable inconvinience of showing much hospitality.

Apt to Teach.

A shepherd must be a capable and qualified teacher. He must have a gift for teaching. In the Amplified Bible, the paralell passage Titus 1:9 says that "he must hold fast to the sure and trustworthy Word of God as he was taught it, so that he may be able to give stimulating instruction and encouragement in sound (wholesome) doctrine and to refute and convict those who contradict and oppose it - showing the wayward their error". The implications of a shepherds office extend beyond giving practical advice and spending recreational time with those in his care to the serious business of maturing the people of God and withstanding the inroads of wickedness into the body of Christ, the ultimate goal being to disciple the nations. This can only be accomplished as the shepherds in the church are careful that they themselves are champions of the faith and that they are able to teach.

In the list of gifts in Ephesians 4:11, shepherds and teachers are placed together in a way that the other three are not, leading many scholars to believe that a shepherd-teacher is one ministry. It certainly seems that way considering that shepherds must be apt to teach. They must each feed the portion of the flock under their care.

As an aside the only difference between an elder and a deacon is that the elder is able to teach. Deaconing like shepherding is a high calling. While deacons do handle much of the material side of church activities, they are involved in more than sweeping floors or handing out the bulletins. They work with people too and are probably the ones who have the most involvement with the indigent and others who need such practical assistance. Deacons also attend to such essential and demanding services as finance, administration and other practical matters requiring specialised skills. Because of this they must be "full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit".

Not Given to Wine.

Shepherds must set an example for a sober community. The church of God does not need the false stimulus of alcoholic beverages, for the Bible instructs us to "be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the Holy Spirit". Admittedly wine was and is a common beverage in Bible lands and it cannot be proven from the Bible that a man has no right to drink wine. Yet it can be proven that a man is not permitted to abuse wine so that the normalcy of his abilities and judgement is affected. How many people can drink much before this happens? There is certainly no place for the misuse of alcohol in the Kingdom of God - especially by elders. Furthermore in this day when alcohol and drugs are ravaging our nation, it is a tragedy for Christians to indulge at all; and for a person who may prove unable to handle alcohol to get his first drink at an elder's house is a double tragedy.

No Striker.

A shepherd must not be a violent man, one who is ever ready with his fists. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal". We must understand that there is more than one way to strike someone; a vicious tongue can strike blow after blow. A shepherd cannot be a man who lashes out with his tongue as though it were a fist, nor with his fist itself.

Not Greedy of Filthy Lucre.

A shepherd cannot be a lover of money, one with an insatiable appetite for wealth, one who is even ready to obtain it by questionable means.

Patient.

This quality is the opposite of a striker. It causes a person to be yielding, lenient and courteous. Though never compromising with respect to the truth of the gospel, a shepherd must yield when it comes to his own rights.

Not a Brawler.

A shepherd cannot be an obstreperous man who is quick to anger, contentious and quarrelsome. He must not always be wanting to fight, but on the contrary must be adverse to doing so. Even if he were not physically violent by being disputatious he would still be lacking one of the characteristics needed to be an overseer.

One that Ruleth Well His Own House.

A shepherd must rule his own household well, keeping his children under control with true dignity, commanding their respect in every way and making sure that they stay respectful. The father's firmness makes it advisable for a child to obey, his wisdom makes it natural for a child to obey and his love makes it a pleasure for a child to obey.

Not a Novice.

A shepherd is not one who is newly planted. He must not be, says one translation, "a beginner in the faith for fear of his becoming conceited and sharing the devil's downfall". Never put a new convert in a place of authority for he cannot handle it and was not meant to.

Must Have a Good Report with Them Which Are Without.

A shepherd must be known even to wordly people as a man of character, a man against whom it is not possible to level any just charges of moral turpitude. It must be said that he conducts himself properly with respect to outsiders.

We need a revival that will restore us to the essence of Christianity where God says, "Be ye holy for I am holy", a holiness that is not just external but that springs up from within. Godliness will not come about by preaching "Be godly" but people are going to want to be godly because they want to imitate the godliness that they see in their elders. What they see, not just what they hear will stimulate them to holiness. The greatest incentives are those that are seen in the examples of respected elders and those elders must take care to set a good example.

5 comments:

Baxter's Boy said...

I will just throw this personal reflection in as a comment, as I wanted Ern's words on leadership to stand unsullied from my thoughts.

His final comment really revealed something in me as to how my life has been shaped by the godly examples (or not) of the Christian leaders I have been under.

My first pastor Dr Stanley Jebb was an awesome man who is still one of my top living heroes. His utter commitment to the Word of God combined with his passion for the glory of God has never quite left me. But furthermore his prayer life demonstrated an intimacy and communion with God that I haven't come close to. I have had the amazing opportunity to sit in his home and join in as he prayed - and when he did, you knew you were on holy ground.

Another man who was a spiritual father to me was a guy called Peter Cockrell who used to be assistant pastor at my home church. I really got to know him while I was at university in Birmingham. He had a profound impact on me because I had just been baptised in the Holy Spirit and was already immersing myself in Ern Baxter's concept of Word and Spirit. Peter Cockrell used to share the same utter passion and it was just amazing to sit with him and hear him sketch out how the marriage of Word and Spirit could really work in church life. I still treasure the moments I spent with him talking about life in the Spirit!

The final man who has been a spiritual father to me even though he doesn't really know me is Terry Virgo. He too became very influential as I began to see and learn from him about apostolic leadership and how true apostleship really manifests itself. One of my favourite things to do is to simply watch Terry as he worships. Like listening to Stanley Jebb pray, you feel you are on holy ground because Terry's face somehow begins to glow with a radiance - and you know he too is communing with the Lord he loves.

I am so blessed to have these men who are truly examples of godliness!! Ern is right - it is their examples that have had a more powerful impact on me than their words. Of course there have been extremely negative examples as well that I could cite. But I won't - because those men are human and accountable to the Lord for what they didn't do. Far better to focus on the positives!

Luke Wood said...

Hi Dan and a Happy-almost-Christmas to you! It's been a while.

On the subject of women complementarians, Marian Groves has just finished taking the ladies of Winchester Family Church through God's Design For Women by Sharon James - I have heard that it an excellently and intelligently argued book. I believe Sharon and her husband are responsible for much of the CBMW in the UK.

I hope books like this serve men and women as we seek to understand our roles better - and I definitely agree with you that it is important we hear from female complementarians.

I, like you, am tempted to move on from the subject, but then (again, like you) find the subject so compelling - even this short course in Winchester proved that it is still a big issue for many women (and men), even within Newfrontiers.

Gavin White said...

Thanks for this Dan, I think some of Ern's insights into Eldership are excellent. As an Elder myself, I am continually challenged and inspired by the high calling that scripture places upon this leadership role....in my opinion, people always catch who you are more than what you say.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for the book plug Luke - I haven't heard of that one before although I have read some of Sharon James's books before. She always struck me as an excellent complementarian woman with the right balance.

I think Jul's question is key:

"With all the attention focused on feminists and homosexuals, are we perhaps missing some even more dangerous problems within our own camp, such as legalism, self-righteousness, and pride?".

My answer is: YES, YES, YES!!!

As Luke said, it is an important issue that we won't be able to abandon, but when awful examples of legalistic abuse of trust is still happening in churches, something is wrong and we are missing an element of our responsibility to care for all people.

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