Making church safe, part 3: Confronting, recovering, preventing [draft sermon notes]
Published March 24th, 2022
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1 Timothy 5
1 Timothy 5:17-25
17 Let the elders z who rule well be considered worthy of a double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, b “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, c “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except d on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, e rebuke them in the presence of all, f so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels g I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, h doing nothing from partiality. 22 i Do not be hasty in the j laying on of hands, nor k take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but l use a little wine m for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and n even those that are not cannot remain hidden.
Making church safe, part 3: Confronting, recovering, preventing Intro Brief recap of parts 1 and 2. Today, gathering up loose ends Vulnerability in a person reveals the true heart of the person with power/authority. To put it another way, we see what people are really like when all accountability is taken away. Confronting Outline of safeguarding policy and discipline policies. Invite your input. And how elders are appointed and reappointed. Where to find these in the future. 1 Timothy 5, Matthew 18. But justice is not forgiveness. And sadly in contemporary culture it is easy for people just to leave. Recovering Safety. The darkest side of being a victim: indefinite self-absorption as a righteous and unappeasable victim (the enslaving lie which keeps us from grace). Counselling and the four selves. Forgiveness and asymmetry of duty. But forgiveness is not restoration. Restoration is justice and forgiveness. Note that the predisposing factors from part 1 can equally be the perpetuating factors preventing recovery. E.g., we continue to blame ourselves. Knowing the true Jesus. Isaiah 42.3; Isaiah 50.4-6 Matthew 11.29 and John 13.1-5. And never forget that he knows what it is to be betrayed and abused. Preventing Book of Proverbs and those who 'lack sense' (lit., lack heart). To 'lack heart' is not to be an integrated human being who knows the fear of the LORD. The best thing all of us can do is confront our own issues (how we 'lack heart'). Being a Christian doesn't mean you no longer have issues, it means those issues no longer keep you from intimacy with God. You no longer need to fear confronting them. But you do still need to confront those issues actively and with courage, leaning on your Saviour. Our heart-issues prevent us from loving others truly, and are the reasons then that we misuse power. In leadership roles, this damage is massively leveraged. [Meta diagram of God, revealed in Christ, and belief/unbelief in our hearts, and relationships] Forms and functions again. Christian 'forms' appeal when we 'lack sense', but what we need is healthy functioning that comes from a heart united in the love of God. The essence of trauma is powerlessness, and the ways in which we've been treated when we were powerless stick with us in ways we are wise to recognise and metabolise, so that we don't in turn wound others. Face our fears. Usually it is the ultimate inability to face fears which makes leaders resign, literally or functionally. E.g., a difficult personality or group. Psalm 46. Promoting and modeling the right use of authority, whatever our sphere. Even the micro-details of conversations, especially where there is a 'power differential'. We dearly want a culture at GCG where the emphasis is not on formal and visible service, still less on tangible results. But on healthy relating. Which is where most true 'serving' happens. This will only happen if our identity comes not from what we do, but from who we are as children of God together. Better at spotting the micro-signs. Bravado and narcissism (bully and victim, paranoia). Intensity is not intimacy (cf confession, community etc). Realise this isn't really about formal leaders, but about how Christians relate. Toxic and malicious and selfish ways of exerting ourselves on others. Healthy and legitimate authority should be honoured and upheld (1 Timothy 5.17-18). Bike shed principle and how it undermines spiritual leadership. Sabbaticals for leaders. And we need to watch out for 'founder syndrome'. Are we so ok with others that we’re prepared to be disappointed, hurt, and let down by them? If not, we’ll find subtle ways to keep ourselves from vulnerability with them, and find ways to control them and what they know of me. The only way to be truly open and free in relationships is to be all the more secure in how we loved we are together in Jesus. Our vision is Jesus. What this means. Ultimately, what all of us need is to know the Chief Shepherd. The answer can’t be that ‘we’ will be a safe refuge forever, or that any leader here will be a perfect rock. All shepherds must shepherd under Jesus, knowing and leaning upon him. The Spirit applies Jesus, like a doctor applies the medicine. Wrap up/Further reading and listening: Narcissism book. Langberg book. FIEC podcasts. Plentiful BCUK and CCEF books and podcasts. Vulnerability reveals the heart of the authority (not of the victim). Look at the glorious kindness of our Lord Jesus, the Chief Shepherd. John 13, knowing that all things had been given to him.