Guilty of Disrespect

There have been recent assertions that actions taken and issues raised by Travis Johnson and by me constitute that which is “disrespectful” or “having no respect for those in authority.” I would like to respond, not defensively, but to give an accountable answer for my actions.

There is no doubt that today there is certainly a lack of respect in our culture…and that it is not a new thing. I share everyone’s concern for that. But perhaps the broader term that scripture uses to describe this dynamic would be “honor.” Lost honor.

One of the reasons we instruct the kids, in particular in our church, to refer to their pastors as “Pastor,” is not because we are in to titles but rather, it is to try and recapture something of the lost sense of honor that Malachi declares is at the foundation of the moral and spiritual unraveling of the nation of Israel. Malachi’s indictment is riveting…because the fathers have not honored The Father (God) …the children thus do not honor their fathers and as a result a legacy of faith and covenant stands to be lost…or to be treated with no “value.”

The majority of people would probably be quick to agree that every “next” generation seems to have stamped on its DNA the tendency toward a lack of respect. But Malachi’s allegation seems to imply that it is the honor-less actions of the “fathers” that seem to fertilize the opportunity for this honor-less propensity that already exists within the hearts of the young. The fathers haven’t “honored” the covenant with God in general, or with “the wife of their youth,” or with their finances, etc. The net effect of this absence of honor is what Malachi (or God) calls the “separation of hearts” (fathers from the children…children from the fathers). (More on that…)

Entering the New Testament…I love the words time’ and timao (honor/to honor). And while “honor” is certainly something that we are to give others, these words do not just address the sense of “status” one may hold or be given. Linguists tell us that in a larger scope these words address the “valuation system” by which that status (of honor) is established, thus it is translated, “price,” as well. That is huge. Further, as I understand the root term…it was one used in the judicial process for something akin to the “sentencing” portion of the “judgment” sequence. In the judicial sense…a “valuation” of relative liability (guilt or not) would be made of an individual and then the appropriate “status” would be assigned. It perhaps could fairly be said that a sentenced criminal had been, “honored” appropriately by the courts. Of interesting note is a colloquial reference we use about someone who has spent time incarcerated for a crime…”they have paid their debt to society.”

No matter how you approach the term…whether a criminal found guilty of a crime or someone in an esteemed position of leadership and influence…there is a “value” placed on their position and there is a “price” to be “paid” for the “value” of that “status.”

I have a question for those who make the declaration that what we are doing constitutes a failure to “honor the office,” and that we are acting dishonorably and with no respect.

When “the office” is one of esteemed spiritual “status” and incredible spiritual “value”…

When “the office” is one in which our “valuation system” places an immeasurable amount of influence over other lives…

Then….do you see it as a failure to properly “honor the office” when those “honored” persons are asked to authenticate the trust placed in them…even when it appears certain actions or behavior run contrary to the “valuation system” that has been mutually embraced?

While I am aware of (and value) the “touch not God’s anointed,” dynamic and truth, yet I ask, “Where is the voice of Samuel to Saul, Nathan to David, Elijah to Ahab, that summoned the full “value” potential of the position of honor held?”

What do we do with, “To whom much is given, much is REQUIRED?” The scope of responsibility is proportionate to the scope of influence of giftedness.

At our church we have a drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry. One of the recurring points of truth I bring to them is regarding the skewed “honor” system they bring in off the street with them. There is a sort of code of “honor” to not “rat someone out,” even if one of the students should somehow get their hands on drugs/alcohol or they in some other fashion violate the covenant of life in the Restoration House. The “honor” system of the street says you don’t “tell.” It’s a street justice. It’s a twisted “honor” system. The only problem is…that their “honor” system in fact insulates the violating individual from the accountability that will help bring them the desired result of deliverance. I tell them that they are not helping their buddy one bit by helping them “hide” from the truth that will set them free. There is no “honor” or ultimate “value” in that. And there will never be the achieving of the “honor” (status) that God has in mind for them through the grace and truth manifested in deliverance from their addiction. Unwittingly they accept a “status” of life far beneath the honor God has intended.

Ironically the word for “truth” in the New Testament means to “un-hide,” (in the simplest of senses). Also ironically the first action of mankind after the fall was to, “hide themselves,” from none other than God Himself. The result is what we refer to as, “The Fall.” The fall…from the “status” God has originally intended for us to walk in and fulfill His high purpose in us.

If asking tough questions of those who have been “honored” by our fellowship to hold the place of influence they hold is seen as a lack of “honor” or an appropriate valuation of them (or their office)…then you are free to hold that opinion. But I happen to believe that they are more “valuable,” and more “valu-able” than that.

In Malachi’s day there was indeed an “honor” system. It was just not God’s honor system. They had “twisted” the terms of the covenant to meet their own ends…and their own “values.” My concern is that our contrived “honor” system in the Church of God would in fact “honor” actions and methods that are not only NOT in keeping with God’s word…but are not in keeping with the “code” of behavior we have mutually embraced (cf. The Minutes of the General Assembly).

When we fail to establish “honor” on God’s terms…it will have the same effect as it did in Malachi’s day….hearts will be separated…not only from each other…but perhaps from the understanding of God’s “fatherhood” intentions as well.

When we act in a fashion that is without “honor”…and thus without “value”…how dare we indict the next generation of young shepherds for saying they see no “value” in what we hold. The fact is……..God may very well agree with them.


14 Responses

  1. Tom,
    Excellent post! I believe the pastor/teacher has absorbed the true prophetic calling and its place in the body of Christ. This has caused a serious blindspot in the body and made us vulnerable to pride, arrogance and has caused us to veer off course. It has also, produced a culture of leadership that is not open to correction, where the pastor or administrator rules with an iron fist and in many cases is not even open to another perspective.

    Sadly, this is yet another case of the body of Christ settling for less than God’s best. That is not merely sad it is dangerous! The current situation of being accused of being “disrespectful” or “having no respect for those in authority,” may be a direct result of a distain and complete rejection of the role/calling of the prophet.

    God requires our obedience. I believe that we will not experience the fullness of God turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers until we restore the honor and respect for the “True Prophet.”(We are already seeing this happening on a small scale.) Effectively we must repent for how we have treated our prophets and allow the prophet to take his/her place in the body. This is clearly a place where we are not being obedient to scripture.

  2. Last year I wrote a piece on Authority and Evangelical Churches, where I take this subject head on.

    I think that our relationship to those “over us in the Lord” needs to be considered in light of the nature (both historical and theological) of Protestant churches in general and Evangelical churches in particular. I don’t think that these antecedents support a lot of the authoritarianism that has become in vogue in my generation.

    That having been said, I’ve never been one to stay awake at night thinking up ways of causing trouble, either on the local church level or the International one. And it’s fair to say that the people who contribute and comment on this blog have a deep love for the Church of God and want to see it prosper and fulfil its mission. As I’ve said before, I’m impressed by the deep roots represented here.

    As Travis would say, we–and I mean all of us in this church–need to have each other’s back in the times we live in. God will not be honoured by the failure of our church. That realisation needs to be mutual, and that realisation will engender real respect by and for everyone.

  3. Captain Boyd – as always…challenging, compelling insight. (You should have been a Marine – LOL).

    Don – you always make me think to hard. Great article on “Authority and Evangelical Churches.”

    I am aware that what follows is not at the heart of what you stated…but your closing remarks opened the door to a peripheral consideration:

    As Stephen Covey wrote years ago, “There are some things only obtained if not directly pursued.” My cry to (for) the church is not so much one of “mutual respect, ” as it is a “respect” for the mission of Jesus. I do think one of the predictable by-products WILL be the valuing of each other at new levels. However, I think if we just say, “Hey let’s all show some respect for each other,” that we still have no guarantee of accomplishing the mission of Jesus.

    Contrary to the axiom, I believe that there does exist, “Honor among thieves.” Problem is…you’re still a…oh well…you see the problem.

  4. Tom,

    In Aug of 2003 I was in Iraq with the 3 MAW from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. They take good care of their chaplains! But I think I will stay in the Air Force.

    All of these pictures are me with marines and my AF chaplain asst.

  5. Tom. I don’t think you and Travis are disrespectful. I feel you guys love the COG and want the best for it. Sometimes when we disagree with “The Man” or “The System” and demand integrity and accountability we are mistaken for being troublemakers.

    ON A LIGHTER NOTE….. Could someone please post the song Tom sung at TN campmeeting on YouTube? That was awesome Tom!

  6. Thanks Tom for a very clear answer to some difficult accusations.

  7. […] hopefully Tom Sterbens, who recently met with the Executive Committee, will not have to think too hard about this. Bookmark to: Hide Sites […]

  8. The scriptures require two things of a steward; faithfulness and fruitfulness. They also define stewardship as the responsibility of managing anothers’s property, in the case of the church, God’s property. Whether kept in the local church or sent to state and international offices, all of the money, property and resources of the COG belong to the Lord. All that is hidden will be brought to the light. It may be that God is using Tom and Travis as instruments to effect this “unhiding” in the COG and if he is then no EC decision or GA resolution is going to prevent God from doing so; but, beware of presumption and keep yourself pure in obedience to the current system until God acts through his instruments to effect change. Remember, the same Jesus who cleansed the temple still paid his temple tax and required his disciples to tithe after the manner of the pharisee even though he referred to them as “vipers”. No pastor in the COG has the authority to “withhold. redirect or passively encourage members to redefine” the tithe or TOT. Do not let your frustration move you out of the blessing of scriptural submission to those over you in the Lord. Rebellion is as witchcraft and is just as much worthy of God’s judgment as poor stewardship.

    God’s purposes will not we thwarted for long, our weapons are not carnal but they are mighty!

  9. since when could we not discuss in a christian way the things we need to discuss about the direction of the church.we all i would hope want the best for the church.

  10. No one was ever honored for what one received.
    Honor has been the reward for what one gave.

    I believe we must all remember that any position of authority given to us by God is only to empower us to greater serve, encourage and empower others, not to be greater served.
    Jesus affirms that God measures success by service not by status, by how many we serve not by how many we can get or force to serve us.

    Yes, we honor God because of Who He is. Yes, we obey Him by always submitting to those in authority over us. However, submitting and obeying / going along with are two different things. When the Apostles were arrested and commanded to not preach in the streets, they did not resist arrest but did tell those in authority over them they would obey God and not their request that was in opposition to God’s will.

    True leaders will always challenge the process by asking questions like, What are we doing? Why are we doing it? and Why are we doing it this way?
    These are questions every pastor / leader must ask of themselves and the church on a regular basis. These questions are not designed to threaten or be disrespectful but necessary in order to maximize the God-given potential of both the individual and the organization.

    We are living in very challenging and yet exciting times. The Lord is indeed coming again soon. We must be like the Sons of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. I for one am looking and praying for leaders who will fear God more than man and lead His Church in the way we should go.

    If we will hear God clearly and obey Him completely
    God Himself will honor that!

  11. Kevin Mendel wrote:
    “No one was ever honored for what one received.
    Honor has been the reward for what one gave.

    I believe we must all remember that any position of authority given to us by God is only to empower us to greater serve, encourage and empower others, not to be greater served.
    Jesus affirms that God measures success by service not by status, by how many we serve not by how many we can get or force to serve us.”

    Kevin, thank you for the comments. I believe we have been called to be servants– men and women who are willing to sacrifice self so the mission of Christ can be carried forth. It is not about us; it is about Him living in and through us. Thanks for the admonition.

    Bless you bro!

  12. Just a suggestion, but maybe it would promote mature Christian discussion if posters were required to use their own names?

    I think there are some important conversations we need to be having about our Church – but I have no wish to be part of an Actscelerate-type board where the nameless and gutless take anonymous potshots at others.

    How about it Travis and Tom? Can this be a forum where we only speak that which we are prepared to repeat to one another when we meet face to face?

  13. Sounds like a plan Nick.

  14. […] a very few people have begun posting anonymously.  It has been requested that we disallow anonymous posts since they seem to violate our desire for openness, authenticity, […]

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