Tuesday, July 17, 2012
A Critique of the Creepy and Unbiblical Deacon Qualifications at an SBC Mega Church: "Lifting Up the Hands of the Pastor" and Other Such Nonsense
If Bellevue Baptist's deacons qualifications are typical of an SBC mega church, it seems to be a deacon nowadays you have to be wealthy (or poor and agree to be poorer), agree to do things that are absolutely not in the Bible, and you have to pledge your allegiance to a man. I've said it before: give the SBC another couple hundred years, and their hierarchy and devotion to professional religious men will be indistinguishable from the modern Roman Catholic Church.
What I read as the qualifications of a deacon are absolutely indistinguishable from what the standards were for a small SBC church when I was ordained as a deacon and served as the Vice Chair of deacons in the 1990s.
And these expectations are not just creepy, I believe they helped to create an environment where abuses - should they occur in the church - would be covered up and not fully disclosed to authorities or the congregation.
Here are the Bellevue Baptist Church deacon qualifications that peg my creep meter:
1. "The deacon would be expected to give a tithe (one-tenth) of his income for the work of Christ through the local church." Darn. You have to either be wealthy enough to afford to fork over 1/10th of your income, or you have to agree to be irresponsible in managing your finances and give more than your family can afford for the privilege of rubbing elbows with the big boys at Bellevue. The New Testament standard is regular, generous giving - this could be 25% for some, 0.5% for others. Again, we see legalism making the gospel bad news for the poor who can't afford a tithe, very good news for the rich who could give more.
2. "The deacon is one who is to help create and preserve harmony in the church. He should be able to have and to maintain the reputation of keeping in confidence those things which should not be discussed openly. He should be wise and discreet. " Huh? Isn't this just common sense? Aren't mature adults in any sort of leadership expected to keep things in confidence which need to be in confidence? Why does this have to be stated as an expectation? I'll tell you why: because deacons at this church and others are expected to suppress any and all negative information that might harm the church or the pastor. This is a form of the "cant' talk rule" described by Johnson and Van Vonderan: "If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem...the truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don't cause them, they simply expose them....the 'can't talk rule', however, blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence." A deacon is to "create and preserve harmony" - that means they are to help silence troublemakers. Harmony doesn't need to be created or preserved - it is the natural outflow of a healthy organization.
3. "He should see that his duty is to lift up the hands of the Pastor..." Why does a deacon need to "lift up the hands of the Pastor" (capital "P"). What on earth does that mean, anyhow, "lift up the hands"? Creepy language that means nothing but to set forth the idea that the Man of God is more important than anyone else, a "Moses" of sorts whose hands tire as he lifts them to stay the hand of God. If it means to assist him in certain duties, why not say "assist the pastor as needed in pastoral duties"? Are there any job descriptions out there talking about "lifting the hands" of your boss?
4. "....and to work positively and with loyalty under the Pastor's leadership." Yes, you must be "positive" and be "loyal". I have yet to see a job description in the real world where an adult is told to be "positive" and "loyal" to a man or woman in the organization. This is the stuff cults are made of, friends. In ANY organization, your "loyalty" is not to people, or even to an organization. It would be to the goals and ideals of the organization, and a Pastor or anyone else who acts in opposition to those ideals deserves no loyalty from anyone. This is just another indication of the "can't talk rule" being in place at this church. If you ask questions, or become a voice of dissent on an issue, you are not "loyal", you are not "positive", you ARE the problem.
5. "He is to free the Pastor to do the work to which God has called the Pastor to do." Why does the pastor need to be "freed" to do his work? How do we "free" him? What work does he need to be freed to do that he can't do unless the deacons "free" him to it? Should lay people free the deacons? This is an elevation of the position of "Pastor" (capital P) to a spiritual plane higher than everyone else.
6. "The deacon's family life should be an example. He should be the husband of one wife and must guide and lead his children and his own house well. Neither husband nor wife has been previously married." So we have to eliminate anyone who has ever been married before. A remarried widower, for example, cannot serve. I've seen this ridiculous rule implemented and eliminate men who would be fine leaders -sorry, "servants" - in a church.
7. "The very word "deacon" means servant. This does not demean or lower an individual. To the contrary Jesus said, 'And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave' Service exalts." This is funny. Apparently the men who might serve as a volunteer in the position of deacon have to be TOLD that being a deacon and serving is not demeaning. They have to be told that it actually will "exalt" them. Yes, serve as a deacon, and you will be exalted by your service. Do grown men need to be told this about serving in a volunteer capacity?
8. A deacon should not drink alcoholic beverages, use nicotine or other addictive substances, or participate in questionable amusements." Not in the Bible- the verses they quote say a man shouldn't be addicted to wine, doesn't say anything about nicotine, and I'm not sure what "questionable amusements" might possibly be. Like "R" rated movies, playing the lottery? Maybe reading the Watchdog? I would say one of my "questionable amusements" is listening to a Steve Gaines sermon every now and then.
OK, let me wrap this up by making a couple of points:
No wonder so many mega churches handle instances of abuse so poorly - covering up cases of abuse, failing to properly report abuse to authorities, or shuttling a suspected abuser to the next church without alerting authorities. Look at the diminished pool of candidates from which they can choose their leaders who would wisely discern a course of action: candidates are all men, only married men - sorry, only married men who have been married once - only married men married once who happen to have decent children and who don't drink beer, wine, or whisky. From that restricted pool of leaders we now have to eliminate the poor slobs who can't fork over 10% of their income, who might have a glass of wine with their wife at dinner, and eliminate all those who aren't willing to keep secrets and pledge their loyalty to a "Pastor". Wow.
What large organization, what large corporation could function at maximum efficiency - could make wise decisions - if they restricted their managers to be selected from such a narrow pool of candidates?
Deacons at Bellevue will tell you that all of these qualifications come from scripture, from 1 Tim 1:3-10. But not really. These verses don't say anything about "tithing", and they don't say that you must not drink alcohol. I've been around SBC churches long enough to know that exceptions to these "biblical standards" are made if it is convenient - but there is ONE qualification that they don't bend on: deacons must all have penises.
Eliminating women from serving as deacons or elders in most SBC churches eliminates them from possibly serving on a board of trustees - as the trustees are typically selected from the body of deacons. Although 1 Tim 3 is used as the basis for eliminating women from the position of deacon, this ignores the fact that there is evidence that women served the church in leadership positions in the New Testament. "Phoebe" served as a deacon in Romans 16:2, and "Junia" was described as "outstanding among the apostles" in Romans 16:7. And look at women leaders in the Old Testament. And about "Junia" in Romans 16:2: what your pastor won't tell you is the name "Junia" was changed to the masculine form "Junias" in the bible in the year 1100. Look it up.
It is no wonder that evangelical churches who subscribe to the unbiblical standard of male-only leadership have trouble handling scandal: the leaders are only once-married males who pledge their loyalty and 10% minimum of their income to their institution and Pastor....
...and who are capable of keeping secrets.
Posted by FBC Jax Watchdog at 9:09 AM