I have found that by trusting people until they prove themselves unworthy of that trust, a lot more good things happen–Jim Burke, Former Chairman and CEO of Johnson and Johnson
When it comes to trust of church leaders, I have observed there are two types of people I have served with. Those who expect you to earn their trust before giving trust, and those that trust you until trust is violated. Both attitudes are at best half-truths.
We are all imperfect humans in this life and thus at times will disappoint and fall short of God’s, our own, as well as other’s standards, expectations and hopes. The type of trust we are called as Christ followers to give to our fellow flawed family, friends, leaders in our churches, and co-laborers can never truly be earned or retracted. It must be given as a gift, and viewed as a gift of faith because we trust a loving and compassionate God with our very lives, relationships and circumstances.
That said, it is a serious spiritual short coming to have church leaders who are untrustworthy or church members who are unable or unwilling to trust church leaders. Church members need to trust church leaders or replace them. Pastors need to trust and empower their staff, or replace them. If we don’t trust, then have good, solid, verifiable and documented reasons. Talk face to face about your lack of trust and why.
Rather than focus on distrust, determine how you can bless, encourage, honor, affirm and support the work of church leaders. In 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul says “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor.” And in 1 Thessalonians members should “regard their leaders very highly in love because of their work.”
Yet, in Paul’s letters to Titus and Timothy he emphasizes church leaders should be blameless and willing to open their lives to inspection, being worthy of the trust of those they lead and recognizing the God-given authority of the congregation. And, that their use of authority should demonstrate an understanding the church belongs not to them, but to Christ as head of the church. The lie that authority can never be trusted will only be subverted as church leaders exercise Christ-like authority.
Scripture is clear that church leaders will give an account to Christ for their stewardship of authority and whether or not they led faithfully for the glory of God. Hebrews 13:17 promises that church leaders will give an account for how they lead, but also recommends to members that it will be “unprofitable” to not follow their leaders.
Scripture calls both church leaders and church members to trust and to accountability. How well we manage the tension of trust and accountability can be the difference between church health and dysfunction, unity and disunity, and the effectiveness of our witness to the world.
Posted on August 29, 2017