Volume 14, Issue 6: Meander
Controversy is deplored by most and enjoyed by some. Not surprisingly, since the world is a sinful place, those who
deplore it tend to do so selfishly, and those who enjoy it tend to do the same. But all things are delivered into our lives by a
sovereign God, and everything He gives usas in the parable of the talentsHe expects to be returned to Him with a profit. It is
no different with controversy. In other words, when controversies and tangles come (and they will), God expects good
stewardship from you in it. He will want an accounting, just as He wants an accounting from other aspects of your life. We tend
to view controversy as a "going into debt" kind of situation. What possible good can come from all this? But the
greatest blessings I have seen in our church have (all of them) been the result of controversies. And, flipping it around, I can
think of no controversies that have not turned a profit. This is only by the grace of God, but we must rememberthis is what
the grace of God is up to.
Tim Gallant has written an outstanding treatment of the vexed question of paedo-communion called
Feed My Lambs. The book is thorough in its treatment of the exegetical questions, completely capable with regard to the theological issues,
and irenic in tone throughout. The information contained here on the practice of the Church throughout history is also
very valuable. Any pastor who deals with this issue, on either side, needs to obtain a copy of the book. It is an
On a related but not identical issue, Jesus once commented that it is not right to take food belonging to the children (at
the table), and give it to the dogs. But for a number of reasons, the modern evangelical church has come to the conclusion
that it is not right to take covenantal food and give it to the children. In doing this, we relegate children growing up in the
church to the position of the dogs in the Syro-Phoenecian woman's famous answerdown under the table, where they get
the crumbs if they are quick enough.
Every time we observe the Supper, we teach our little children something about their status in the covenant in terms
that they fully understand. When the trays of bread and wine go by, we teach our children that they are either "in" or
"out." Anyone who believes that small children do not notice one way or another is simply demonstrating that
they are not noticing their children. Which is not a heart taught by the gospel.
Every pastor who is concerned about administrative issues in the church (whether on the local level, presbytery, or
worse, down at headquarters) should start by throwing away all those "Pastor as CEO" magazines. This is not because the issues
are unimportant, but rather because they are very
important. Instead of the current zine-smog, said pastor should then
obtain copies of two underground classicsThe Peter
Principle, and Parkinson's Law. The Peter
Principle says that people tend to get promotions until they finally reach their level of incompetence.
Parkinson's Law says that work expands to fill the space
or time alloted for it. Master these books and you will understand far more of what goes on around us every day.
Few areas of disobedience in the contemporary Church are quite as glaring as the problems we have with elder
qualifications. The center of these qualifications can be found in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5. As always in matters
requiring wisdom, there are two basic errors to avoid. The first error is far more widespread, but the second, in reaction to the first,
is also serious. The widespread error is to regard the requirements for office as merely idealistic, or something to "shoot
for." Of course when "shooting for" something is substituted for obedience, the result is that "shooting for" gradually
becomes "wishing for," and then "wishing for" becomes "actively opposed to." In such things, being a little bit disobedient is
like trying to be a little bit pregnant.
But the reaction is also problematic. A rigorist solution to such problems appears to have the high ground, but in
reality the Scripture still gets set aside. One of the authors of these qualifications (Peter) had at one point in his ministry
been opposed publicly by the other (Paul) for his cowardice and hypocrisy at Antioch (Gal. 2:12-13). But Peter received
the rebuke, and we find him ministering capably at a great council of elders just a few weeks later (Acts 15:7-10). It would
be easy to put together a rigorist case against the "eldership of Peter"but nevertheless it would be misguided.