Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Integrity Issues (5)

My paper for the Prague conference is coming together, with thanks for input from your comments. Called: Issues of Integrity facing proclaimers of the gospel, it will comprise three parts:

1) Integrity of the preacher - the obvious starting point concerns the preacher's personal moral character and ethical practice. A checklist for such integrity, (I have drawn on some recent articles), includes: sexuality, finances, accountability, exegesis, plagiarism and manipulation of hearers. Interestingly, a book published in 1966 called The Preacher's Integrity has no mention of the first three on the list! Is it a sign of the times that sexuality, finances and accountability have become such hot issues today?

2) Integrity of the preaching task - while faithful exegesis and plagiarism are important issues, there is a need to tackle how preaching itself enables hearers to think and behave with moral discernment. Shouldn't preaching enable congregations to practice moral discernment in the way they live Sundays to Saturdays? I have been struck by a book Preaching What We Practice - Proclamation and Moral Discernment (David J. Schlafer and Timothy F. Sedgwick, 2007) that challenges preachers to engage their hearers in corporate accountability and moral response by the way they live. Preaching can fail in its biblical ethical task, can't it?

3) Integrity of the Congregation's role as proclaimers of the gospel. It is also important to realize that preaching is not just the responsibility of a person at the front, but of the whole people to live out the gospel in community. Congregations and preachers can collude to harm this integrity. Sometimes this is deliberate. Ed Young Jr. has just caused a stir by his video : Church Pirates Beware condemning those who join church staffs only to siphon off resources and build their own following down the street. But there is also unwitting collusion such as pursuing idolatries of efficiency and success. Preachers can please congregations by communication fireworks, business expertise and comfortable platitudes all contributing to self-serving goals that miss Christ's gospel call of witness and service.

I look forward to blogging what happens when I share some of this in a couple of weeks' time. Can you see glaring omissions in my summary?


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a solid, short, pertinent, outline Michael. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Boy, look at that link to the bbc. That's a real eye opener to what we the church are really like!! how sad!

I thought you might add to the integrity of the preacher section (if you were not already including it under one of your subpoints) something about humility/pride as it always goes before the fall. In today's culture, there is the potential for preachers, pastors, or evangelists who write about and expound God's word, if they are not careful, to be lured by fame to self-aggrandizement. That could fit under a few of your subpoints: manipulation of hearers, finances, and/or accountability.

Re: your second point, I had a question. What is corporate moral accountability? What does it look like practically?

Re: integrity of the congregation, I would hate to think that a preacher would knowingly seek to steal from God's kingdom to build up his own kingdom (implied in your comment about the Church Pirates and apparently without any fear of God). This might be avoided by holding closely to integrity in points one and two. The key here seems to be faithfully preaching, thereby encouraging the congregation and leading them (sounds like 360 degree preaching and leadership) in worship, evangelism and service to the body as well as beyond the church walls to the community and the world.

Scott was right.