Our Reputation

Our Reputation

Our reputation is the commonly held opinion of our character.  It is our honor, fame, influence, repute, or respectability. “Our” in this case is the Church.  The Church has a reputation just as any individual has a reputation. The problem with the Church’s reputation is that it’s not dependant upon any one person, but a very large and diverse group of people.  The Church’s reputation spans over two thousand years, and it includes multiple generations, various cultures, multiple languages, different types of governments, and every continent. Jesus is able to bring all these differences together, because God is God to all people at all times.  Jesus is the saviour of the entire world, not just one specific group.  

Jesus tells us that the world will know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35).  In other words, love will be our reputation — but is that really our reputation? Shamefully, in many instances it is not.  Recently, there was a very public display of unlovingness by a Christian brother toward a Christian sister. I am referring to a panel discussion with John MacArthur and two other men who made certain comments about Beth Moore at a conference to celebrate 50 years of faithful service by MacArthur.  (A link to the audio is below.)  

I found the audio clip on their word association segment to be very unsettling and I am not alone in this.  A quick search of the internet will tell you that. My first, knee-jerk reaction was to be offended because these men don’t think women belong in places of ministry within the church.  Of course, as a female minister, I am well aware that many men and women hold the belief that women should not preach, or teach, or hold positions of authority within the church.  I am not generally offended when people do not agree with me and I understand why they have this opinion.

Then, I thought I might be upset because I felt the speakers had unjustly targeted Beth Moore with flippant and disrespectful words.  Although I believe this to be the case, I do not know Beth Moore personally, nor am I one of her ardent followers, I can hardly claim to be offended on her behalf.  Still, they could have been more professional and less bullying in their remarks. Quite frankly, I think Beth Moore has been unfairly targeted by numerous people in recent months.  Still, not a reason for me to be personally upset.

As I was mulling it over in my mind, it occurred to me that the crux of my offense is that I am embarrassed for the Church.  This attack was a childish attempt by a group of Christians to gain cheap laughs at another Christian’s expense. Furthermore, the claims made against her were unsubstantiated and, worse yet, she was not present to defend herself.  This exchange soiled the reputation of the Church and I am hurt and offended by it on her (the Church’s) behalf. Honestly, my thought was, “How embarrassing! It’s hard enough to convince people that the church is worthwhile without these guys acting this way.  No one will want to come to church now!” Maybe I’m a little melodramatic, but you get the drift.

After I got to the bottom of my emotions, I found that I was really aggravated with these guys and ready to pick them apart. To save you, dear reader, from my rant, I have decided to make just one single point.  (Wipe your brow in relief here.)  

During this dialog, MacArthur made the following statement:  “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.”  He makes this statement as if his interpretation of scripture is inerrant and uncontroverted. To the contrary, the issue of women in ministry is not a universally settled point.  The debate rages on within my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Unlike the SBC, numerous Christian denominations have females serving in all aspects of leadership, including the role of pastor.  In my opinion, and contrary to MacArthur’s assertion, women in leadership positions within the local church will hardly be the demise of the SBC. (Who’s being melodramatic now?)

More importantly, we need to consider what impression are we giving the rest of the world when Christians cannot calmly and rationally discuss matters of scripture without resorting to schoolyard taunting and character assasination.  Church, why aren’t we holding ourselves to a higher level of behavior? Culturally, why are we so offended and angered by opinions other than our own? Degradation of the person is not necessary in order to disagree or counter the arguments of another.  

My point is that as Christians we should learn to argue well and refuse to stoop to name calling and character assassination when we don’t agree.  We should set the example for our unbelieving friends, especially in how we treat our Christian brothers and sisters. We should remember: unity in necessary things, liberty in doubtful things, and charity in all things.  Since it is doubtful that any one of us, or any single denomination, has all the right answers with regard to the ways of God and, although we may believe wholeheartedly in each and every one of our opinions, it is inevitable that we are wrong about something and we should keep our minds open and seek the truth. 

We must also train ourselves to read scripture with proper interpretation methods and prayerfully consider its meaning.  We should learn how to make good arguments and recognize bad ones. We should study about the ancient world which is the setting and context for the Bible.  We should recognize that we all come to scripture with preconceived beliefs and cultural influences. We should strive to listen well to others and consider their positions thoughtfully.  We should have the courage to admit when we are wrong and adjust our theology accordingly. If we really, really want to understand scripture, we might learn Hebrew and/or Greek and read the texts in their original languages.  (Alas, if you are like me, you will have to depend on others for that!)   

Most of all, we need to realize that agreement is not necessary for love, respect, charity or kindness.  Christians, I beg of you, hold yourselves accountable to the biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself, and demonstrate to the world that you are a follower of Christ by acting in love toward others, especially your Christian brothers and sisters.


The panel discussion with John MacArthur:


A great follow-up blog by Wade Burleson, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma:


N.T. Wright, a leading New Testament scholar, on women in ministry:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *