Decency And Order

I’ve been asked to write on a few topics of recent, one of which is the favor of God, another which is identity, and another which is familiar spirits. I am going to do the teaching on familiar spirits at another point in time, but I realized that the other two topics very keenly tie in with the issue of order. If we want to receive God’s favor, we need to walk in God’s order. If we want to know who we are, we need to walk in God’s order because it keeps us from becoming full of ourselves and also gives us a powerful sense of our identity in Him. Order helps us in our own identity because we can make sure our own spiritual gifts don’t become a measure of the flesh, used to gain attention or bully others in any way. When we accept order, we are accepting our identity: there is a God, we are not Him, and if we stay with Him, He will take us where we need to be as He develops what is necessary for that journey within us. Order presents the powerful balance needed for all of us to know our place and walk in love with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We hear about order but we often don’t see it, and it doesn’t help that we often hear about order either out of context or in a limitation that is totally off base of truth. Order has become my ‘thing’ over this past year. I never directly taught on it much but God has been dealing with me about order and the lack of it in the church. Today we have a ‘semblance’ of order: we seem to know how to interact with those who echo what we want to hear and those who are our personal leaders (who usually are those echoing what we want to hear), but we don’t understand about order beyond our personal circle. We are drawn to what we like and we judge based on like rather than need. As a rule, it’s easy for us to follow at least the view of order protocol with our personal leaders. Most in the church today aren’t stupid: they select leaders who reflect what they want to hear or the view of they want to hear of themselves. It’s easy for someone to come to a covering and complain about their former leaders or those around them and claim to be a victim…and it’s very easy, as a leader, to just believe whatever you are told. Sometimes we fail to recognize people seek out leadership after drawing away from other leaders because they think it will suit them or allow them to get away with something that someone else will forbid or never tolerate. It gives a totally new meaning to 2 Timothy 4:3-4, which we often use in a different context: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (NIV) This passage is not just about hearing the pulpit teachings we want: it is about something deeper. It is about deliberately picking a leader who won’t challenge the things within us that need challenging. It is about having a semblance of order: looking the part, speaking the part, and doing everything that seems right…but unto the end of deception…because no order really exists therein. It’s just a circle of people who don’t enforce God’s order or encourage one another to the order of God because they are too busy encouraging each other to wrongdoing.

Order was one of the most difficult things for me to accept in my own life and call from God. I grew up in a church that claimed to be about order, but what they were really about was their own concept of structure. Living in that type of oppressive religious system meant I understood well what it meant to have an outward form of order. In other words, all I knew was conformity, which is not true order. No, I didn’t believe in the priesthood as Catholics taught it and I didn’t believe in a lot of other things the church taught, but when it was time for mass, I looked the part, spoke the part, and did everything that seemed right. On the surface, I looked like any other Catholic during Sunday mass.

So naturally, when I was out of my oppressive system, I was my usual, defiant, buck-the-system self. I defied any semblance of order (not that there was much there, anyway). I was not going to do things like anyone else, I was not going to be told what to do, and what I did was not open to challenge or interpretation of any sort. Is anyone surprised to learn I spent a good portion of the early part of my ministry shut out of places and very upset a lot of the time? My message was good. A bit challenging at times, but it was the Word all the way. I didn’t realize that no matter how anointed I might have been, my attitude was lousy. I could have had all the gifts in the world, but that wasn’t going to counteract my self-proclaiming attitude. I needed to learn discipline, decency, and order.

So we fast-forward fourteen years and a whole lot of experiences later to the present day, where I am now ALL about order. I can see through my numerous years of ministry experience the essence of order because the essence of order is the heart of God. Order is knowing how to conduct ourselves in every circumstance, by the Holy Spirit of God, no matter what others are doing. It does not mean we allow ourselves to be abused or mistreated, but it recognzies that God doesn’t do things haphazardly. Creation was not haphazard; redemption was not hapahazard; sanctification is not hapahazard. Everything happens decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40) within God’s Kingdom. This means the way in which we interact is likewise well-ordered and disciplined, that the Kingdom of God may function. The more I learn about order, the more I see it is not rigid or untimely; it is basic courtesy to those in authority, to those we work with, to those we educate and train, and to all of us as the Body of believers. We “get” the concept of submission to a leader, but what about the command of mutual submission beyond that? The Word of God instructs us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) This is not just a command to submit to our personal leader, but to show respect and honor to everyone in the Body. Let’s look a little deeper into the commands of order to know better how we conduct ourselves with the entire Body of believers!

The following is from my new book, About My Father’s Business: All The Kingdom Business You Need To Be Successful In Ministry, Copyright 2011 by Lee Ann B. Marino:

· Elders – The term “elder” is not so much used to indicate age, but to indicate calling and experience. Even though someone may not hold personal covering authority over you, each office of the church serves a definitive function, purpose, and authority that encompass with it the directive and obedience of the entire church. In other words: if you are a part of the church, it doesn’t matter if you are a leader or not: you must respect and subscribe to the church’s leadership and order. We know from the Bible that the five-fold ministry operates via apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. When these assemble together and there is a question of authority or issue, the apostle holds the senior rank as the office designed to maintain and implement order (1 Corinthians 9:2, 1 Corinthians 12:28-29). It is not a competitive rank, it does not make the apostle better than everyone else or the main leader in every situation, but it does mean that when an apostle is present, they represent an office of order. The church needs to line up with apostolic order out of a sign of respect for the apostolic gifting and purpose. Prophets are second in authority, as the apostle and prophet form universal offices. Wherever the two go, they have authority; whether or not it is wise to exercise that authority becomes another matter entirely, and not one we will be discussing here. Pastors and teachers represent local authorities, holding authority over local congregations and those they teach, pastor, and instruct, and the evangelist represents an authority somewhere between local and universal. If we say we believe in order, we must respect God’s order. It also means we uphold God’s order with decency and dignity.

If someone has an issue with an elder in ministry (whether or not that person is their covering), they need to follow Biblical protocol and handle that issue, going to the individual and speaking them about it directly (Matthew 18:15-17). If the issue remains, they are to bring witnesses, and if an issue continues to remain, disassociate with them. Do not use a public forum, gossip, or the pulpit to try and defame an elder. Doing so will open the individual to rebuke – and public rebuke at that – from the elder in question or another leader (1 Timothy 5:20, Titus 1:13, Titus 2:15). It is also unwise to try and battle an elder without just cause. It is natural for us to have disagreements with people. We do not like everyone and that may cause us to have issues with different people. Just because we don’t like someone doesn’t nullify their legitimate call to their office, nor does it mean you have the right to make a ministerial leadership judgment based on a personal knowledge. Respect the privacy, integrity, and dignity of leaders who are duly called – whether or not you care for them as individuals. If you have issue with false teaching, that is surely to be raised – but we should never try an elder’s calling based on a personal dislike.

· Visionaries/Conference Hosts – When we are invited to a conference and we accept the invitation, we are submitting ourselves to the vision and order of that event. The vision, mission, theme, etc. of an event should be noted and we should seek to align ourselves with it rather than trying to align it with our own agendas. If there is some reason we are unable to align with the vision, we should politely decline the event invitation. If we know the host and we are so led, we are welcome to discuss the issue we may have with the event privately – not publically – with the host. Under no circumstances does any minister have the right to undermine another’s event, as in the case of a conference, we must submit ourselves to the vision of the leader. Doing so publically or within the pulpit extended for the event is the surest way to be dismissed from an event – spoken badly about by attendees and the inviting ministry – and never invited back for any reason whatsoever in the future.

· Memberships – It’s trendy today to be a member of an organization through a network, a group, a council of churches, a bishopric, a diocese, or other formalized setting. These organizations give ministers an easy way to develop support and connection. What most often don’t consider is that joining these organizations means that, in some way, you are required to submit to the leadership which oversees these groups. They may not require to become your immediate covering, but all expect you to submit to their guidelines, participate in their events, and do things according to a certain style, certain regulation, and often, with a certain membership fee or price. There is nothing wrong with participating in a group, but it is essential to understand the purpose of the group, their vision, their intent, and what is expected of you as a member so you can understand your participation therein.

· Instruction (Bible college/university) – When we are taught by someone, they become a leader to us in instruction and knowledge. We are to learn of them and respect their knowledge, education, wisdom, and teaching. As a result, we are to act as such. If we can’t handle that, we should not be under their instruction. If we have issue with something taught, it is our place to ask for clarity – not to defame our instructors. Schools should be investigated for credibility and teaching instruction prior to admission. If we experience a bad teacher in one way or another – for anything other than personal dislike – we are to take it to the proper authorities within the structure of the school.

· Interviews/guest spots – If a minister is invited to do a media interview or be a guest spot on a panel, parameters for such should be clearly laid out prior to the program. The minister being featured/interviewed/serving a guest spot follows the lead of the interviewer/host, within certain parameters. If there is a theme, a specific topic, or a certain direction, the featured minister follows that form. If the featured minister is given a green light, they should seek out the host for any directives associated with that. In an interview, questions should be professional and not too personal. If a question seems to be out of line or in any way driving in an inappropriate direction, the featured minister has the right to politely, but firmly, decline any inappropriate or leading questions.

In addition, there are a few other areas of order that we need to consider that I do not discuss in my book:

Personal space – People’s private lives and personal space are just that: personal and private. We need to caution ourselves against judgment, opinion, or invasion of people’s personal space. Today it is popular to rebuke anyone for any reason, simply because they feel they have the right to do so. Having a title, a calling, an anointing, etc. does not entitle us to become rude or invasive. If we’re on someone else’s territory, we need to respect that person’s space. This extends even into cyberspace with personal pages (such as on MySpace or Facebook) as well as it does with physical localities. I had a woman come on my page just last week, vilely attacking me because of an opinion I posted that she disagreed with. She saw fit to call names and make accusations while totally disregarding any sense of the fact that this is my page and I don’t have to agree with her on my page. The same is true for all of us. We all have personal pages for a reason and we are free to post what we want on our pages no matter what anyone may think of our opinion. If we want to discuss something that someone posts, that is fine – but we need to watch our tone and our attitude because we are all entitled to hold whatever opinions we may have within our personal space. We all have the right to have opinions about things, to disagree with one another, and to handle and check ourselves respectfully, no matter what the topic may be. Order helps us to remember our place and refrain from emotional debates about things that, in the long run, really don’t matter anyway.

Personal relationships – Akin to personal space are the details of people’s personal relationships. We all go through things, we all relate funny experiences, we also all tell stories of our circumstances from time to time. It’s fine to share but we must also keep in mind that it is not fine to judge or make judgment calls. No one of us is as pure as the driven snow, nor do we know what we would do in someone else’s situation. If someone comes to us in trust, don’t violate that trust by blabbing details to everyone else or by moralizing to them. Don’t involve yourself in people’s marriages, dating relationships, situations with their children, etc. without warrant and with unsolicited opinion. We know the Bible teaches things about personal order and it really is up to people to discern the meanings of all of that for themselves rather than lecturing people about roles all the time. If you want to maintain colleagues and friends…backing off is a really good thing to do.

Random rebuke – Contrary to what some believe, the world is not just waiting for their rebuke. Sometimes we need to step back and let God deal with a person, however God sees fit: whether it’s through their leader, through their personal relationship with Him, through another situation, etc. When it comes to disagreements, we need to step back and allow God to handle things because sometimes we are rebuking people about things that just don’t merit rebuke. Different opinions, dislike of another’s personality, etc., are not grounds for rebuke. People aren’t saved because they agree with you about things. Always keep that in mind!

The “new kid on the block” – In keeping with the principles of eldership, we also need to consider other people’s prior relationships and the ‘eldership’ of those relationships. I remember going hell-bent into a church about twelve years ago set out to reform it because the people kept asking me what I thought about it. Did the church need reform? Yes, it did. Did it reform with my bull-in-a-china-shop routine? No, it did not. I had been there three months. Most of the people in that church had been there twenty years or more. They all had a certain repoire with one another – they had worshiped, worked, and prayed together for a long time. It wasn’t relevant whether or not my observations were correct – I didn’t have the eldership with them that they had with one another. We need to be careful when coming into new situations in the exercise of authority that we may very well be entitled to excercise, but it is just not wise to do so as quickly as we may want to do it. Part of order is recognizing what exists and respecting what exists – whether we agree with it or not. Do not go into a situation without self-control, causing divisions and bossing or ordering others around – especially if you are new in a situation and everyone else there has worked, prayed, and fellowshipped together for a long time. What will happen is word will spread – quickly – and you will wind up being the one who is either put in a certain place very quickly or cast out of a situation because the people involved sense you are trying to disrupt continuity and unity. See what is going on, pray about things, and follow the channels of decency and order. Does something seem out of place? Try to talk to a leader privately or politely engage in discussion representing whatever your position may be. Watch tone, attitude, and behavior with others…and this is just a good rule in general…no matter what the situation at hand may be.

Order is about alignment as we see God work through our lives. Where are you with order? It is my prayer that we will all continue to grow in order so we can learn how to interact with one another with respect, dignity, and order in ALL things…not just to those who have the power to promote us.

(c) 2011 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

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