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Dr. Daniel Akin on Ministerial Integrity

Both the media and the blogosphere have been buzzing in recent days over the reports of  notable pastors who have ethically compromised themselves and their ministries. In response to these recent scandals, Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, distributed the following paper to the Southeastern Seminary family. These are wise words that every Southern Baptist minister and seminarian should heed. Dr. Akin has granted me permission to publicly post his paper for a wider audience.

Integrity in Ministry: No Place for Compromise

(A Message From the President)

             In 1 Timothy 3:1 the Bible says leaders in the church must be “blameless” (NKJV), “above reproach” (NIV).  In recent days a number of stories have appeared in the media concerning well known ministers forced to resign because of inappropriate or unwise actions.  The cause of Christ has been harmed and the respect for ministers significantly damaged.  There are a number of issues addressed in Scripture that speak to the essential nature of integrity in ministry (1 Tim 3:17; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4), but let me encourage our students to especially guard their lives in 5 particular areas.

1)      Guard your integrity by always being completely honest.  Do not pad your resume or reputation with false or inflated accomplishments.  The Bible says God hates a proud look and lying tongue (Prov 6:17).  Be a truth-teller in every area of your life, both in the big things and the little things.

2)      Guard your integrity in your dealings with the opposite sex.  If you are married covenant with the Lord and your mate never to be alone with anyone of the opposite sex.  Men, be known as a “one woman kind of man” (1 Tim 3:2; Eph 5:33).  Ladies, be known as a “one man kind of woman.”  If you are single, be careful in your conduct with the opposite sex.  Treat them with respect due a sister or brother in Christ.  Avoid those private places where your hormones can override your will and you make a bad decision that can change your life forever.

3)      Guard your integrity when it comes to money.  As a minister, require annually a full outside audit of your church finances.  On the personal level, have nothing  to do with the direct financial responsibilities of the church.  Do not have check writing authority.  Do not handle or receive money, but direct individuals to the proper persons who handle the finances of the church.  Never use a church credit card for personal reasons.  Use your own credit card for personal reasons.  When you do use a church credit card, always document its use with a receipt and a description of how it was used.  Maintain accountability with someone in your church office or on your finance committee.  Go the extra mile to be above board and blameless.

     Furthermore, realize people who love you will want to be a blessing to you.  Develop an attitude of gratitude, but never one of entitlement.  Ministers do not deserve nor should we expect special treatment.  The Lord Jesus will properly reward us when we stand before Him (1 Peter 5:1-4).  If that reward is not sufficient, I would suggest you get out of the ministry and do so quickly.

4)      Guard your integrity when it comes to your family life.  First Timothy 3:4 says we must rule our own house well and have children who are in submission with all reverence.  Titus 1:6 adds that they must be faithful, “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient (NIV).  One’s family life is often an accurate reflection of their spiritual life.  Godly men and women will raise up godly children who love Christ and obey the Bible.  Few areas of investment will yield greater reward.

5)      Guard your integrity with solid theological competency.  Often moral and ethical sins grow out of a defective biblical and theological life.  Failing to cultivate a healthy understanding of theological truth like the sovereignty and holiness of God, the sinfulness and depravity of man, the process of sanctification and the necessity of biblical wisdom, and the centrality of Christ and the crucified life, we begin to think and then live in a manner that is foreign to the clear teachings of scripture.  Nothing will be more valuable in avoiding this danger than a steady diet of biblical exposition, whereby we are continually exposed to the totality of God’s revealed truth.  What we believe will determine how we live.  Belief and behavior always go together.

6)      Guard your integrity with the model of ministry you pursue.  God calls us to be shepherds of His sheep.  We are not called to be CEO’s or drill sergeants.  We are not called to be ranchers or dictators.  We are certainly not called to be spiritual superstars or celebrities.  A word of caution is in order at this point. The greater your natural gifts and abilities, the more susceptible you are to entrapment by these seducing sirens of the world.  Men, and women, with charismatic personalities and a commanding presence can too easily operate in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit.  They can be deceived into believing their own press and the accolades showered on them by adoring followers (fans!).  If they are not careful, they can begin to believe they have the right to operate by a different standard.  This is the way of foolishness.  This is the way that leads to the damage, and potential destruction, of a ministry.

     Brothers and sisters, there is no place for spiritual superstars in the church, who like proud Diotrephes, love to have the preeminence (3 John 9). No, preeminence is rightfully reserved for only one and His name is Jesus (Col. 1:18).  Let us not lose sight of who we are, sinners saved by grace.  Let us not lose sight of who really matters, it is Jesus.  Let us not lose sight of how we serve, it is with integrity as we imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) in every sphere of our lives.

     I love you each and every one, and I pray for you.  Please pray for me, that I will both run well and finish well, all for the glory of Jesus.

Daniel L. Akin

President

Southeastern Seminary

Examining Fidelity Through An “Emerging” Lens

I like the plans and purposes of God.  However, getting on board and staying on board with those purposes is not always an easy process.  Like Job, it usually takes us time to recognize God’s superior wisdom, and we, like the man from Uz, must receive a healthy dose of His perspective to bring us to our senses.  When it comes to advancing His Kingdom, God has one plan. That plan is the church.   

When Jesus walked with his disciples he spoke to them these weighty words: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)  It is in the assurance of Christ’s promise that we as leaders and laymen work to serve the bride of Christ.  However, too often we miscalculate the importance of examining our fidelity to God’s revealed plan for the Church. The question beckoning our constant attention remains, “Are we serving in absolute biblical faithfulness to God’s revealed design for His church?”  While this question is freighted with countless aspects to consider, one key component involves how we reach the postmodern culture.  

A recent movement, known as the Emerging Church, is particularly focused on the relationship between the church and culture.  It is important for the evangelical world (including Southern Baptists) to gain a sense of what this complex movement is about in order to think clearly and biblically through the issues at hand. So what are the key issues? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this movement or as emerging leaders call it, this “conversation?”  The movement has a wide scope of adherents as diverse as “emerging” church pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, who identifies his church as “theologically conservative, but culturally liberal,” to “emergent” leader Brian McLaren, who is no longer interested in penal substitutionary atonement, the reality of eternal torment in hell, or the sinfulness of homosexuality. (There is a distinction between what is “emerging” and “emergent.” – See article links below.)  

Our friends at Nine Marks have done us a favor with their September newsletter. They have provided a great resource that covers and assesses many key characteristics of the Emerging Church.  Justin Taylor’s article “An Emerging Church Primer” and the “Pastor’s and Theologian’s Forum on the Emerging Church” (including perspectives from D.A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, and others) are two resources that provide needed insight.  Other beneficial articles are available as well.    

It is my hope that we will humbly join the “conversation” for two reasons. First, we have much to examine in the area of ecclesiology and our own faithfulness to the biblical text.  Therefore, many issues are worthy of our consideration and ongoing conversation.  The emerging church exposes some crucial areas of investigation for churches seeking to fulfill Christ's mission.  Secondly, we must join the conversation to lovingly speak truth concerning “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)  Yes, we need to talk further about certain ecclesiastical issues, but we also need to realize certain things have already been talked about.  In other words, if God has already spoken clearly on the matter, there is nothing more to talk about; there is only something to proclaim. 

As one who has much to learn, I'm excited to study these issues in ecclesiology.  What do you perceive to be some strengths and weaknesses in the emerging church movement? Join me as we pursue absolute biblical faithfulness in service of Christ's bride.