In this issue of Pastorpedia, pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about exercising Christian liberty.
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I can, but I do not have to…
This month we take a short break from the practical and pastoral areas of serving the church to think about Christian liberty.
To go or not to go; to drink or not to drink; to watch or not to watch.
It used to be as simple as, “Don’t smoke or chew, or date the girls that do.” Though I do admit I am not sure of the meaning of that.
Now it is complicated by so many changes in rules at churches and Christian schools, so many allowances people have for themselves in habits or language, and even a better understanding of how even nice people like us easily adopt rules for ourselves that we use to judge others who disagree.
Maybe our brief thoughts can help a little or lead to good discussions for you and your partners in leadership at church.
Let’s give it a go!
Knute, with Jeff and Jim
For CE National
Cautions about liberty areas
- Don’t practice liberties with a chip on your shoulder. Just because you’re free to do it doesn’t mean that it’s beneficial.
- Never be a stumbling block. The liberties that you practice “in town” may be very different than the liberties you practice “out of town.” Remember that liberties are meant to be used to reach the lost! So practicing a liberty is not just for my enjoyment or my fulfillment. It’s meant to provide a freedom so that I can pursue lost people, and that should be the main reason why we practice liberties.
- Practice liberties privately. We don’t need to flaunt our liberties nor hide from them, but we also don’t need to be braggadocios about them (i.e. don’t put that picture up on Facebook J).
- Some liberties can be practiced with some people, and some liberties must be restrained with others. There are certain friends that I would go and spend time with that would have absolutely no problem with my having a glass of wine. There are others that would be deeply hurt and offended by that. We, as pastors, need to be loving shepherds of our people and sensitive to their sensitivities in all things.
- Don’t forget that the conversation of liberty is not solely about exercising it, but it also must involve the conversation of restraining our liberties. I have as much freedom to exercise liberty as I do to restrain liberty.
- Don’t allow your identity as a leader to be defined by your liberties… don’t be the “beer drinking pastor” or the “cussing pastor.” Let your identity be that of Christ and Christ alone. Nothing should define your ministry more than the proclamation of the gospel.
- Remember that liberty is a tool, not an end. Our liberties are to be used to reach people. They are to be used to remove barriers for people to reach Christ.
- Just because you can do something and it isn’t sin doesn’t mean it is the wise thing to do. Always consider the rippling effect you must deal with when you exercise your freedom.
- Every level of leadership carries a different level of impact and influence. Be careful not to flaunt your freedom and cause a follower to fall.
- Make sure before you choose to exercise your freedom that you check your motive for doing so. Often these motives can be impure, or just even to prove a point.
- Don’t let your liberty become the “thing” you or your church is known for. Such as the drinking pastor, the drinking church…make sure you are known as a passionate follower of Jesus Christ before you are known for the way you practice your Christian liberties.
- If your liberty becomes something that you find yourself needing on a regular basis then it probably has mastered you. Be willing to ask this question regularly, “Can I make it without this liberty?”
- In using your “liberty” to reach others for the sake of the Gospel, always be willing to ask, “Are there other ways to reach them or have I used this liberty to feed an unhealthy addiction?”
- I have chosen to say no to a lot of Christian liberties solely based on wisdom and not wanting to abuse my influence that God has given me. Ask yourself this question, “Is it really worth doing this just because I can?”
- If you are doing something just because you were never allowed to before, then you might reconsider doing it.
- Proverbs 31: 4-7 has some of the most helpful words of wisdom for me as a leader. This is the primary reason I have chosen not to exercise my freedom of drinking.
- Before you do anything related to Christian liberties, pray and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom about what you should do.
- Do not skip Romans 14 and I Corinthians 9 and 11:23-33 and 2:16-23 in any discussions with individuals, for there are very clear principles there for churches and all of us. And be sure to preach on these texts at appropriate times.
- Do determine that you will not be a church known for a stand against or for any of these areas of liberty. There are too many very clear and huge truths in the Bible that should form our reputations.
- Do not use your pulpit—much more than a “bully pulpit,” it is a real one—to push or even state your conclusions on truly free areas. You do not even want open debate on these, I would think. There is too much clear mission at hand.
- Include political parties and non-moral issues as part of the freedom areas. Many Christians think that because they have a strong position on an area that takes it out of the area of freedom. Candidates also.
- Admit that there are some areas where caution is needed, even though some people in the church label them as liberty areas. We certainly have, as a group, erred on the side of danger rather than on the side of caution.
- Emphasize the clear mission of the church all the time. Renew the vision of the church from the pulpit at least every six weeks. When individuals want to get off on true areas of liberty, remind them we have too much mission to do to get sidetracked.
- Don’t punish your children with extra rules because a few people in the church do not understand liberty issues. And they are in every church.
- Do not allow two or three people my age who have no concept of Christian liberty, to hold the whole church hostage to their legalisms. Even if they are founders of the church, or “at the original meeting and we never would have allowed dancing at a wedding reception!”
- Read carefully what Jeff and Jim say about the personal issues. Good stuff!
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.