Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
In light of the “Code of Ethics for Pastors” released by the NAE, I thought this statement by Spurgeon was fitting. The importance of character and integrity for those called to be undershepherds of the flock, under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has always been. In his requirement (“must be”) for elders, Paul notes that “an overseer must be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2, emphasis mine). This is the foundation of what Spurgeon writes below and the recent publication of NAE’s “Code”:
When we say to you, my dear brethren, take care of your life, we mean be careful of even the minutiae of your character. Avoid little debts, unpunctuality, gossipping, nicknaming, petty quarrels, and all other of those little vices which fill the ointment with flies. The self-indulgences which have lowered the repute of many must not be tolerated by us. The familiarities which have laid others under suspicion, we must chastely avoid. The roughnesses which have rendered some obnoxious, and the fopperies which have made others contemptible, we must put away. We cannot afford to run great risks through little things. Our care must be to act on the rule, 'giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.'
By this is not intended that we are to hold ourselves bound by every whim or fashion of the society in which we move. As a general rule, I hate the fashions of society, and detest conventionalities, and if I conceived it best to put my foot through a law of etiquette, I should feel gratified in having it to do. No, we are men, not slaves; and are not to relinquish our manly freedom, to be the lackeys of those who affect gentility or boast refinement. Yet, brethren, anything that verges upon the coarseness which is akin to sin, we must shun as we would a viper. The rules of Chesterfield are ridiculous to us, but not the example of Christ; and He was never coarse, low, discourteous, or indelicate.
Even in your recreations, remember that you are ministers. When you are off the parade you are still officers in the army of Christ, and as such demean yourselves. But if the lesser things must be looked after, how careful should you be in the great matters of morality, honesty, and integrity! Here the minister must not fail. His private life must ever keep good tune with his ministry, or his day will soon set with him, and the sooner he retires the better, for his continuance in his office will only dishonour the cause of God and ruin himself.
Charles Spurgeon, "The Minister's Self-Watch" in Lectures to my Students
Dear Lord, we know these words from Paul well. Forgive us when they become words we know and truths we preach that are divorced from the lives we live. Forgive us when we confuse knowledge for maturity. Forgive us when we live as if we are the exceptions to these biblical mandates we know and preach faithfully to others. Forgive us that when we fail to live lives that are above reproach we justify, rationalize and make excuses rather than repent. May we keep in step with the Spirit, may we be pursue holiness and righteousness, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, and may we progressively be conformed into the image of God the Son, all to God’s glory (in His Trinitarian fullness), the good of His people, and our own spiritual well-being. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
HT for the quote: Jeremy Walker (through Bob Burris)