Volume 19 Issue 12
We all know that real unity is of the heart. The destruction of unity can often be traced back to lack of ethics. Ethics simply defined is, “a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct.” However, agreeing to shared moral principles or beliefs, or merely having the same objectives does not in and of itself make for great fellowship or cooperation among the members of a group. Good fellowship requires manners and integrity – proper ethics.
There is a profound passage in Isaiah that provides the ultimate ethics reality check, “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” (Isaiah 47:1). With the words “there is no throne” we are reminded that there is no place that provides exemption from the judgment of God or right behavior. One can find no place, “no throne,” without the element of accountability, and no power outside God’s control. So if we are without exemption from bad behavior as a body of believers, as leaders we must then define such behavior so that we do not become willfully ignorant: the paradoxical condition that exists when one does not know but chooses not to know it. In the last days the Church must not be willfully ignorant of Satan’s devices and it is without question that the destruction of unity within the body of Christ is a great tool of the enemy that hinders true fellowship and, ultimately, revival.
Allow me to share a short list of things that I believe are on the enemy’s battle plan to attack the Church in the area of ethics. These are things that have the potential to bring devastation to lives and ministries. It is a short list of culturally specific items that have perhaps not been dealt with in the same way before because, while the ethical principles remain the same, new technology, new communication methods, combined with the demands of combating the heightened moral decay of the last days, has created a unique battlefield.
1. Manners – Society at every level is suffering from a general disregard of manners and common courtesy. There is little deference to elders if any at all, and this is revealed in the way many handle even the simplest matters within the church. In the effort to attract the young we cannot isolate and ignore the established. It’s easy to dismiss this item as part of the ranting of someone with gray hair, but be careful here. When we put away our manners and our respect, we lose valued perspective. How we treat one another, especially our fellow ministers, goes a long way in creating bonds of fellowship and love that keep us from treading in unethical waters. Gone are the days when funerals, dedications and anniversaries are well attended by fellow ministers. Do we truly make an effort to reach out to one another and build each other up? Or have we traded friendship for rivalry and fellowship for competition?
2. Generational Transfer of Responsibility – I boldly contend that no one has a right to steal a church away from its founding principles. There are men who come to respectfully disagree with the standards or doctrines of a particular body and leave that body. However, I fear today that there are some among us who inherit churches filled with generations of Apostolic believers, believers whose tithes, offerings and, in many cases, physical labor built the assembly from the ground up. Yet these unworthy inheritors lead these flocks back into the darkness from which they sought refuge. The responsibility for this matter relies upon Godly men to assure that successors are ready and equipped to preserve this precious faith and calls for those who are entrusted with a body of believers to be honest in their intentions.
3. Messianic Self-Characterization – In an era of prolific marketing, it is easy to move from worthy intentions to overzealous self-marketing. This dangerously puts our self-interest and self-preservation into a realm (the ministry) that should be about selflessness. Once one enters into the blinding trap of egoism, he often becomes unaware of how his actions may harm others. This self-aggrandizing can lead to a belief that one has the answers to everyone’s problems. Thus recruiting, pulling people out from under the protection of their spiritual authority without thought of responsibility for these actions, seems morally justified in some way.
4. Internet – The Internet and, more specifically, social networking uniquely provides access to the individual. Mass marketing of the past was limited to cumbersome mail outs and time-consuming phone campaigns, all replaced today with the touch of a button. An evangelist in a church on Sunday links on a social networking site to your saint on Monday, and a relationship begins. While this can be innocent and provide a great sense of connection and community, it can also be used to manipulate – emotionally, spiritually and financially – and usurp the boundaries of true spiritual authority.
5. Cunning Words – In Ephesians we are warned to maturely address the sly interjection of false doctrine, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). Young men and women are drawn into false concepts with the allure of questioning. Questions are helpful and help us establish where we should focus our teaching and our training. However, children and young people today are too often taught to ask questions and never taught answers. We must be a certain sound and help our future generations accept that we are not on some endless philosophical pursuit surrounded by uncertainty but that the mighty God in Christ provides all truth.
6. Conflict of Interest – The offices to which God has called us cannot be used to further our own agendas. Pastorates, evangelism and speaking opportunities are for the furtherance of the Gospel and are not promotional tours to sell products and merchandise. There is a need for Apostolic material and this cannot be provided without an element of commerce; however, we must guard ourselves against using one another and the precious saints of God to promote and advance our own interests.
7. Ethics to the World – Finally, we must be sure that what we preach is what we are and who we are. We cannot trade real revival and a real harvest for reckless evangelism that manipulates souls for tally, as if there is no heaven or hell at stake. Outreach should not be reduced to trickery, full of bait-and-switch methods. We must preach Christ and Him crucified: a message that will leave our children and lost souls with a real experience, the true baptism of the Holy Ghost.