me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
Have you ever wondered what the life of a minister is like? Well, wonder no longer, because it's time for The Parsonage, where you will experience a day in the life of Reverend Leopold and his wife Ermintrude Bach, patriarch of the perish.
In today's episode we find Pastor Leo conversing with fellow pastor Daniel Palisades. Listen:
"I suppose it is in most of the churches Leo, but not in mine. I have plenty of accountability. In fact one of my hardest battles is trying to work through the wall of accountability I have to contend with. What I could do with that church if they only let me have my own way without fighting me at every turn. I guess they're afraid of change."
"They have good reason to be afraid of change Daniel. Look at the churches and see the changes they're making. Do you see any of them changing to the good?"
"I agree that a lot of the churches are taking a down turn, but there's been a lot of good come out of change as well. We've dropped those restricting rules you and I grew up with, don't touch, don't wear jewelry, don't go to dances, movies or the roller rink. And I must say, it's a lot more comfortable not having to wear a suit and tie the way we used to."
"Daniel, look at me. I just came from church. How am I dressed?"
"Well, it's different with you. You like to wear a tie, and you've never gone to movies or watched TV anyway. Rules aren't a burden to you like they are to other people. They're a way of life to you, which is something I want to have a serious discussion with you about some day. You're setting laws for yourself is liable to be your undoing one of these day."
"Or then again, it may be my doing Daniel. But back to accountability. You say you have too much accountability. Who are you accountable to other than your wife?"
"Well, there's that too, but what I was talking about is how I'm accountable to my board of deacons, my congregation, and going upward my district and regional headquarters, and to my denominational heads. As I say, everywhere I turn, I have accountability."
"You missed the most important accountability Daniel. But looking at the ones you named, they aren't considered accountabilities since they all agree with one another. They have a book of rules, laws they established long ago. Laws, Daniel, you know, those things you think I'm going to get in trouble for following. The only time you have to face those accountabilities is if you want to take the church outside those boundaries the laws have laid down for your church. And the, of course, according to what you said earlier, this is just what you want to do."
"Now you stepped in it Leo. You've just agreed with me that there are those I'm accountable to, and you even cinched the belt a little tighter on me. You're original statement was that we have no accountability. Now you're saying I have so much accountability that I can't even turn around. I like arguing with you Leo. You have a way of proving my point for me. All I have to do is sit back and watch you argue with yourself until you lose the argument."
"I'm glad I'm entertaining to you Daniel. I like to give a person a good laugh, even if it is at my expense. However I'm afraid I've not made your argument quite as clear up as you seem to think I have. What I'm saying is what a very wise man once said. You can't resolve a problem at the same level at which it was created."
"Einstein I think it was. But I say again, I'm dealing with a lot more levels than just my own, if you're saying I'm the cause of my own, or my church's problems."
"It's still the same level Daniel. You can go all the way back to the beginning of your denomination and you'll still be at the same level. Consider our political parties. When we talk to one person from a particular party, we're talking to everyone of that party because they're all of the same mind. When we talk to a scientist about how the earth began, we know we're going to hear the story of evolution. In every walk of life except that of religion there is what is called an arbitrator, someone who has no interest in the argument either way. In the field of religion there is no such thing as an uninterested party because even an atheist has his own strong feeling he wishes to impart."
"Again you're stepping on your own toes Leo. How can we find a disinterested arbitrator if there is no such thing? Besides, if an arbitrator was to be brought in he would have to know our rules and purposes, otherwise he can't effectively know how to judge. If he knew our rules, then he is no longer disinterested. It's a lose, lose situation any way you look at it."
"Very true Daniel. But there's an even better way in which to find accountability."
"You're talking about the Bible of course. But it's the Bible we use to create our rules Leo. So that part of your argument has already been taken care of."
"Not so Daniel. Every denomination believes they're following the Bible to the letter, and every denomination has areas where white has been replaced with black or gray. Someone has to be wrong. And perhaps, just perhaps every denomination is wrong in many important areas."
"Not ours. The denomination I belong to is straight down the middle, no shadow of turning. Since this is the case, that we have no errors, then who can possibly be our arbitrator, that is, if an arbitrator were needed at all?"
"How about the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons Daniel. Or maybe you would prefer a Seventh Day Adventist or a Mennonite?"
"You're way out there in left field when it's an obvious bunt coming up. You're not making any sense Leo. You know perfectly well that none of those churches you named could help us, or even understand or accept us in any way. So how could you expect us to be accountable to any of them?"
"Tell me Daniel, in the days of the Roman empire when the Catholic church had so much power, what do you suppose would happen if they were to send the Pope in to examine the church and its doctrines to see if there were any error are areas that needed changed or corrected?"
"That's ridiculous. He would just give a blanket approval to everything that was going on. What they would need is someone outside their church to examine them, not the church itself."
"That's strange, it seems to me I heard that idea before, and for some reasons it seems I recall it being ridiculed. Ok, seeing it's your idea, who would you say would be the best person to call in as an investigator if for instance it was the 1500's we were looking at?"
"1500's? That's the time of the Protestant Reformation. I'd say someone like Luther, a Protestant. Anyway, someone who wasn't a Catholic who would have to agree with the Pope."
"You forget Daniel, Luther was a Catholic, a very strong Catholic at that. He preached in the Catholic church and at one time was a monk. And he did speak out against what he saw as errors in the church. Did his arbitration do any good? But I assume by your response that such an outside view is the correct measure to take under the situation given."
"No, of course it didn't do any good Leo. But you're way off the track you were on when you said we should bring in a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness to see if there are any areas our church needs to work on. It's altogether different."
"You said earlier that what you need, if anything, is an arbitrator who was outside your denomination, but who knew your book of rules. You of course were referring to your denominational doctrines. My contention is that it's denominational doctrines that need to be looked at in the light of the real Book of Rules laid down for the churches. That Book of Rules of course is the Bible. All the denominations use the same Book of Rules with which to establish their all-so-different doctrines. It seems to me what is needed in all the churches and denominations is to have their doctrines gone over with a fine tooth comb and compared with the Word of God. Of course every denomination is going to try to force your doctrines to conform to theirs since they also believe their's is correct. But if each denomination was to have all the other denominations play the devil's advocate with their doctrines, and if each church was to consider those recommendations honestly, the result would be a whole lot closer to the truth than what we have today. What do you think Leo? Does my version of accountability hold any water?"
"It holds as much water as a bucket that's been used for target practice Leo. My advice to you is to stick to preaching. Don't try to become an arbitrator. You'd starve to death."
"I suspect I would Daniel, I suspect I would."
5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. (2Cor 13:)