Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the voices that we are called to listen to in ministry. I think the four groups of people – our wife, elders, church and community – are the ones scripture would call us to take seriously. The rest may or may not be helpful, may or may not say nice things, but in the end we are not beholden to them or their opinions of us.
I’m not on twitter any more, but I can fairly guarantee if I were some smart Alec would inevitably have asked in that knowing way, probably with a little self-laugh as they’re asking, ‘does that mean we don’t have to listen to you then?’ I don’t know if anybody has said that, I bet someone has at least thought it, and I’m fairly confident if I were on twitter they would have posted it to me by now.
So, let’s be clear: no, you don’t have to listen to me. This is a blog that is open for anyone and everyone to read. There really is no compulsion. Nor are the opinions and views I express here anything more than my opinions and views on matters. You might find them helpful, that’s great. I am mainly aiming for interesting, which I hope they are whether you agree or not. But if you disagree with me, that’s fine – I’m not the pope and, I suspect, most my readers already disagree with him! So no, you don’t have to listen to me. Other opinion spouters are available. In fact, you don’t have to listen to any online views at all. Blogs are not in the Bible after all.
There are, of course, people who should listen to me. Not because I’m so great, but because they are the people God has put into my life and me in the position I am in that they probably ought to weigh what I’m saying a bit more seriously than you looky-loos on the internet. But they are the same people that I ought to weigh seriously when it comes to my ministry. They are the people that God has either put under my care or into my God-given sphere of influence to serve their good. They have recognised me as someone with a teaching gift that they want to learn from. It make sense for them to listen carefully to what I teach. The rest of youse who either haven’t affirmed that gift or who stumbled upon it online and reckon I might have something worth saying have much less cause to take anything I say too seriously or worry too deeply about it.
But even those people who probably should listen to what I say still shouldn’t just blindly accept it because I said it. In the end, all things need to come back to scripture. If I say stuff that contradicts the Bible – whatever that may be – then even the people God has given me to teach and care for should reject it. I don’t pretend to be perfect and, though I’m not aiming for it, I’ll probably teach stuff somewhere that even I come to see isn’t right later on. I suspect if you search hard enough on this blog you may even find some things from years ago that I’ve changed my mind on. Even the stuff that I haven’t changed my mind on, I’m not beyond inconsistency. I think I’m pretty consistent, pretty clear, have pretty good biblical reasons for what I hold. But nobody is perfectly consistent, perfectly well reasoned, perfectly biblical. Even the people God has given me to teach do well to reject the bits of that they see.
My goal, in the end, isn’t to get everyone to agree with me. My goal is to teach the scriptures to the best of my ability. On here, it is to say some interesting things that I think are biblical. Sometimes my ability will not be good enough to get that right. Sometimes I will get it wrong for other reasons. But I think there’s enough there that I’m probably someone worth weighing and thinking about why I got to where I do from the Word if you are one of the people who has affirmed my ability to teach. There is something wrong if you are in my church yet constantly oppositional and don’t seem able to wear anything brought to you from the scriptures. As much as I might err here and there, I’m pretty sure I don’t at every turn!
But outside of my church in particular, you don’t have to listen to me at all. Take everything here with as big a pinch of salt as you want. Chew the meat and spit the bones as they say. Ignore it altogether if you want. You have your own elders, whose teaching gifts I assume you have affirmed, to whom you should give due weight. They’re the ones accountable for your soul, not some bloke on the internet you’ve never met. I may have helpful things to say or I may not. But in the end, you simply don’t have to listen to me.