Steve Sensenig from Theological Musings posted the following comment at Challies on his post Evaluating Ministry. which I posted here in my last post titled John MacArthur on Evaluating Ministry.
I'm curious what passage in 1 Corinthians this relates to.
Regardless of what passage this refers to, I have to say that, while I understand some of what MacArthur is trying to say here, I think this swings the pendulum too far in one direction.
Two questions come to mind:
1) Can a minister not be held accountable to the body of Christ? I have seen, in my ministry experience, pastors who lived this out to the point that they refused to take any correction from anyone. They used that "you don't know all the facts" defense to make their actions and decisions unquestionable by anyone. That is a dangerous abuse of power.
2) What does MacArthur suggest as the alternative? If no one else can evaluate a minister's ministry, and he cannot trust his own evaluation, then it kind of begs the question how he evaluates his ministry at all. Considering that Paul exhorts us to "examine ourselves" and to "watch carefully how we walk", etc., I think that MacArthur is downplaying something that should be a part of any believer's life, whether minister or not.
Good questions - I'll take a stab at it.
First, I think the passage MacArthur is talking about must be I Corinthians 4:2-4:
2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
If that is the passage that MacArthur is talking about then I think his exegesis and application is right on. In this passage Paul says that he doesn't trust the judgment of others, and he doesn't trust his own judgment.
But Steve's points are well taken. For one thing we don't build a whole theology on any particular matter based on one passage.
Secondly, I think Steve is absolutely right that ministers are accountable to the body of Christ. He gives an example of those who took MacArthur style reasoning to an extreme and abused their power. In that regard I think it is essential that a church be run by a plurality of elders to whom the preacher is accountable. This would seem to be a good mediating way between what MacArthur said and what Steve brought up.
Elders who are good godly examples to the flock and are theologically trained can provide accountability to the preacher. On the other hand, while the preacher needs to be sensitive to the criticisms of the flock, the elders can help him evaluate which criticisms are valid and which are not.
I think this answers the second question as to what is the alternative to what MacAthur says. Please note that MacArthur didn't tell the preacher to be indifferent to or ignore the flock, just to keep their criticisms in perspective. But, having a plurality of elders who are peers to the preacher would be a good way of keeping him accountable while affirming that it is to God alone that we must ultimately answer.