Honor and Accountability

Recently, I've been hearing the term "culture of honor" around churches.

Boiling it down, it means you need to listen and do whatever your spiritual overseer tells you to do. So if you are in a tradition with a pastor, everyone obeys the pastor. The "scriptural support" I've heard given for this idea (from multiple sources) is that giving honor has nothing to do with whether the person deserves honor, but rather giving honor speaks about your own character.

I have deep concerns around this narrative. Here's why: I've never heard it discussed in tandem with accountability of leadership. That those who are in leadership are held to a higher standard (See James 3:1).

And we know what happens when men (because most pastors are men) are given too much authority without accountability - pretty much exactly the society and church we have now (hi, Hollywood and politicians.)

This, to me, has the potential to be the new prosperity gospel; that is, a teaching which has some biblical concepts behind it, but is WAY out of balance.

Another comparison I would make to this is when ministers would emphasize the idea that wives need to submit to husbands, without mentioning that husbands are in turn called to love their wives as Christ loves the church - that is, to put them first and be willing to sacrifice and even die for them. Beyond that, in calling for the subservience of wives, we also must ignore Ephesians 5:21  saying we all should submit to one another as well as Philippians 2:3 which instructs us to think of others as better than ourselves. I give this an an example of a pseudo spiritual viewpoint which is out of balance with the whole of the biblical narrative.

Honoring others is wonderful and biblical. Honoring pastors above others? I don't think that's what Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 12:23-42: "And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity."

Jesus did NOT say, "Those who demonstrate a culture of honor will inherit the earth."

He also did NOT say, "By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, that you have a culture of honor for one another."

I heard one famous pastor (who, if you work in the church world, you've definitely heard of him) make jokes about his wife during a conference that were not mean spirited, but were diminishing, while she went out of her way to show honor to him. I found it nauseating.

I'm watching at a distance the whole situation in Willow Creek where Bill Hybels, before his recent resignation, was at the very least being questioned as to whether he accepted the kind of accountability he has always advocated for church leaders.

Honoring pastors and church leaders is great, but without healthy accountability in the lives of the pastors, it leads to dysfunctional at best and disaster at worst.

The flip side - pastors running around burning themselves out for an ungrateful congregation, is equally as bad. But the way to fix an unhealthy situation is not to make it unhealthy in the other direction. This is what we learn from political arguments, not from Jesus.

So may we in the church look for opportunities to serve and honor one another; and to find the healthy balance that Jesus calls us to so that our love for one another would truly be our defining feature.