Many of us will have noticed a recent spate of media pieces critiquing some of our large churches, with a particular focus on some personal grievances about internships. Those churches will no doubt be addressing those concerns, and the church primarily in view has acted wisely in setting up an independent review.
Negative public scrutiny of churches raises the much broader question of how robust churches generally are in reviewing themselves. The reality is, it is helpful for all churches – regardless of their size, model, flavour or tradition – to reflect honestly on their own values, emphases, practices and traditions.
As followers of Christ, we all know that we are visible witnesses to the grace and truth of Jesus, that we are the body of Christ, that we are called to the highest spiritual and ethical standards, and that we are answerable to the Lord.
There is so much about most churches that is wonderful. But no church has all the answers, and no church ever gets everything right. We always need to remember that churches are also human organisations – full of imperfect people, and susceptible to blind spots and failures.
As organisations in society, churches are subject to the laws of the land, just like other organisations. We are legally obligated to have everything in good order, and should always strive to follow best practice.
No church – small, large, or in-between – is exempt from public scrutiny and critique. While secular society generally recognises that churches do much good, it has little tolerance for churches’ perceived shortcomings or ethical lapses.
Arguably, society is increasingly holding churches to account. Perhaps in some respects that is a good thing. But perhaps it is an even better thing when all our churches critically reflect on ourselves, humbly review our assumptions and practices, and make God-honouring changes.