Anonymity and Sovreignty (Re-Post)
[This is a re-posting of an article I posted on my former blog back in early May, when I had, at most, six daily readers. In light of the anonymous bombings that have taken place on various blogs recently, I thought I would pull it from the archives.]
One of the things I found interesting about the process of interviewing with the pastor search committee at the church I now serve was their concern with my future plans. It is understandable that, with the average tenure of pastors in our denomination hovering around two years, churches are concerned that someone not come on the field and immediately begin to look for where they might go next. This kind of stepping-stone mentality obviously does not lend itself to the establishment of effective ministry. I have found that it takes a year or so just to learn everyone's names and get to know them just at a surface level.
It is also understandable that I would be asked this question because of my resume. The first church at which I served as Youth & Music Minister was a very small church, and the position was part-time. I served there for a year, at which point God opened up a full-time opportunity. That year was a wonderful time of learning, and I and the people in that church were grateful for it; we left with no hard feelings. After that year, I served in three churches in slightly more than five years, and I was at the last one for just over four of those years. I won't go into the issues that lead to two very short stays; no secrets, it just doesn't matter to the point of this post. But God used every day of those five years to teach and prepare me for where I am now serving, and the learning and growing continues.
My answer to the committee's concerns was simply that I trust in God. I have seen God use me in a very short tenure to accomplish wonderful things for His glory, and I have seen long stretches where I didn't see until much later the value of anything I was doing. I want to be where God wants me to be, doing what He wants me to be doing, as long as He wants me doing it. If that means my preschool children leave this parsonage for college, so be it; if we are gone in fourteen months because God is leading, I trust Him to reveal that clearly. God is indeed sovereign, and my trust is in Him, for today and for each tomorrow.
By now, if you're still with me, you're wondering what this has to do with anonymity; it is, in fact, the purpose of this post. I call on all those who want to participate in the many facets of our SBC debate to do so prayerfully, thoughtfully, and openly. There has been much damage to trust in our conversation caused by anonymous comments, and this should not be. There has been much-needed repentance, which I deeply appreciate. But there continue to be those who do not have the integrity to place their identity behind their words, and I see this as nothing more than a lack of faith in God's sovereign care. Of course, I welcome the participation of those whose missionary service in parts of the world where the revelation of their identity would place themselves or their families in physical jeopardy, and I respect this as a legitimate reason for anonymity. But I am convinced that it is the only legitimate reason.
I was not a part of the conservative resurgence in our convention, although I am in agreement with the publicly stated goals of those who led it. I have no doubt that there are those whose actions toward others in the carrying out of our "reformation" leave them in need of repentance, though I myself am under no such personal conviction. I do not question the claims of ungodly treatment that some have made. I do not question the belief on the part of some that if their identity were placed with their statements, they would be targeted for retribution. What I question in those who choose to remain anonymous is their faith in the power of God to sustain them in the trial, or to deliver them from it.
If someone believes that they must say what they have to say, and they are convinced of the truth of their statement, they should be willing to place it before the world openly and allow God to do with it, and with them, whatever He wills.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) did not anonymously refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzar's statue. They stood confidently before the enraged king and said, "If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.
It would be fair to say that perhaps it does not require the courage of these three for me to put my name behind my words. It may be fair to say that for others who wish to participate in our debates, it does require this courage, although the repercussions I have heard discussed relate more often to loss of employment than to being burned with fire. But the God who delivered then can still deliver today. And if He had not delivered them, they would have died with their integrity, and they would have been remembered by name.