This morning I read through a really interesting piece by Walt Harrington on George Dubya Bush. The whole thing is worthy of a read, but this particular sentence stuck out to me:
His only remark about Barack Obama was, as I recall it, “No matter who wins, when he hears what I hear every morning, it will change him.”
This reminded me of a comment that John Newton made to John Ryland, Jr., wen the latter found himself in the middle of a very difficult controversy. Here Newton mentioned the benefit of being a minister in the church of England as opposed to a minister in of an Independent church:
That sovereign power, which the Independents assume over their ministers, appears to me too great to be trusted in such hands. If a man ranks as member of a Church of Christ, however ignorant, illiterate and illiberal he may be, though he has seen and known nothing beyond the bounds of his parish, though his temper be sour, and his spirit obstinate as a mule, still he thinks himself both qualified and authorized to teach his pastor. Half a dozen persons of this description are sufficient to make a minister and a whole congregation uneasy through life. Whatever burden we are supposed to have in the Establishment, we are free from this. And I would be thankful for it. (Wise Counsel, 223)
As a Baptist I’m one of those “independents” that Newton mentions. I do appreciate many of the benefits of democracy and congregational government. But I also agree with Newton about one of the pitfalls of such a practice.
George W. Bush has a ton of critics. I lean to the right politically but there are policies, beliefs, things he said, etc. that I do not agree with. And I can say the same thing about our current President. However, what Bush said to Harrington is true—“hearing what he hears every morning” is enough to change a man. And until I hear what he does every morning I should critique the President with humility, grace, and sobriety. He knows things and sees things that I do not, nor ever will.
The same thing goes for the President of the Southern Baptist Convention (and you can add any other organization, including your local church). Those that are in leadership see things, hear things, study things, consider things, think through things, that those not in his/her position will probably never even consider. Because of this we should criticize those that God has set over us with great caution.
None of this is to say that leaders are outside the realm of critique. Those not in a position of leadership also have the ability to see things that the leader does not. Therefore, the leaders should also humbly listen to and consider the critiques of the populace. But the main point stands: leaders hear things that we/you do not, so approach criticism with caution and humility.