Good journalism functions as a watchdog. This is particularly visible in the political arena. Journalists there have the task of asking critical questions to ministers and MPs. That’s called checking the power. A journalist can also have this position in other areas. For example, if he examines how things work in churches or Christian organizations. Not because it is so challenging to expose any wrongdoing. But with the aim that these cannot survive once they have been made public.
In recent days a lot has been written about Evangeliegemeente De Deur in the Reformatorisch Dagblad. The image may arise that the RD writes with a certain ease about municipalities and groups that do not belong to the core of its readership.
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But anyone who thinks that has not properly understood the intention of the editors. This notwithstanding the fact that tricky issues within the Reformed denomination regularly make it to the columns of the RD. But what do we mean with such a series about an international association of Pentecostal churches?
The article series wants to be a mirror. The intention is for readers to look into this and ask themselves: what parallels do I see in myself, the municipality where I live or the organization of which I belong?
Is there anything for the Reformed religion to learn from things that go wrong at De Deur? Definitely. If we focus on church congregations, the most important lesson is that there must be transparency. A culture of fear should never prevail in a Christian congregation, so that critical voices are suspicious in advance and ultimately prohibited. It is with good reason that the ministerial confirmation form states that the government of the Church should “not rest with one alone or with a very few.” If there is no room for discussion within a church council or board and there is insufficient supervision of each other, an atmosphere of closedness is created just like that. Manipulation and abuse of power are then lurking. Criticism of people is not tolerated in such a context and healthy feedback is confused with damage to authority. If there is also a question of mutual dependence – in the worst case also in a financial sense – a culture will quickly develop in which abuses can thrive.
It is no less important that a church association has the ecclesiastical legal process in order. Not to fight each other in an unspiritual way, but to enable a fair course of action for all congregation members. A congregation member with a complaint must be confident that it will be assessed fairly and by independent persons.
In pastoral care it is important that a minister is aware of the effect of his behavior and always beware of the appearance of evil. In this regard, let an elder who is visiting without a fellow brother be alert.
So look honestly in the mirror. To talk openly with each other about things that are likely to go wrong. Praying for the light and guidance of God’s Spirit. Knowing that only in His light the works of darkness cannot prevail.
The author is deputy editor of the Reformatorisch Dagblad.