The True Apostle and The True Elder
I came across a statement that came out of the debacle relating to the high death rates and high rates of Covid-19 infections in our local Victorian aged care homes. A leading health expert said that the problem with the government’s oversight of the aged care sector has been that too many health inspectors worked alongside managers of aged care homes rather than being watchdogs as they should have been.
This is the gentle collegiate approach where persons given the mandate to oversee aged care home management are supposed to ensure that the homes cater for the best interest of their residents, in accordance with the full set of regulations and expectations set out by the Department of Health. The federal watchdogs were apparently too lax serving, in many cases, the compromised business model of the particular aged care home. This often meant not enough staff for the number of residents and a lack of proper procedural requirements in a facility together with a sub-standard provision of services such as wholesome and attractive meals. These shortcomings were sadly brought to the forefront when Federal Government nurses, sent in to the most affected aged care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, were shocked to find aged residents who had been totally neglected for days in their own filth. Residents testified that staff had not visited them for days to cater for even their most basic needs. Residents had been roaming corridors finding no one to help and the dining room devoid of food. This degree of neglect was criminal and, to a lesser degree, had already been chronic in the system. But who takes notice of aged residents who complain? Don’t we often think that old people are just too fussy?
These reports reminded me of the time when a house was being built for my daughter and her husband. In my enthusiasm I visited the building site late one day to familiarise myself with the size and layout of the house. The construction workers had finished for the day. As I looked around I was shocked to find that 30% of the upright posts in the framework had been cut short by as much as 2 cm. These posts were hanging from the upper beams with a huge gap underneath showing bare nails on which they stood rather than firmly supporting the upper beams.
Anybody casually looking at the framework would have been satisfied because most people look upwards not to the very bottom. Above eye level the framework looked perfect to deceive. I rang my son-in-law and said they needed to stop the work but he said that it’s too late because the plasterers were going to start in the morning to cover the entire woodwork. So I returned to the building site with flat hardboard and underpinned each of those posts myself before the morning. In the years ahead the roof line would have otherwise sagged devaluing the house.
When the builder was contacted he pretended innocence and said that it’s not his problem because the Council Building Inspector had passed the frame and it was therefore legal to go ahead with the plastering. I discussed this later with a Christian building inspector who told me sad tales of certain building inspectors being ’in the pockets’ of shoddy builders of large scale estates. To make another long story short, the best man at my wedding, Joe Gorman, resigned from his lucrative job as a meat inspector in rural Victoria because he was frequently bullied or bribed into signing off meat as being suitable for export when it was not. All sectors of business are tarnished with some element of corruption, as investigative reporters often reveal.
Unfortunately similar events are being played out in many churches. Visiting preachers and even elders within the congregation may become aware of unacceptable shortcomings or neglect by the leadership of the church. Often, if they continually persist to speak out they are either put aside or excommunicated and most certainly are no longer invited as visiting preachers. The person who chooses to side with the leadership, whilst being fully aware of the misdemeanours, is accepted, offered the right hand of fellowship and given freedom of the platform. Members of the congregation who rightly speak up are ‘blacklisted’ as being unsuitable for church involvement except for menial tasks and working ‘bees’. That is how they are silenced while being kept active. Eventually they may leave the congregation and find a more suitable fellowship. The fact of the matter is that there is a wide spectrum of misdemeanours in churches throughout Christendom ranging from very serious to simply matters of neglect or lack of balance.
We should not be surprised if such situations currently exist. After all we find ample examples of that in the New Testament such as the neglect of the Greek-speaking widows giving preference to the Jewish widows in the daily distributions (Acts 6:1-7). Although that particular matter was settled, once the grievance became serious enough, the Apostle Paul had to severely reprimand some church leaders in other cases including the Apostle Peter himself (Galatians 2:11-14).
Jesus Himself had to reprimand the leaders (the angel – angelos – ‘messenger’ in Greek) of six out of the seven congregations that were mentioned in the book of Revelation (Chapters 2-3). Faithful members of those congregations must have been crying out to the Lord for some time because their pleadings had obviously been ignored by their leaders. In scripture the number six is the number of man indicating that carnal elements had crept in.
And so it is today. It is highly probable that churches will be given a huge shaking in the near future to shake out that which is ungodly in the church today, “Judgement begins at the house of God” (1Peter 4:17). Paul was the benchmark apostle who did not shy away from correcting and speaking out even when people began to ignore him because of his high godly expectations (2Timothy 1:15). He stood his ground under much opposition. Apart from one instance (3John 1-10) the Apostle John, the apostle of love, was not known for engaging in conflict. We need both types to be active in the church. We need true apostles and true elders, not those that close ranks with the established leadership when justifiable issues are raised.