In recent years I’ve heard a lot of talk about the idea of “best practices.” It’s a bit of a buzz word in the business world and recently it’s made landfall in the church. The term, “best practices” conveys the idea that there are a set of recognized procedures and techniques that are generally accepted as the most prudent and superior way to operate.
My own experience with this term in the church has been less than positive. While leaders spoke publicly and with authority about their usage of “best practices,” behind the scenes there was manipulation, dishonesty and backroom dealing. The perception was given that one thing was taking place, while secretly, something quite different was actually going on. Through deceit and manipulation, the heart of Jesus was being bled right out of the body. Most congregants were unaware of what was happening, taking public statements at face value. It appears that our enemy is well-aware that there is within the human spirit an errable tendency to assume that leaders are being honest and transparent simply because they have been chosen to lead. Sadly, those who asked questions of leaders were treated as factious malcontents.
That’s the problem with the use of terms like “best practices” without explanation. These tag lines and labels give the perception of trustworthiness and honorable intentions without evidence of the same. The leader is arrogant, a narcissist, who litters his dialogue with such speech without living out the evidence that backs it up. This is one reason discernment is so important in the church. It’s our responsibility, as believers, to hold one another accountable (Eph. 4:25; 5:21; Gal. 6:1-2), we’re charged to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and to choose leaders who are people of integrity and honesty (Mt. 5:37; Titus 1:7). If we are to know that leaders meet the biblical standards, then it goes without saying that someone needs to make that assessment. This is where I see the irony in what I’ve observed in recent years. It seems to me that the primary “best practices” the church ought to be following are the standards and qualifications outlined in Scripture for our leaders. Our most important guidance comes, not from the business world, but from God’s Word.