To be fair, I’ve had a mixed response to what I’m offering here. One friend, in particular, felt it was a waste of time because, of course, anybody can sign a piece of paper. That means diddly-squat. Which is entirely fair and reasonable. And I agree.

But sometimes I think just the fact of articulating and airing such things is reason enough for sharing them, even if it doesn’t develop into anything more. So here goes…

Where are the virtues?

As this little series has continued, I’ve been trying to get under the skin of where things have gone wrong. It’s not all doom and gloom; but there are causes for genuine concern about what evangelical subculture(s) have become, especially that of English private school evangelicalism. I’m not the only one by any stretch, nor am I particularly authoritative, nor do I have a job that offers much scope for doing anything about it. Which is perhaps both a drawback and an advantage.

But I wonder if one problem has been a lack of concern for the virtues of Christ-likeness. They get talked about, of course. I don’t mean that. I just don’t think they’re truly valued in the final analysis. Too often, they get trumped by other stuff. Ends justify means, pragmatism rules; strategic ability, rhetorical prowess, personal magnetism, and apologetic skill (in fact, gifting generally) have such weight that we’re prepared to overlook character flaws. I don’t mean mistakes, aberrations, or failings. I mean habitual flaws. Perfection is not to be expected, but we are to crucify the sinful nature, are we not? We seem to have been distracted from the fact that character seriously matters. I feel slightly ridiculous even writing that because it seems platitudinous. It’s not rocket science.

I remember Don Carson saying years ago that a congregation will forgive their pastors more or less any lack of gifting or competence IF they know they love them. But the converse is certainly not true, is it? That puts this in some perspective, doesn’t it?

So I want us to articulate the virtues that form true Christlike leadership right out. This is what we aspire to. This is what we can be called on. This is what we need help with.

This is a first draft, a work in progress. So please don’t treat it as anything more than that! If you have amendments, additions, or subtractions, I would love to hear them. Bung them down in the comments. I have no delusions about changing cultures by getting signatures on a random piece of paper. But I do wonder how different things might become if we all pledged to live these virtues out in our leadership and discipleship… Is this the beginning of getting things back on track?

I’ve called it the ‘doulos’ covenant after the Greek for ‘slave’. Christ is our master. We are his. And we are to serve him and his people.

The 'doulos' covenant

Please let me know what you think.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Lee Furney

    Lots of useful pointers. Thanks. Maybe add listening to Christ and to others in order to serve effectively

  2. Anna Price

    I like these, thanks Mark for thinking about them and the concern for basic Christian morality and love in leaders. I’m a bit confused by the showing grace to the repentant only – shouldn’t we insist that we show grace to all? As the Lord makes the rain fall on the righteous and the wicked … and Jesus feeds the 5000- without seeming to show distinction etc. I’d like to think Christian leaders will commit to showing grace to those who are as yet unrepentant, as a means to draw them to faith and repentance. Showing grace of course isn’t condoning the sin so where is the reservation?

    1. quaesitor

      yes, Anna – great point – will ensure less confusion in next draft!

  3. Lee Furney

    In keeping with my earlier comment, it’s impossible to fit everything into every blog, but it would be good to import some of your work elsewhere regarding the necessity of union in Christ, and dependence on an internal work of the Spirit, as we listen in prayerful obedience. It seems to be a functional weak spot in our circles. The heart of the action needs to be the action of the Spirit in the heart.

    1. quaesitor

      good thinking

  4. Philip Whittall

    I think if the goal is to clarify virtues with ministry then I’ve found the fruits of the Spirit to be extremely helpful. I cannot claim faithfulness if I’ve excluded kindness. I cannot claim faithfulness if I’ve neglected goodness. I cannot claim love if I’ve abandoned patience and self-control. And they all interact and weave together to make an extremely strong fabric of character.

    I’ve found reflecting on this to be orienting and life-giving. The pursuit of these things is life-changing. Anyway, I’m all in favour of all efforts to renew character. So as a wise man I know likes to say, keep on keeping on, with all that.

    1. quaesitor

      very helpful Phil – thanks v much

  5. Chris H

    A very minor point but your footer says March 2020. I wish it was still 2020 but sadly not…

    1. quaesitor

      good spot! Will correct in next draft

  6. Christian Bensel

    Thank you! It looks great. I might have overlooked something or not gotten all the implications but I think think that the covenant lacks something that addresses the tendency to protect leaders from accusations.
    I am thinking of a ministry’s staff repressing critical voices and questions of their beloved leader. When you are a leader, you will also have a) people asking you critical questions and b) other leaders (colleagues or co-leaders or staff). When they get attacked, our normal instinct is to get into a circle-the-wagons mindset. We should be aware that the accusations could be true and we should not automatically think that the attackers are in the wrong, sinful ect. I think Glen Scrivener expressed it like this: Our first loyalty is to truth, not to people around us. Or something like that.

    So we should be determined to be aware of this tendency and commit to reacting differently to criticism.

  7. Jane Tooher

    Hi Mark, thanks for this. Just wondering how you are defining ‘flourishing’ at pt 3 and if you had to choose a different word / other words, what would they be? Thanks, Jane

    1. quaesitor

      Hi Jane
      sorry for taking an age to respond! Been rather tied up with stuff.
      By flourishing I mean everything that being made in the Imago Dei means for us in Christ – the best way to live in the individual make-up each of us has (so it’s not one size fits all etc).

      I wonder though whether there is a concern about the word floating around there!?

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