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Let another man praise you

Monday, August 27, 2007

Proverbs 27:2 tells us: "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."

Twice in the last two weeks I have found myself reading an article written by individuals whose perspective on what they were writing made the nature of their writing suspect. In both cases, I am sure that the writers are good men and I actually agree with part of what they said, but the effectiveness of their cases were hurt because of who they were.

In one case, the paper was dealing with the issue of American churches supporting national pastors and evangelists on foreign mission fields. The writers of this paper were both veteran missionaries of the foreign mission field. There are definitely some benefits to writing such an article from that background. After all, I am sure that they have interracted with many nationals who have received American dollars. There are also some drawbacks from writing such an article with that background. One, it tends to come across as self-serving - the traditional missionaries are worried that the limited supply of missionary money is going to go to nationals rather than being used to support traditional missionaries. Second, it tends to become an apology rather than an evaluation. Instead of realistically looking at the pros and cons of such a situation and then evaluating those pros and cons Biblically, the paper took the unwise measure of overstating the points at time and actually hurt their cause rather than helped it. (If you followed some of their arguments to their logical extreme, for instance, you could actually make the point that you should not be supporting missionaries at all - which is clearly not what they were wanting you to conclude from the article.)

In another case, the article dealt with the issue of seminary training. I believe seminary training is a very helpful thing and, as such, I agreed with the main concept of the article - get all of the training that you can get. However, this is again a case where the person making the case may not be the best one to make the case. As an employee of a seminary, his pushing seminary education comes across as self-serving. Also, as an employee of a seminary, his article supporting a seminary education (and more importantly in this case, his interaction with those who responded to the article) seem to have limited his ability to look at the situation objectively and interact with those who question his conclusion in a manner that displays a charitable understanding of the positions of those with whom he is supposed to be interacting. The result of this is that the article and thread actually have the effect of pushing some away from his stated objective.

My purpose here is not to address and critique the particular articles in question. I may choose to do that at some point, but that is irrelevant to the point of this post.

In both cases, a better scenario for addressing the issues at hand may have been to let it be handled by someone other than the individuals that handled it. In the case of the missionaries' presentation, a national pastor who had experienced and witnessed some of the same things that the missionaries wrote regarding could have more effectively written the paper - by doing so he would not have come across as self-serving since the position taken would not be benefitting him and he would have been less likely to reach so greatly in his justification of his positions. In the case of the seminary article, a more effective presentation may have been made by a seminary graduate who highlighted the value that going to seminary has added to his ministry - perhaps someone who was in ministry pre-seminary and went back to seminary for more education. This would have again brought more credibility to the article and helped to avoid some of the interaction that came across as elitist and "out of touch."

In both cases, a practicing of the principle espoused in Proverbs 27:2 could have avoided some of the problems in the presentation. Likewise, Pastors would be wise to have others be their advocates rather than seeking to be their own advocates. Even if you have a good point, it can be easy to come across as self-serving when you are pushing for things that can be seen as directly benefitting you and it can also blind you to other perspectives.

Just my thoughts,



Anonymous said...

Re the seminary professor (I think you are referring to the article on S/I) promoting seminary and that one is not prepared unless they have been ...

I think you hit the nail on the head with this. It is a self-serving article.

Chris Anderson said...

Hi, Frank. I often agree with you. This is not one of those times.

If you carry your position to its logical conclusion, anyone who specializes in a certain field is precluded from addressing it. Apply that to your ministry. You can't preach on the importance of the local church because you're a pastor. You can't preach on the need for women to submit to men in the home and church because you're a husband and pastor. Etc.

The only one authorized to address an issue would be the one least qualified to do so. It's absurd. Of course a seminary president has thought more about seminary than the rest of us. Of course missionaries on a foreign field have a perspective on supporting national which we don't. That doesn't make them right, but neither does it disqualify them from speaking to the issue. Again, the alternative is people waxing eloquent about issues which they have no interest in. How can that be a good thing?

How about this: we acknowledge that no one is entirely objective, then way their arguments on the basis of Scripture and logic, not their personal gravitas? I think that's the only sane answer.

My two cents, anyway.

Oh...I also think your use of Proverb 27:2 is a stretch.

And, of course, I consider you a friend. :-)

Frank Sansone said...


How dare you disagree with me?? :) (I am joking, of course)

I can see your point and it makes sense, but I am not sure it negates my point - but you are probably correct in that I have overstated things.

I do have some thoughts in response, but I have to wait to address them until later - I have a couple of appointments that need to be done.

Frank Sansone said...


I am sorry it took so long to respond. I went ahead and make a post out it - Let Another Man 2.