23 February 2007

My poor inbox

by Frank Turk

Yes, Good Morning.

Listen: in Wednesday's post, I made reference to posting on the same subject at my own blog, and I made good on that by posting not once, but twice. And in those posts, most of this has been covered.

However, many of you have not read those posts. (So much for my memo pad, Dan.) And you have e-mailed me about your situation -- which I never have any problem with -- and have told me that I have gone too far. For example, some of you have left pseudo-Christian cults where they have "pastors" and "churches" and "elders" and a "congregation" after you had realized, through reading the Bible, that these cults (Mormonism, JWs, Oneness, Unitarians, etc.) were defaming God with their false teaching. Doesn't my post overlook that?

Well: no. I said don't leave your church, not "don't leave your cult." For the record, those of you who were baptized in those organizations ought to think about whether you have ever even been legitimately baptized. Leaving those organizations for a church is not the same thing as leaving a church with an orthodox confession of faith over even grave matters where some are denying that confession. Matthew 18 applies in that situation; it doesn't apply if you are worship a guy from the planet Kolob any more than it applies to those who worshipped Zeus or refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah of whom the Prophets foretold.

Some are e-mailing me and saying, "Cent, my pastor wouldn't listen to me." That's a fair concern: does Matthew 18 stop there? Your obligation doesn't stop just because he won't live up to his -- but if you cannot get a fair hearing, made in love and not as a lynch mob, because the institution is standing in the way of the Biblical method of resolution, you should consider yourself turned out -- and do what seems right if they don't want you around. But you have an obligation to find out if that's what's going on. You're not leading an inquisition if you know others agree with you and you approach the matter with humility and, frankly, a heavy heart.

And others are confused over why one would want to stay and "cause trouble." Listen: I didn't say "stay and cause trouble." Matthew 18 doesn't say "stay and cause trouble." It says "get reconciled to your brother." Most people see that as one of the "easy" teachings of Jesus, but that's one of the hardest teachings of Jesus. You stay because you are seeking to be reconciled to your brother.

Think about that, please. In Matthew 18, it doesn't say, "If your brother has done you wrong, wait for him to bring it up because it's only a decent apology if he engages you first -- and if he doesn't bring it up but instead keeps doing it, book." It says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." You go and make your case in order to gain him back.

I am sure there are other questions which are going to come up about this -- some have even accused me of making an unbiblical case, but of course those people didn't actually provide me with the Biblical one (yet -- some of them may be working on that, especially after post #2 at my blog). Feel free to keep the discussion open, but also remember that these posts don't occur in a vacuum. I'm still the same guy who said all the other things I have said in time and space, and you have to take some of that into consideration when you start with the "whaddabouts".

Thanks. Be with the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day this week, and try to make it right with them. Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.









21 comments:

E.Stevenson said...

Cent,
Thank you for your voluminous posts and additions. I find it interesting that we all start looking for the theological "exits" in such discussions and sometimes don't take enough time to look at the room we are in. You have made cogent points in good faith.
I, for one, agree with you.

Jerry Morningstar said...

But Cent - What if the church refuses to use my worship style?

What if the sound guy is deaf and turns the volume up too loud?

What if they insist on passing an offering plate in front of me?

What if they build a building and nobody asks me for my expertise?

What if my 'felt needs' aren't revealed and met?

What if I get passed over for a committee?

Certainly these must be legitimate reasons for finding a new church home

Just kidding - enjoyed your post and discussion

goodnightsafehome said...

...And don't slam the door on the way out if you do leave.

Don Fields said...

For what it's worth I agree 100% with everything you have said on this topic. When we join a true church we have joined to that local manifestation of the Body of Christ. This isn't any other organization or club. This is the Body of Christ! For too many people and too many churches it is easy in and easy out. God save us from this absence of biblical love and commitment. If you must leave, leave only after exhausting every biblical means of reconciliation!

Roger D. Lee said...

I appreciate you posts. The Matthew 18 passage you refer to does mention the word "sin." Some of the issues we have in church are not because our brother has sinned against us but because my brother did not dress the way I liked or he did not totally agree with me with my interpretation of a passage. Of course anyone who does not agree with me is sinning?:)

Roger D. Lee

donsands said...

Paul and Barnabas had to split.

Sometimes the Lord makes splitting happen.

There are people I can't serve with. And there are people who can't serve with me.

We can try and try, but it ain't gonna work.

I love my brother, but I have to go.

I can't serve the Lord without joy and unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace for the "long haul". Some may be able to, but I can't.

But as it has been said, everything needs to be prayed over, and under, and through, with patience and a heart that's willing to do whatever the Lord calls you to.
And He is faithful to work in you to will and to do.

This has been encouraging, convicting, and thought-provoking for me. Thanks for sharing your heart on this essential matter. And for all the comments as well.

HOOKEM said...

Cent. great work here. This series hits somewhat close to home on a few fronts: 1. I have been a PK for 29 years and have lived, and felt the effects of my father being blasted time and time again over frankly idiocy within the membership of the church that consistently surrounded the “ME” and or “I” rather than Christ and His church. 2. I now have the honor to sit in the position of Deacon in the same church my father served as senior pastor for 28 years and have had to sit in on a handful of meetings with members who again have called into question the character of our pastor and use of scripture as manipulation, all of which were done in blindness.

I quite frankly have very little tolerance for it all. I am not saying that there are not some ligament reasons to confront leadership and perhaps leave a church family, if it in fact aligns with scripture. But for “Heavens Sake” there are people dying spending eternity in hell….Shut up and share Christ. Stretch your theological, philosophical, brain muscle here or with your pastor all you want, as for me, I will be fighting in the blood and sweat laden arena of spiritual warfare on your behalf and those who risk spending an eternity in Hell. The Cross was for those empty souls. It’s not all about YOU!

striving... said...

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict. I am writing about this at my blog. Be a peacemaker, God seeks unity not uniformity. It is a great post, cent, and all to often christians think that not saying anything and bowing out is the answer. Man you have to read my post. I bet you would like it.

centuri0n said...

Striving:

I admire you for trolling the meta here for readers. That's a real spiritual gift.

Travis said...

Cent,
This has been a helpful series of posts for me. I pastor a church that experienced two splits last year (before I was called to the church). In both cases "doctrine" was cited as the root cause of the split(s). After talking with folks on both sides, however, it has become apparent that personaltiy conflicts played a more prominent role that doctrinal differences.

The hardest part of any relationship is staying through difficulty and turmoil.

Thanks again!

Denny said...

I have a question I would like to submit here if I may. I don’t know if I will receive a response but I’ll give it an honest try. I trust it is in line with this topic regarding church membership. Here is the scenario…

Someone regionally well known is a pastor of a small church fellowship. This pastor speaks well of John MacArthur, James White, etc. . His doctrine is very close to these teachers and he has been spoken well of by them. Some members who have known him personally and have been consistent and active in ministry there begin to ask some questions of the pastor when certain issues of doctrine come up. These members even offer some of John MacArthur’s materials for consideration regarding this particular doctrine and this pastor quickly and angrily gets up and throws them in the trash before 4 other members --including those in leadership training-- and says to the member who offer these materials “who are you? You’re nothing!”.

After some research, it is found that this pastor had no accountability for members to go to regarding his leadership and that--some years before-- this pastor was rejected from ever being a pastor of any CMA church because of his abuses and the harm he inflicted on members and their families without any repentance. He was the sole authority and what he said was so no matter what- including his false accusation proven by others to be untrue. Many individuals and families from these churches --and God knows if there were others-- were left feeling misled, disillusioned, and offended by this pastor’s lies, false accusations, and unwillingness to resolve any of this with the help of other Christian leaders. The church folded suddenly by his resignation and every other member remaining was also left in the cold. He is now seeking to be a pastor of another church in another denomination in another state.

This is not an imagined scenario but is precisely true. I say this to offer these reminders regarding church membership…

1) Don’t fall for someone because they seem to have good doctrine.

2) Make sure your pastor is accountable to other respected men of the Scriptures whom you are aware of before being a member.

3) Don’t be swayed in your view of a pastor --or other leader-- by the commendation coming from other respectable Christian leaders. For they are not always aware of another’s true character and obedience to good doctrine even thought they may recognize that this person is sharing their doctrinal beliefs in public.

I am sorry to say that even the most respected have proven to me and others that they are jumping the gun in their commendations and making themselves look unwise in this.

If this is even acceptable here, my question is… What are your thoughts on such a matter?

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SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

Very thought provoking subject, and thanks for posting on it. If someone has brought this up before me, my apologies..but has anyone thrown in the "come out of her, My people, so you will not share in her sins" angle yet. That seems to me to have a specific context, yet it gets used quite a bit in discussing whether to leave a church. Just curious to know your thoughts on that one.

Morris Brooks said...

Cent,

There are things to consider before you make a committment to a local church. Maybe it would be helpful if you would post on things to consider when joining a church. Like what to look for, who to check with, what questions to ask, etc.

Also, from reading some of the posts it seems that for many the church left them before they left the church, which I think has been a recent phenomena in evangelical churches.

centuri0n said...

Denny:

My thoughts are these --

[1] The second-wisest thing a church can do in selecting a new pastor is to visit his current church unannounced. Sit in the pew. Watch how people react to him. Come back on Wednesday or whatever the major "other" day is and see what's going on there. Make positive comments to people about the pastor and see how they react. Interview his work when you interview him.

[2] The #1 wisest thing a church can do is do a background check on a candidate. Do a credit check. Call the schools he has listed on his application and get his transcripts. If he will not submit to this, or is not up-front about questionable issues in this check -- meaning, he tells you about them before the check -- then you know something you didn't know before.

[3] Ask hard questions in the calling process. When we interviewed our current pastor, he and his wife went through the meat grinder. Yes, we asked a lot about his theology, but we also asked him to what degree does he accept other theological views. I personally asked him about accountability and his personal willingness to have other men stand with him and ask hard questions to him.

It seems superficially good to start with trust, but that only works if you are considering someone who has been mentored and raised up for inside the local body. When you fly a guy in from the other side of the planet to interview, you better make sure that you know him, warts and all.

Some people, in spite of their degrees and their work history, are not suited for ministry. They don't have the broad gifting to either develop good partners or to recruit them, and they don't like to be one part of a larger effort: they have to be the focus of attention. For those asking, this is why I stay out of professional ministry: I know factually that I would be a Jack Welch and not an Adrian Rogers or John MacArthur.

Your calling process should be long, methodical, patient, demanding, and take into account all the issues your church has faced, is facing, and will face.

centuri0n said...

meanie:

The Rev 18 thing seems to need more context than you are giving it. That's talking about end-time apostasy and not local church error as such.

However, let me make sure I say this before anyone gets worked up: that call to come out of apostasy is a final judgment on apostasy. In no place have I advocated sticking with some body when it is simply beyond any hope opf reforming itself. Over and over, in a couple of different ways and contexts, I have said that if they have stopped doing their duty to be a church vis a vis Mt 18, you can't do any more to help them.

Don't stay in a place which is not interested in honest, humble, and valid criticism. But don't decide this with only intuitive evidence. They have one kind of obligation; you have another. Do what you are supposed to do.

centuri0n said...

Morris --

I think the matter of who left whom is exactly what I'm talking about over at my blog in considering what the NT calls us to do as believers.

And I have also linked a very spectacular article from GTY.org at my blog on how to pick a church. To avoid Dan's critical eye, I'll link it here also.

Denny said...

Centurion,

Thank you for responding to my question. What you say is sound advice. The church I was referring to folded when the pastor resigned because he had total control. Equipment given to the church he sold and moved to another state where he recently tried for a position of a pastor of a Baptist church. Thank God that the head deacon did as you said and conducted a background search on the man. We were foolishly taken by this mans public personality and ability to share good doctrine. Much like I believe Pastor John MacArthur and James White were taken by his vocally public duplicate doctrine by breath only without really knowing the man personally. This is not to disrespect Pastor MacArthur for I have learned so much from his teaching for many years now and I understand that he is accountable to other men. And I don’t know James White as well. I pray that this is a lesson for all who believe they are in a leadership position of ministering discernment to the Body of Christ. For it seems amiss to commend a man just because he can parrot good doctrine. By doing this you may mislead others into trouble.

I do pray those in leadership positions of choosing a pastor for a local body will be very diligent to follow the advice that you have offered. Just as the rest of us who are in other functions of the Body of Christ must be consistent to follow obediently in the grace of God through good doctrine, so much more does every pastor --who is in the position of watching over and feeding the flock of our Lord-- need to be an example of this grace. They need to be able to answer all question patiently and in love. For God is using this from the fellowship to work to conform him to the image of Christ as well. When pastors get it in their heads that they are better than the least of these they are heading for a fall of some sort. Though not always perfect, if they can not be consistent by grace they should not be in that position for God has not put them there.

Thank you again for addressing this issue with me.

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:1-5

In His Grace,
Denny

SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

I wasn't endorsing the idea of using the Revelation passage in that way myself. I've just heard it done and wanted your take on it. I am a fairly hard stickler on keeping in context and not forcing meanings on text that either aren't there/weren't intended. I agree with your take on that passage.

As an aside, your final remark made me snicker a little bit in connection with other thoughts I've had about our Emergent friends and their handwringing over every nuance. We should tell them to adopt Dr. Laura theology if they can't stomach biblical orthodoxy. "Do the right thing."

Unfortunately, EC theology is more in line with "doing what is right in their own eyes."

SolaMeanie said...

Oops..one more thing that popped into my mind on topic. I have to wonder if "end-time apostasy" isn't indeed setting in. Phil's postmodernism seminar showed how the time of each philosophical period (pre-modern, modern, postmodern etc) got shorter and shorter. Theologians and churches seem to be getting crazier theologically in an exponential fashion. Ten years ago, if you had told me my fellowship would play footsie with some of the things they've played footsie with, I would have said you were nuts. That is no longer the case. Scripture indicates that deception is a hallmark of the last days, and there certainly is a growing amount of it out there.

BTW..did anyone see the story on Drudge about filmmaker John Carpenter claiming he's found Jesus' tomb, thereby "disproving" the Resurrection? The original is on the Time Magazine blog. I posted a short derisive comment about it there, basically saying that this will be proven bogus in time like most other of these "discoveries" that supposedly discredited Christianity and Scripture. But look for the media and assorted Bishop Spong types to hype it up in the days ahead. More last days deception.

Paul said...

Thanks for these posts.

(My problem is that my church is too fundamentalist, to the extent that I can't become a member!)