Because our readers are the smartest in the universe, my last post (not the one about leaving, but the one where I implemented the electronic QB metaphor) instigated this comment from a canny reader:
I understand what you are saying here, but aren't Paul's instructions here to the Pastor? How are they applied to the church member who doesn't have any authority over what is being taught in a church?This is the rubber and the road part of this high-falutin' theology- love- grace- church- unity- truth talk.
We're trying to figure out where that line is - we're in a church that on outward appearance(and in the pulpit) is Biblically sound. However, the youth group is leaning emergent - Nooma videos - ditching teaching the Bible in favor of student-facilitated "relevent" discussion about "edgy" topics, i.e. piercings, tattoos, Harry Potter, Halo; using secular music for "worship"; "authenticity" seems to be the highest value. (sorry about the excessive use of quotation marks! The EC's re-definitions mandate it!)
We've had to pull our kids out of most activities (more so for our younger daughter who is less discerning) The sr. pastor agrees that the EC is dangerous, but trusts our youth pastor. We've already been removed from teaching positions for not drinking the Kool-aid.
I guess what I'm asking is what does it look like when a person not in authority stays? Understanding that it's not stylistic differences but perhaps teetering on the edge of heresy (depending on what you think of Rob Bell I guess) (I vote yes). Does one just sit quietly, hoping and praying the leadership will eventually "get it"? Does one keep earnestly pestering the pastor? Inform the other parents? I guess the confusion springs from the church authority issue. I am still under the authority of the senior pastor (and the youth pastor for that matter). How exactly does that all flesh out?
When you stay – and that's the first key: when you stay – your first responsibility is humility. Now, let's not get all broken up about this word – because it is a perfectly biblical and sound word, and we have to understand what real humility is.
Real humility begins here:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:The place where humility starts is before the throne of God where you realize, as Isaiah the prophet who actually spoke for God directly realized, that you are really not much in the face of a Holy God.
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
The ESV sorta loses something here when it translates Isaiah's lament "I am lost". I like the KJV and NASB of course, but the NLT really goes for the gold when it says, "It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man." That's the –sense- of Isaiah's lament: the knowledge that your fate is entirely in God's hands, and unless something happens (meaning: unless God does something) you're completely shot – no chance for recovery.
Your pastor may have just gone from being average Pastor Pete with an average evangelical theological IQ to being a spiky-coiffed, wrinkled-shirt, Chris Tomlin-looking coffee drinker (no offense Chris: I realize you're a musician and we have to cut you some slack)(I guess)(you have to admit that this is what "those guys" look like, though, right?) who is now showing and quoting Nooma videos, video clips from adult prime-time TV, citing eastern mystical books and questioning whether orthodoxy is a proper pastime for a church instead of art shows, concerts and parties. That is frankly –his- problem before the three-times holy God who causes angels to cover their eyes.
Your problem before this God is that you are in the same boat -- unless God does something. Paul sums that up to the Corinthians by telling them that they are, on the one hand, just like the filthy sinners in their city. But, on the other hand, they are called out and made temples of the Holy Spirit -- such ones they once were, but now ...
So right-minded humility is an A-list virtue for stayers. But does that mean you are just sitting there in your place as they replace the pews or chairs with meditation mats, paint the walls black, replace the hymnal with "space music", and begin the chants to Kali-Mah or whatever? Is that a function of humility?
Yeah, no. "Humility" says, "I am a sinner saved by grace." But humility – if we follow Paul's example, and Isaiah's example, and frankly Jesus' example – doesn't let people get over just because they are just as spiritually and morally messed up as I am.
After humility, you have to take some stock of your own contribution to the problem. That's a natural consequence of recognizing that you're a sinful person – and it's not meaningless self-flagellation and phony conscience-baring. A church doesn't go south like this overnight, or even in a few weeks. It happens by inches, and by letting the pastor do what a pastor will do when he's not in a group of men who are accountable to each other and to the church.
Serously: a pastor who is left on his own will take matters into his own hands – and he'll go the way that seems right to him. If he has fellow workers who are invested in him who are not paid staff who are also challenged by him and willing to challenge him, that's a healthy leadership environment – and frankly the environment the Bible says there should be in leadership.
But do you show up one day after the pastor comes out the south end of "Stylish Eye for the Pastor Guy" and tell him, "dude, I'm all for you. Now let me talk to you about what a theological air biscuit Sunday's message was"?
I want you to think about this: if you're at work, and suddenly someone starts paying special attention to you, and says they are your friend but all they do is tell you want a bad job you do, will you be open and teachable, or will you be suspicious and defensive?
So why would a pastor be any different? The place to start this process is by being in service with your pastor in church before trouble starts, and if you aren't in a position to do that, you have to start by showing your theology first before leading with your lips. You might also consider that Paul makes a strong point in 1 Thes 5:12 that you should know your leaders -- which, again, implies a long-term relationship prior to any potential trouble.
If you want your pastor to be a pastor like the ones Paul told Titus to establish, you have to be the kind of person that Paul told Titus to make in the church – and if you don't know who or what those people were, go read Titus 2. If your pastor is correctable at all, it –should- be by people (and let's be honest: I think it ought to be men) who are not merely spectators at the church who want to boo when they think the play was bad.
Humble, faithful, and to keep the list a manageable 3 bullet points I'd suggest that you also be clear. By that I mean, on the one hand, that you not simply stand around smiling and nodding or frowning and shaking your head in a sphinx-like way. But on the other hand, I also mean that you not muddy up the water of this matter by making everything an emotional dust-cloud.
You know: being part of your pastor's accountability process isn’t like blogging. If we're going to use the Electronic QB example, blogging is really a lot more like Coleco electronic QB than it is like anything else. Obviously being part of a church is not like playing Electronic QB all by yourself. You have to play on a field that is something less self-referential than a monochrome screen which doesn’t even line up a full offense or defense and all the action really takes place inside your brain. But then it's also not like playing Madden NFL where the action looks somewhat-amazingly real and you can even hear John Madden saying what a great (or lousy) team you have. You have to play on the team, next to other people who are going to sweat and get dirty and demonstrate skills which will allow the coaches to call plays and design new plays without neglecting the rules of football. You can read 2 Tim 2 if you need some scripture exhortation on that.
But I say that to say this: say what you mean in the way you mean it. Treat your pastor like he's a person and not a red dot in a plastic box or a 3D rendered version of a real person. Even if he's going the wrong way for a season, your responsibility is not to stick him so that you have a really amazing replay for the highlight reel: your job is to bring a brother away from sin.
A brother. Isn’t it crazy that James was willing to say, "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins"? You're not handing your pastor a scathing movie review when you have a concern about doctrinal directions – you're trying to turn a brother away from sin. And for those of you who like Bible continuity, you could think about how Prov 17:17 applies as well.
Staying looks like you're staying – not like you're in some kind of provisional status. And before you plunge into the meta, read the other posts and comments I've made in this series to keep yourself from repeating questions we have already answered.