10 October 2007

How to stay well

by Frank Turk

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?

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?
This is the rubber and the road part of this high-falutin' theology- love- grace- church- unity- truth talk.

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:
"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 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.

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.







68 comments:

donsands said...

"We've already been removed from teaching positions for not drinking the Kool-aid."

Everyone seems to be using that "drinking the Kool-aid" phrase. What's up with that? I hate to admit how out of I am. I have an idea, but I'm not sure.

Good post Cent.

"Woe is me! I'm undone, it's all over, I am doomed." = Humility. Amen.

I was thinking of how our Lord came to the house of God, and they were consumerizing the house of prayer, and the Lord's holy anger was manifest for all to see, and yet the Jewish rulers, instead of saying, Woe is us!", said, "Show us a sign why you do these things".

Jesus WAS the sign. And what a sign, the God of all creation cleansing His house of money hungry covetors.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Excellent, Frank. I would only add that the first step be prayer. Pray for your pastor. Don't approach him until you've truly spent some serious -- i.e., more than three minutes on Monday -- prayer time. Pray that God will make him into the pastor he should be.

donsands, the Kool Aid drink idea comes from the Jonestown mass suicide (even though the poor Kool Aid company can't get the meme reversed...it really WASN'T Kool Aid). It's unthinking obedience to bad authority.

jazzycat said...

Don,
I believe it refers to Jim Jones and the mass enforced suicides of his fanatical followers about 20 years ago. I think Kool-aid was used to put the poison in......

donsands said...

Ah! I thought maybe. Thanks guys.

steve said...

Thanks for the gentle yet firm admonishments here, Frank. Humility is a great place to start (along with prayer, of course), and definitely helps to put things in the right perspective as you move forward in dealing with a difficult church leadership situation.

I look forward to your further thoughts that develop from this.

stratagem said...

1. Yeah, as one who remembers the Jim Jones thing well (unfortunately for me), it was all about the vats of powdered drink mixed with poison, in the South American colony. Also unfortunately for me, I remember that it was 30 years ago, not twenty. Seems like yesterday!!

2. I propose a more contemporary example to replace the Kool Aid phrase. Let's use the heaven's gate cult in California, and from now on say "I refused to ride the comet" :)
That verse Paul wrote about some making themselves eunuchs comes to mind, but that is too painful to think about right now. also :)

3. Cent, you have nailed it I think, now. Whatever we do, it has to be done in humility. Man, that is so hard to keep in mind when you have been intentionally misled, and are royally ticked off. But that is the standard, I must admit.

centuri0n said...

Just a few notes:

First of all, this post is 3 single-spaced pages in WORD, so I was trying not to write more than you can read at coffee break -- so there are plenty of things lacking in the post in terms of being an exhaustive list. The matter of "prayer", for example, is not specifically listed -- but given the definition of humility (seeing one's self as "undone" unless God does something) sort of assumes that one will pray, one will seek God's intervention. I think other real obvious missing parts here from a laundry list point of view are seeking forgiveness, being "teachable", discernment between theological (consequential) and methodological (inconsequential) innovations, and so on, have to be part of this.

There is also the value of diversity of opinions and gifts in the body of Christ. A guy like me needs a guy who is more relationally-adept, and vice-versa; I'd even go so far as to say that a guy like me needs someone who is a little more spiritually gifted in prayer, mercy, patience, and other skills because I don't have them all. There's a big difference between objecting to your pastor's pastoring because he's leveraging his gift as a communicator/relationship builder (which would be seeing the church too narrowly) and objecting to your pastor actually altering the Gospel of forgiveness for repentance on the basis of Christ's work because he wants to "reach out" and "be open minded".

So keep those in mind as well. Thanks for the kind words.

m b redmond said...

Geez, did you have to take the jab at Tomlin along with the pic?

philness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon from Bucksport said...

Cent:
I really appreciate your tackling this issue as I have said in the past. The problem in America is that too many people leave a church over anything or nothing. But at the same time there are churches that need to be left behind. They are no longer preaching the gospel. Or the gospel is being obscured by all the goofiness going on in the service.
I stand with you that we need to accept where we are ("Love the one you're with?!") as in the Lord's Sovereignty but might not God be calling us to be a Jeremiah in a church like this? All your steps are good and right but when things keep sliding when do we need to shake of the dust and find a place where the gospel is still the gospel and we can work with others to give the world the good news?

David said...

Wow.

Thanks.

Daily I must be reminded that when I am in God's word, He is speaking to me, and not to the person I am wishing that He would speak to.

Maturing... said...

This was very helpful...thanks!

stratagem said...

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.

I thought about this while I was out for my lunchtime walk: What if you're in a mega church, where you can't know the pastor, and he can't know you, but you are still subject to his teaching errors?

Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
centuri0n said...

The "jab" at Tomlin was a joke. Are we not allowed to make jokes?

What if I had put Zak Efron's picture in there instead -- would it have been bad? Or would it have been too worldly?

Listen: sometimes we just need to have a little chuckle. Francis Chan took a poke at Tomlin's height at Passion, and Chris was tough enough to survive that. I'll bet he survives this.

lordodamanor said...

"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?"

Well, yeah, unless all that you do is bad. Honestly though, there is tact, and if what someone is doing is always scrambled and should be over easy, maybe pick up a spatula and "help."

"other skills because I don't have them all." This really said it all about humility- which of us has it all? The unfortunate thing is we miss that Isaiah says that he has become undone. You know, like he was pantsed. Funny, too, seeing that he would be called to expose his nakedness as part of his ministry, humbling himself before God as an example and warning. Being transparent, simply means to know who you are. Which is another name for humility. Christ was able to turn over the tables because of who he was. Yes, he was the sign that the whip signified. When we learn to stay within the boundaries set out for us by the Lord, we enjoy the peace that comes with riches added to us by the Lord to which he adds no burden. Wish I could learn what I just said!

This was good David: "Daily I must be reminded that when I am in God's word, He is speaking to me, and not to the person I am wishing that He would speak to." I think this is one of the greatest problems for us. We are judgemental in a self-serving way. David's appeal to the Lord for Him to search him and discover wickedness in him reflects on Jeremiah's discription of the human condition of the heart, but also reminds us that we are called to judge with righteous judgement, removing the log from our own eye so that we can see clearly to "tenderly" remove the speck from our brother's. We have a tendency to think of others less, not better than ourselves. Instead of "Lord have mercy on me a sinner...Teach me your statutes...incline my heart to keep them...and then I will teach sinners (like myself), we leap to destroy my enemies and we see ourselves at the back of the line needing correction.

I love this: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

centuri0n said...

strategem:

We can rant about the faults of the megachurch another time. My opinion, so you do not have to suffer while you wait for the extended version of that rant, is that it is possible for a megachurch to successfully implement a biblical ecclesiology, but it's not likely particularly for the reason you list here. That is: the leadership gets isolated and removed from daily church life.

Not thinking of anyone in particular when I say that -- just most of the examples that come to my mind.

And don't overthink that answer -- it's a much more significant question than can be answered in 500 words or less.

centuri0n said...

We keep pretty David around because he always looks so good when he says stuff like he said here. He's like Barnabas Iglesias -- half NT hero of the faith, half international ladies' man.

centuri0n said...

jon from b:

Check out this link, including the links back to my personal blog in the first paragraph. That should help.

Randy said...

Is that Kali-Mah like Temple of Doom Kali-mah?

(Oh-num-she-bye)

DJP said...

I can't believe no one's said that the title sounds like you're writing about diet and exercise.

Jon from Bucksport said...

Cent:

Thanks for reminding me of that post. I think I actually have it in my Yep library. (BTW, everyone, if you use a Mac you need to get Yep.) I really do appreciate your passion for commitment to a local church. Keep fighting the good fight!

centuri0n said...

Dan --

I deleted all the comments that said that waiting for you to bring it up.

centuri0n said...

randy:

exactly.

stratagem said...

Centuri0n: Actually I would take what you said and state that in this day of rampant bad theology, personally I would be reluctant to anymore attend even a large church that doesn't qualify as a mega.

I have concluded this based not only for the reason you stated (which I agree with), but also because my experience has been that the larger the church, the larger the temptation for the leadership to be on the cutting edge of cool church. And that in turn tends to instill the bad theology espoused by many of the big name teachers.

There are plenty of exceptions to what I am describing above, naturally.

Sewing said...

The temptations probably are universally bigger for larger churches, but I guess it depends on the history, structure, and possibly also denomination-specific issues of the church.

My church has some 5,000 attendees in four weekend services (not sure of the exact membership number), but it started out 40 years ago as a neighbourhood church plant, and has been blessed by an eldership (is that a word) committed to Biblical preaching and discipleship. Discipline (not the coercive kind, though), accountability, and careful discernment of baptism candidates (it's a Mennonite Brethren church, so we practise believers' baptism) and missionaries are major factors that keep the leadership in line.

But maybe it's the exception that proves Stratagem's rule....

Sewing said...

It doesn't hurt that half the pastoral staff have probably personally taken J.I. Packer's systematic theology classes....

Sewing said...

But I guess for every Bethlehem Baptist Church or or Grace Community Church, there are a hundred large churches that are not Christ-centered.

SolaMeanie said...

I always come back to the example of the Bereans in Acts. They received what the Apostle Paul had to say with joy, but then checked the Scriptures to see if it was so. I have a sneaking suspicion if they saw something in Scripture that countered what Paul said, they probably would have spoken up about it. In humility, of course.

I think part of the reason I might take a bit of a harder line on this subject is seeing so many in the charismatic movement say "touch not the Lord's anointed" when you criticize Kenneth Copeland or "Dad" Hagin for the Jesus Died Spiritually doctrine (I could have used other "teachers" as examples). This was simply an attempt to ward off criticism and condemnation of heresy.

I fully recognize the problem of "lone rangers" that flit from church to church and nitpick the leadership to death, but that is not what I am talking about. We do have the right as believers to question unbiblical teaching, and if there is no repentance, to move on if the Lord so directs.

Randy said...

Sometimes you just have to "quick kick"

philness said...

Dan,

Speaking of diet and exercise wasn't Frank trying to drop a few pounds? I wonder how thats working?

Connie Reagan said...

Sorry, but if I still had young and easily influenced children at home, I would not choose to expose them to heresy. Too much at stake!

As goes the leadership, so goes the congregation. I don't expect my congregation to be filled with spiritual giants but I do expect my leadership to have sound doctrine. Period.

philness said...

Ive heard pastors say, "I cant lead unless I have followers. And if I'm wrong God will deal with me but as for you God will honor your loyalty for following." Something like that.

Sewing said...

I guess I need to square my long comment with Connie Reagan's and Philness' comments. Since such a strong emphasis is placed on discipleship and accountability, with round-the-year discipleship classes as well as small-group Bible study, the church membership is raised up to be diligent and mature in their faith, which in turn ensures that the pastoral staff is accountable and faithful to its calling.

This is of course not to boast—how can I, who am still a sinner and who only came to Christ less than eight months ago (!)—but perhaps it's evidence of a certain model of church organization that can ensure that large churches remain Christ centered?

SolaMeanie said...

Dan,

Keep it up and you're going to have Frank doing granola bar graphics in his posts. I can't decide which would be worse. Munching stale granola from a bar or putting my face in a feedbag and masticating oats for an hour or two.

Diet, schmiet!

David said...

I'm a bit at a loss how everybody ends up at churches that are "suddenly" on the heresy wagon to hell. If you joined a big church so you could show up on Sunday, send your kids to the big children's center, get taught, go home, and then live without connection, then no matter what doctrine is being preached, you're living well outside of the will of God for the body of Christ.

The Body of Christ exists entirely, without fail, in interconnection. The fullness of Christ dwells in it, and He is the head. We are members (limbs and organs). If you're looking for a church, you have to consider this before you "join". The sign on the outside will tell you a little about it, but not everything.

I have not always chosen really wisely, but I have always had enough true relationship with the pastors and leadership of the churches I've been a member of that I know that the church won't be sold down the river. And I have been both an instrument of and a recipient of church discipline. Praise God!

BTW, cent, I'm uncomfortably glad you find me attractive. I pray that we never meet so you have your illusions crushed.

donsands said...

"I'm a bit at a loss how everybody ends up at churches that are "suddenly" on the heresy wagon to hell."

Is that what people have been saying? I didn't see that.

I remember when Christ first saved me back in 1984, or at least i was a Cornelius, because I hated the way i was living, and repented, and went back to church: The Catholic Church for a year or so, until after hearing the Word, I realize their Gospel was one of works.

And then went to a Holiness Penetcostal, which was Protestant, but I found out ti had a legalism that made me feel better than others, though I had not much joy really.

And that's how it went until today, now I'm in a good community church with a fine reformed pastor, who preaches and teaches the Word.

Does that fit? or is this too much of a rabbit path?

Sewing said...

Think about this...David is a worship pastor who exersises discernment on the other pastors! May we have many more worship pastors like him!

centuri0n said...

Frank is at -14 lbs from baseline, targeting another 16 lbs for the ash heap. Thanks for asking.

It's 65% diet, 25% exercise and 10% attitude.

Brent said...

I think the struggle I find myself in with the model of the generaly so called "American Church" is that most of these things are very subtle. Like for instance "communion" is served to anyone that shows up, or is invited by someone from the church and there is NO warning given. I have had my pastor even tell the congregation, "If you have not made Jesus your Lord and Saviour you can do that now." All this said while the "lost" are holding communion cups of juice and a little wafer. Or how about this, the pastor tells everyone in the congregation that Jesus died for all your sins "past, present and future" after you make Him your Lord and Saviour, sin is really just a "bad choice". The casualness of the so-called American Church is so subtle, where would you start with a pastor who tells the congregation to pass out "rave cards"???????????????

centuri0n said...

Sola: I think you have the Bereans wrong. The received the words of Paul with because they searched the Scripture daily, not in spite of. They are here contrasted against the Thessalonians who -rejected- Paul's message because they were rioters and rabble-rousers.

centuri0n said...

Connie: re-read the book of Titus and 1 Timothy a few times, and then ask yourself if leaders are supposed to be the only ones hoeing the row of spiritual discipline. I think the answer is going to change you.

centuri0n said...

David:

Glamor Photo. It's your glamor shot, dude, and because I agree with you on everything else, and I am jealous of anyone with better hair than me, I have to stake out a claim against your nice picture.

Don't be uncomfortable: act like a man. Be of good courage. 1 Cor 16 and all that.

centuri0n said...

brent:

Did you join that church?

So why should I think your discernment is so much better today? How did anything good come out of that Nazareth, dude?

Because the answer to that question cuts deeper on your side of the knife than you're going to be comfortable with.

David said...

Cent - when you post 3 or 4 times in a row, I just love to watch all the eyebrows twitch at the same time. I mean, I could spend hours! *sigh* Sooo dreamy!

Does anyone take a long view of the kingdom of God anymore? God does take good care of His church. I mean, yes, we are to be active participators in that care, but I have seen God work in errant people (like me), correcting them (me) lovingly and gently through doctrinal, behavioral, and moral error.

He is a REDEEMER. If you stick it out in a church where there are problems, you might just see a redemption or two. If you have the habit of cutting bait, you will never, ever, ever see a redemption. I'd put money on it, were I a bettin' man.

Last I checked, God is rich in mercy and slow to anger.

Steve Carlisle said...

Thanks for the discussion here, it has made me think very much. It has made me ask the question, what place a strong unity between staff members at a church, and what place a strong doctrinal statement and agreement from members?

The problem is that theology is becoming a dirty word again, we need to get past this, and teach the people what they need to hear, the theology of God, the cross, and all that the Bible brings with it

Brent said...

Centurion,
No, I have attended this church. When I first went for almost a year..it wasn't this way. The man behind the pulpit, taught line by line. No pomp, flare or show...then the "new" building appeared...the word's "seeker" started showing up. "Rave Cards", the cross pulpit was changed to a round little cafe table with a stool. Allot of sit back and teach style. Dark drapes behind the "stage" along with a new string of multi colored can lights. Picture a drop down sign saying "live at the improve" and you will have the whole scene style (without the sign). These things changed before my eyes. SUBTLY, but right at the new building time. I know these people, my daughter spends the night at the pastors house. Where would I begin? So as of the last 5 Sundays...we listen online to a podcast of Paul Washer's pastor's teaching from his church in Alabama.

centuri0n said...

Brent:

You "went". What does that mean?

centuri0n said...

Steve --

It's funny, but church "pastors" are willing to take a strong stand about (as in brent's example) building programs which make a nicer facility and give the place a little more comfortable feel, but what about the matter of sharing in the suffering of Christ?

Why no strong stand there, I wonder? When I check wallets and wardrobes, I think I see an answer, but it terrifies me.

Brent said...

Centurion,
I 'went' to the 'church' to hear what was being taught there. I continued going regulary to hear a good line by line teaching in Acts...this has gone on for almost two years. About a year ago the building change happened...then the other things started to become steady... so now that I have broken bread and fellowshiped in the congregation these things have started to become very unsetling with me...now the delima..run away...go to the pastor...tell him of my thoughts and concerns..or just go away. I think it will be a no win situation...and I will have to end up leaving anyway..the american church growth sunomi has happened and the writing is on the wall..sinner's prayers, wafers and juice for everyone with no warnings for the sake of comfort..yadayada......

centuri0n said...

Brent:

I'm curious if you believe what you were doing before the pastor started doing something you believe is bad enough to separate over was itself adequate "fellowship".

That is: in what way was what you were doing conformed to NT theology of the church?

I think you're going to find, if we answer all the questions, that you are part of the problem and not part of the able-to-rightly-judge solution.

david rudd said...

hey frank,

i don't think i've ever agreed with you more strongly than i do on this post. well, well done.

i haven't read the comments because i just read this, but i have one insignificant question.

you said: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.

i think i agree with this, but i want to clarify one thing. you are saying that the "environment the Bible" talks about is in regards to the plurality of elders, not the payment of elders, right?

i would agree with that, but would be curious about the biblical passages you would use regarding the "not paid" criteria?

not a big deal, though.

great post.

VcdeChagn said...

Check out this link, including the links back to my personal blog in the first paragraph. That should help.

So...enquiring minds want to know..whaddabout...

Just kidding. I am curious...why on earth did you not just point me to this during the discussion last week. It answered all my questions without the extensive discussion in the meta that ensued.

SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

That's not the way the text reads. It says they examined the Scriptures to "see if these things were so."

SolaMeanie said...

BTW, Frank..

I am not really disagreeing with you, at least I don't think I am. I don't think people should just peel out of a church willy-nilly. In our own battles here locally with the Emergent nonsense, the pro-EC ended up getting its way because so many left instead of challenging it. We could have stopped it in its tracks. However, I do believe there are times when it becomes clear that you have to put your hand over your mouth and walk out the door. Last resort, but sometimes it must happen.

centuri0n said...

David Rudd:

You're asking a very interesting question.

Paul says to Timothy, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." So there's no question here that Paul is saying that those who labor in preaching and teaching ought to be "rewarded" as a laborer -- he/they ought to be paid.

I don't really have a problem with that -- in fact, I'm in favor of paying our teaching elders whatever we can bear. Because of what they do for our church (whoever "we" are and wherever that church is), they are worthy of "double honor" in Paul's view, and I stand with Paul.

The question, however, is this: what does it mean to have a local church which rules itself? If we accept (somewhat blankly) that a church ought to conduct a nation-wide search for the best possible teaching pastor available who is willing to come, (and let's be clear that I'm not actually sure this is a great idea) who is calling him? That is: does every person of the church get in their familymobile and drive to wherever this guy is to see him preach or teach at his current job, and every person conduct a personal interview with him, and every person do the background check, etc.? Or is there a core group of men who are the rest of the elders, and who may be gifted to teach but are not devoted to teaching but instead administrate, counsel, exhort, pray, etc.?

Must all of those men be paid? should they be paid?

And in that, are they "employees" of the church? Or is there a biblical process of having church in which the Gospel is preached, some are called out, those who are called out are discipled, those who are discipled mature, and those men who are mature believers, qualified by character and life, lead from the front by appointment?

See: I think it's fine to pay those who have devoted themselves to the teaching and preaching of God's word. I think there is a problem with viewing them as employees in our culture, and there is a problem of seeing a new pastorate as a career move in our culture. We have to temper the Bible's call to have elders with the cultural reality that elders should not be seen as employees or "professionals" but as something else worthy of honor and respect.

And I know a lot of people are going to cry foul at that and say this sets pastors and elders up to be a closed circle which consolidates power and whatever whatever whatever. Listen: some husbands are abusive. That doesn't mean that marriage is a bad idea: it means some men are lousy husbands. Our churches need to seek out men who are literally good husbands to their wives and good fathers to their kids in order to pour out those virtues on our churches.

I wouldn't be dogmatic about having unpaid "resident" elders, but my opinion is that somehow we have to crush the idea that the pastor is either a waterboy or a CEO who serves only if I say it's OK, and somehow because part of the money is my money (is it still your money if you gave it to God?) I'm like a stock holder rather than a fellow laborer. While it's up to me to be part of the church, and be faithful there to God, I'm not my own pope. cf. humble, faithful, clear.

Brendt said...

OK, Frank and David are starting to creep me out a bit. ;-)

centuri0n said...

Sola:

Why are the Bereans contrasted with the Thessalonians? That is, what is contrasted there and why?

centuri0n said...

Brendt:

yeah, me too. I think I started it, and I am sorry.

SolaMeanie said...

It says the Bereans were more noble minded than the Thessolonians, because they received the Word with great eagerness. Acknowledged, but I am following the whole thought out, which includes the fact that they examined the Scriptures to see if what was being preached was so.

david rudd said...

frank,

good answer.

i agree with your perspective on "employees". if i'm hearing you right, you're saying the problem is not that people who make the decisions are getting paid, but that people who are not making the decisions might make assumptions about what it means that some are paid. by having non-paid elders, you remove the potential of a congregation "firing" the leaders for trivial things...

that's a really poorly written paragraph, and i'm not sure it states anything. but i have chores to do around the house and don't have time to word-smith.

thanks for a really great post.

David said...

I will cease creepy comments. Sorry.

However, Barnabas Iglesias will be the name of my new band.

Sewing said...

Thanks at least for not putting that doctored-up image of yourself beside your name—the one with the twisted eyes and mouth—in response to Cent. That would be too much to bear.

centuri0n said...

Sola:

Yes -- you are right insofar as the contrast.

Now think about something with me -- was Luke here trying to say that the Thessalonians were not noble for -their-doubt, but the Bereans were noble because of -their- doubt?

Or does the balance of the verse here point to why they received the word with all readiness of mind? Isn't the nobility of the Bereans that they received the message, and the reason they received the message is -because- they searched the scripture, and not in spite of searching the Scripture?

I admit to be a complete neophyte to Greek -- less than a student. But Wallace points out that Acts 17:11 is an incident of the optative functioning as the subjunctive, indicating the potential fulfillment of a desire -- "if these things in this manner might be". The phrase does not indicate doubt or skepticism but optimism, holding out hope.

I'd be willing to read some criticism of that view -- because it's clear that practically all translations in English express some kind of skepticism on the part of the Bereans. I'm not sure that's the case.

SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

Interesting query, and I will indeed look into it. Without delving into the language (and I am no language scholar either), I think one can err by putting an unbalanced emphasis on either point in the verse.

I think we know that Paul had his issues with various churches (i.e. Corinth and Galatia) where his authority was questioned at times. I really think we can see both ideas in the verse, the need to take apostolic teaching seriously and joyfully, plus the need to verify what one is being taught from Scripture. I trust that most of us would say "hold on a minute" if one of our pastors or Sunday school teachers took egregious liberties with the Bible.

I do think it is wrong for people to misuse this verse by henpecking their pastors to death in a quibbling fashion or over silly disputes. However, if more people had been Bereans at Brian McLaren's church, perhaps this Emergent nonsense would have been nipped in the lotus blossom, or at least would have been given a significant treatment of Roundup.

centuri0n said...

Sola --

I think there's no question that the Bereans loved scripture and were seeking its fulfillment. I think there's also no question that if Paul came spouting a Gospel of Mithra, they would have stoned him.

dogpreacher said...

I agree with Cent about "staying" or "leaving", EXCEPT one thing that I don't think was addressed. If you are "staying" (in the manner prescribed)...you still have the responsibility of your children, and DO NOT think your children are spiritually mature enough to sift through the worldliness that is calling itself their youth group. THEY ARE NOT. Nobody elses are either. WHY would you subject them to such?

Hey, your pastor may have to answer to God for allowing that "on his watch", but as far as your children he will be in line behind you.

Oh yeah...FAMILY WORSHIP!

centuri0n said...

Ah yes: "for the children".

Will deal with that one next.