08 April 2009

Because Someone Asked . . .

posted by Phil Johnson

or your further reading pleasure, The Greatest Single Comment Ever Left on Our Blog:




What can I do now that my church is foundering?
by Frank Turk

To all readers who want to now give us their testimony regarding how their church had suddenly lost its first love (In the Revelation sense of that phrase):

At some point, many of you have to realize that your church "started getting into" things when you were not willing (and in some cases, able) to stand at the plow with fellow workmen and help them reason through the "first things" in order to make and keep the local church a place which is clean, safe and warm (spiritually speaking).

These lines of questions invariably end the way D____'s does here: what can I do now that my church is foundering? Listen: the answer is not "nothing", but it is also not "begin the Spanish inquisition". The truth is that doing "nothing" is really what got you and your church into this mess. Being unable or unwilling to shoulder your spiritual burden in the local church is what has caused at least part of it to fall down.

There is no question: in Scripture, the serious burden of the spiritual health of the church is placed on the elders/pastors. But they are not described in the Bible as the only ones working, and the rest of us are exhorted repeatedly to care for them, pray for them, and be subject to them.

If you, today, are not in some active way part of your church's life (not a passive way; not merely attending and talking in Sunday school), then when your church "starts getting into" all manner of things, you can't suddenly want to be doing more than "nothing" and seem credible.

| ... the whole purpose driven, Rob Bell, say
| a prayer and *poof* your saved, and
| then I found that my co-workers and
| friends were into Granger, and
| Willow Creek, and NewSpring.

I think it's interesting that you discovered this rather suddenly. This is a common attribute in stories like yours, D____, and it's one which puzzles me.

Did they discover these things suddenly? I suspect they didn't. That means that somehow they had been on, at least, a very different spiritual path than you had been for at least some amount of time. How does that happen, do you think? I honestly say this in love: when did they check in with you, and you with them, and for what purpose?

It seems obvious to me that Christians are called to be saints together—which means we are checking in with each other often. That way none of us "start getting into" stuff our fellow church-mates don't understand.

| There were so many times I listened to an
| invitation from the pulpit that
| grieved me so much, that I went out
| and started a blog to try and reach
| some of those people with some
| warnings about some of these things,
| and I received some good
| information from some watchdog
| sites.

I am very confident that blogging to people you sit next to in church is, frankly, the least you can do. If you can't have lunch with them (or the equivalent, because I realize that not everyone has lunch liberty), I am not sure what makes you think they will read your blog.

Or, for that matter, why your blog would influence them positively.

| While my friends won't traffic
| those sites, they might traffic my
| blog and be warned where the elders
| of their home church are just sitting
| there. Do I have a responsibility to
| speak up?

If by "speak up" you mean "join the life of my church and be inside it rather than looking helplessly in from the perimeter", yes: you have that responsibility.

If by "speak up" you mean "start a blog to say things to people I go to church with whom I cannot strike up a conversation", no: that's not responsibility. That's activity.

| I am not an elder, so
| should I stop trying to expose Rob
| Bell to my youth pastor?

Your youth pastor's problem is not that he is not "exposed" to Rob Bell: it is that he cannot grasp the problems which Rob Bell creates in his videos and books.

There's a Rob Bell Nooma where he's sitting in a diner just rapping on about stuff—wealth, money, stuff. And his point at the end is about giving. But the point he makes runs perpendicular to Scripture: rather than underscore the fact that God loves a cheerful giver, Bell tells the viewer, (words to this effect) "If you can't give cheerfully, God doesn't want your money."

Now, when we compare that to what St. Paul Really Said®:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

And to what Jesus said:
Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

We find out quickly that Pastor Bell has taken a pretty significant liberty with the actual teaching of the Bible and has substituted a popularized version which, frankly, misses the point.

And what needs to happen is that your Youth Pastor has to love the sufficiency of Scripture more than he loves an entertaining video. But here's the shocker: a blog isn't going to do that for him when the people around him aren't doing that for him.

I'm going to give you a secret to my success in influence my church, and do with it what you want: people who know me, and live with me, and talk to me find out quickly that I love God and the Bible in more than just a theoretical and theological way. The Bible makes sense to them when they see how I live. The question of "how real is Jesus" is solved for them when they meet my family and have lunch with me. So when they show me a Nooma video, having never read my blog, and I say to them, "I'm not sure this fellow got the Bible right—can we check?" The context of that statement for them is that my life is actually getting the Bible right already.

I don't have any kind of perfect life. If you could measure sanctification with scientific devices, to measure mine you would need something which measures angstroms and not cups or pounds. But I have sacrificed the time to demonstrate this to people because I love them and care for them. Have you done the same for these people for whom you are grieved, and troubled, and deeply, deeply concerned?

If you have not, when they "start getting into" all manner of things, you are then at a double disadvantage, and while it is not too late to be part of the solution, the first order of business simply can't be to watchblog them: it has to be to prove you are, and Paul says, above reproach, the husband of one wife whose children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination, above reproach, not arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Then when it turns out you are also holding firm to the trustworthy word as taught, somebody will bother to listen to you.

lso, (because someone else asked for this) here's a handy reading guide to my chronicle of the lordship controversy, posted a couple of years ago:


How I Got Drawn into the Lordship Debate
The Complete, Canonical List
by Phil Johnson
  1. A Word of Personal Testimony

  2. A New Song in My Mouth

  3. Should sinners be urged to worship, love, and obey Christ as Lord?

  4. A Brief Interlude about History and Terminology

  5. My Short, Eye-Opening Stint as a Youth Pastor

  6. Meeting John MacArthur

  7. How Zondervan Acquired The Gospel According to Jesus

  8. The Aftermath
See Also:
Phil's signature

56 comments:

Jugulum said...

Oh. My.

Thank you, Frank.

The Spirit-supplied conviction and inspiration is palpable.

Stefan said...

There is so much Spirit-filled, working-it-out-in-brotherly-servanthood conviction in that comment of Frank's.

This is like the blue ribbon, prize-winning, perfectly baked slab of unleavened bread at the Beershebah County Fair.

Atone said...

I'll say it again, excellent comment, Frank.

Now about calling out those watch bloggers by name...

Brad

Stefan said...

Wait a minute...what's with the smoking dog-wearing-a-hat pic?

David said...

Thanks for once again affirming the church as God's plan. He does know what He's doing, and stepping aside or ahead of Him puts us in a place of disobedience.

The Squirrel said...

So, does this get Phil out of having to do a post of his own? Does this count as another Cent post? Just how are we supposed to keep track of this stuff?

~Squirrel

(It really was a great comment...)

(You know, Phil, you could've posted the spear-chucker thing...)

Rachael Starke said...

"It seems obvious to me that Christians are called to be saints together—which means we are checking in with each other often. That way none of us "start getting into" stuff our fellow church-mates don't understand".

And that right there is the part that I both say a hearty "Amen!" to and yet am often confused by -

What does godly, respectful, contending-earnestly-for-the faith "checking in with eachother often" look like?

I'm sure it's not what no doubt a lot of you brothers experience - the well-meaning (or not) guy from some kind of Landmark-ian background who faithfully emails you and the worship leader on Monday a list of all the heresies that got sung and/or preached the previous day.

But there's also the opposite - a pastor is trying to build up the men in his church to perhaps start some church plants, or he's feeling called to a different ministry like missions, so he puts some of the jr. men in the pulpit for a few Sundays in a row. And it goes badly, but a lot of the church doesn't realize it because they're immature and think they just didn't get it,

and the rest don't want to be accused of being critical, divisive or nitpicky, even though what they're hoping are just nits are really essentials of the gospel that got mangled. Three weeks in a row.

Stefan said...

I was assuming the checking-in referred to a church where through Bible study and fellowship groups, membership lists, disipleship classes, working together in ministries, and biblical oversight, brothers and sisters are in regular contact with—and accountable—to each other, and to the entire local body of Christ.

Mirabile dictu, it can work—even in a church of a couple of thousand members.

Stefan said...

By the grace of God.

David said...

*scrambles for latin dictionary to look up mirabile dictu*

Yes, yes, that is wonderful to relate, isn't it?

*looks at the captcha thingy to sign in for post, notices that it says "denso." hmmmm*

Solameanie said...

Question:

Will this stellar observation by Frank result in Adrian Warnock creating a special division of the coveted "Warnie Award?"

Now that would be a feather in Frank's fedora. (Sorry, I'm on an alliteration kick lately)

Stefan said...

I wouldn't be able to testify to any of what I wrote up above, if it were not for a plurality of elders who take up their cross daily to follow Jesus. God's grace be upon them.

Stefan said...

Ack! I've totally taken over a thread that's supposed to be all about Frank!

Frank, please forgive me. I was really convicted, reading your testimony.

Rachael Starke said...

Stefan-
Re: your comment about the vertical element, that's undoubtedly critical, but my question was more about the horzontal element. And particularly, in a church that is in the blessedly opposite state of the one Frank describes.

We're in a church of about 650 that has doubled in size in the last two years. There is great spiritual growth to go with the numberical. It's the most alive place my husband and I have ever been.

But that very state puts us in some danger, from both Satan and our own sinful tendencies to pride and complacency. People are coming from some really diverse theological backgrounds, bringing spiritual strengths and weaknesses and a whole boatload of ideas about how to help the church grow even more. And the elders are just struggling to keep up. It's a great problem to have, but without too many clear answers beyond lots of prayer and dependence on the Spirit

SolaMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jugulum said...

SolaMom: Don't be coy! Iron sharpens iron. Please, share your concern.

SolaMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

Rachael, SolaMom:

I can't say my church is perfect, and I myself am an unworthy servant of Christ. I feel even more unworthy for going on and on about this, when this should be about Frank and Frank's church.

Of course, it isn't some "bam, there ya go," magic, cookie-cutter formula. It takes prayer, repentant hearts, mutual servanthood (by both shepherds and saints), and enormous dollops of God's grace and mercy.

As far as growth is concerned, I have been told that our elders have never discussed how to grow the church numerically—only spiritually, in order to cope with the numbers we have been entrusted with, who have come to hear the Gospel preached faithfully.

Jugulum said...

SolaMom,

Hmm... Which post do you mean? The one about shepherds? (If you'd like, you could email me the link.)

Frank Turk said...

SolaMom:

Let me say that I think your coy approach to disagreement doesn't help anyone -- especially not yourself.

I stand by my post; I offer you the opportunity to explain why its premises or conclusions don;t meet your approval.

christianlady said...

What if a pastor seems insulated by the hierarchy of elders or not easy to approach because of an intimidation factor? While I agree we need to not just blog dump alone (and I have blog dumped, not pretending perfeciton here)...there is more to all this. Some of us aren't as mature, some have been blind and for some reason we suddenly did realize there were problems. Some of us know there are problems but have no depth or ability to argue. We've been fed on weak doctrine and suddenly realize that the pastor said something funny, research a bit and find that it's been funny for quite some time. This is what happened to my family. We were buzzing along fine, recommending our church, when suddenly we decided to ask critical questions. When the answers were wishy washy, we asked more. We've had people leave left and right and no one has said a thing as to why for some odd reason. We decided to meet with elders, speak with a pastor, and write a letter. We saw that nothing we would say was going to change things. We later found out that some had actually been elders for over two years not seeing a lick of change (with carefully bringing up problems for a year or two before that), and we who served in lowly service type ministry and as life group leaders for the first time didn't know how to handle all that opened up to us. What did we end up doing? Really angering the pastor with our honest letter, and leaving. We have children, and questionable youth ministry made it impossible for us to stay. Our maturity is not where is should be, and though we have hearts to follow rightly, we didn't feel this was a battle we could fight longer. We don't regret leaving, but sadly regret how it all happened and wish we had realized it all earlier. I personally feel like an idiot. However, there were things in life that were a big focus (job losses, miscarriages, financial problems) that clouded our ability to see things along with immaturity.

I do not know if my point is clear here in all this rambling, but I want to say simply this...how people respond to this false teaching they suddenly realize has been a part of their church is going to be different based on circumstances. People don't always have the awareness as to what is best to do. How can a lowly member approach a pastor carefully and correctly when so many things are so wrong? My husband and I had relationships with many people in the church but there was a gap between us and the pastors. Also, I personally hated to be a burden on them and rarely did anything but compliment when they said something I thought was great until I did realize there were problems. Some of us are not theologically sophisticated. We're just people who need a place to learn, worship, and fellowship. We know very little about proper apologetics, church history, and the like. Our world was turned upsidedown when we saw what was going on in our church. We hated to be the ones to point out error. We got a terrible response when we finally did. We weren't perfect in all this, but we sure did lean on God and spent time in study and prayer...and we grew a great deal.

Jason Robertson said...

The older I get the more I appreciate some of the pastors that at one time in my life I would have had a critical spirit about.

I have never met a perfect pastor. I am no where near being one.

And some of my most beloved pastors would not even agree with me on many theological issues (such as Calvinism). But as I get older and they get old... I am just thankful that they are "finishing their race" faithful to
God and loving His church.

For those who are in bad churches. I agree with Frank; you probably should leave, but only if you can go to a biblical church. But whenever possible, stay and help it to no longer be a bad church -- which may be by approaching the leadership and telling them that you would like to be part of a team that will plant a new church from this one.

Planting a new congregation will usually result in two better churches. in my opinion.

christianlady said...

Oh, and the structure of some churches puts the focus on those life group/small group things. You get relationships with them, meet weekly...and get into children's ministry, chorus, or some other ministry. You spend time on this (as we did) and in the busyness of it all do feel you have grown. Maybe we did grow. Anyway, you get to know your small group and then people you serve with. However, not being a leader type, not being in with the pastors, it's hard to discuss issues. Am I making sense (though I think I'm just repeating myself...ugh)....

Herding Grasshoppers said...
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Frank Turk said...

I think there's something interesting here which the "yeah buts" are focusing on: the faults of the pastor.

Jason said it plainly: there are no perfect pastors. In fact, many of them are almost as wicked and as spiritually useless as me.

Now: re-read that last sentence. Unless you can repeat it an mean it, I suggest that you need to take your nose out of the air and stop sniffing out the stank of other people's spiritual faults -- because your first problem is the spiritual bath you personally need.

Yes: there are plenty -- and by "plenty", I mean enough that you can't hardly avoid them -- of pastors who need to re-read the Gospel of Mark let alone the letters to Titus and Timothy. PLENTY.

PLENTY.

What that does not excuse you from is doing what God told you to do. Do you not understand what God told you to do? Here's what God told you to do:

---QUOTH THE LORD---
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
---END QUOTH---

I'm not going to exegete or exposit that. It is pretty straightforward. If you believe and repent, then I suggest that you believe in fact and repent in fact. You. YOU. YOU.

Live like that -- which is with other believers in an effectual way, doing the things believers do for each other because they love one another.

See: all of you "yeah buts" think that I'm saying that if you live the right way, you'll get to be the pastor's right-hand dude or babe and get first-say on what he gets to preach.

Nuh-uh. That's not what I'm saying.

What I am saying is that when you have become an actual Christian and not merely a rookie with a long attendance record, when you ask to see the pastor you will have two things going for you:

[1] You'll have a heart for him which he doesn't need a surgeon to see. Your heart will have already been shown by what you have done. You will be, in the James sense of the phrase, justified by your works.

[2] You will have a heart for your pastor which will seek to turn a brother away from error, and not bluster at him as if you were the last prophet or the son of a prophet.

All the "yeah but" stories are all different versions of the same story, folks. But the problem I am addressing here is not "how to cure your bad pastor". You cannot cure your bad pastor.

Sorry! You can't.

What you can cure is your lousy ecclesiology. Your local church is probably as bad as the church at Corinth. It is factional. It allows sin in its midst. It strides the line on idolatry. It makes a carnival out of worship. It often does the wrong thing at the Lord's supper. It often forgets the Gospel.

But Paul didn't tell the "faithful" among that church to go start a new plan or to overturn the elders. He said this:

---QUOTH---
in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
--UNQUOTH--

What?! Paul didn't tell the genuine to flee the synagogue of Satan? Instead he said that they belong there in order to help the whole place recognize what is genuine?

Your church is just as bad as the Corinthian church. I promise. And if you are the genuine among them, you belong there. They need you. But what they don't need is a lecture: they need to see that you are a genuine Christian.

You. And if you are -- and why would you not be (you read TeamPyro) -- then live like a genuine Christian does in the Bible and not in your imagination.

You.

YOU.

YOU.

YOU.

YOU.

YOU.

Jugulum said...

Frank,

Let me venture a question, which might address something that some people are thinking... Some misunderstanding.

The primary intended take-away from your post has nothing to do with blogs, right?

And it's also not directed specifically at how we relate with the shepherds of the flock, good or bad?

It's about our general responsibility to be growing in transformation & repentance & humility & understanding & the mind of Christ. And how that relates to the health of the body. How it's a fundamental part of any desire to be acting as an immune system.

Solameanie said...

. . . a rookie with a long attendance record...

Wow. That sums quite a bit up!

Frank Turk said...

I had to break off the last comment because I had to get to work, but there's another thing which is getting overlooked which needs to be said here.

Before I say "what" it is, let me explain why I think "why" it is. This next thing gets overlooked because it is uncomfortable, it is hard, it costs us a lot of time and emotional energy, and frankly we want to be in a church which is perfect for us by our own system of measurement -- because, let's be honest: we really are trying to be faithful people here. I believe in my heart and in my stale brain that you people are really trying to be faithful.

I get that: but think of how crazy this sounds. "I want to leave my church because I am so faithful." The only person who might really say that is a sent missionary. The rest of us have to get our heads screwed back on and recognize that leaving is not what the NT commands us to do.

That said, the thing which is getting overlooked here is that your pastor doesn't make your church holy.

-
- -
- - -
CHRIST MAKES YOUR LOCAL CHURCH HOLY.
- - -
- -
-

Do you understand this? If your church was wholly reliant on your pastor or your elders to actually make your church holy, it would be exactly like me trying to install and maintain a nuclear power plant in your back yard: the odds are I couldn't do it at all, but if I got anything up and running, it would probably kill you before you could really see the benefit.

I mean: this is Easter Week, right? And my blog has been mostly retelling the Easter story with Scripture. But isn't the Easter story that Christ does what we cannot do -- namely, be Holy as God is Holy?

So if your pastor is a scoundrel and an adulterer, he's a lousy pastor. He is. If he is KJV-Only, he's a lousy pastor. If he lords his authority over people, he's a lousy pastor. If he never opens the Scriptures, or opens them and treats them like jar of fortune cookies, he's a lousy pastor. If he [fill in other sins here], he's a lousy pastor.

OK? Now that I said "lousy pastor", can we move on to talk about the fact that a brilliant pastor is not where the holiness of a church comes from?

The holiness of a church comes from CHRIST. And it comes from Christ through the believer. But don't believe me, OK? Believe Paul since we all want to be like Paul, and this is what he said to the jacked-up church in Corinth:

---QUOTH THE APOSTLE---
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
-------END QUOTH-------

The church is holy because you are holy. That is, each of you and all of you -- you slackers, you gossipers, you secret sinners, you Pharisees, you drug addicts, and those who are far worse than that – those of you like me.

Now, if that is true that Christ makes us holy, then the problem is not that we have an unholy pastor taking the whole rest of the church to hell. The problem is that we refuse to live like we are holy already.

Let me put it this way: One day a king decided to call in his officials and ask them to give an account of what they owed him. As he was doing this, one official was brought in who owed him fifty million bucks -- but he didn't have any money to pay what he owed. The king ordered him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all he owned, in order to pay the debt. This person is you. When you read this story, remember that this person is you.

So this guy (rightly) got down on his knees and began begging, "Have pity on me, and I will pay you every cent I owe!" The king felt sorry for him and let him go free. He even told the official that he did not have to pay back the money. I mean seriously: God isn’t sending you a bill each month. You don’t have a record of debt anymore, do you? Check and see: I think there’s this other guy who we are going to think about tomorrow who hung on a cross and died for your sins, if you’re a Christian. I think the debt is paid in full, but not by you.

Back to the story. So this forgiven guy happened to meet another official who owed him a hundred bucks. For the sake of scale, that’s 0.0002% of what he owed the king who forgave him every penny. So he grabbed the man by the throat. He started choking him and said, "Pastor – you’re too vile! You’re not holy! How can we have a God-honoring church if you’re not holy?!"

Oh wait – what he said was, “Pay me what you owe me!”

The man got down on his knees and began begging, "Have pity on me, and I will pay you back." But the first official refused to have pity. Instead, he went and blogged the smack out of the other guy because just look at him – he’s making my church unholy.

Oh, um sorry – he had the debtor thrown in prison until he could pay what he owed.

This sounds familiar, I hope. I mean: this is a story Jesus told and it should be sufficient for something, shouldn’t it?

When some other officials found out what had happened, they felt sorry for the man who had been put in jail. Then they told the king what had happened. The king called the first official back in and said, "You're an evil man! When you begged for mercy, I said you did not have to pay back a cent. Don't you think you should show pity to someone else, as I did to you?"

Now look: I have dominated my own meta here with a blog-length post that is at least half Scripture, and now some of you are going to interpolate this to mean, “Frank is now abandoning all critical blogging per se and refuting his own blogging by telling everyone to make love not blog. He has gone completely mad.”

No, in fact, I have not, and I am not saying that at all.

What I am saying is that if you cannot act holy, how can you expect your pastor to act holy? If you yourself cannot do what the NT commands believers to do – starting with Acts 2, and rolling forward to the more meaty stuff like Eph 5, or Heb 10-12, which all turn a blind eye to the matter of how to extract the splinter from the eye of anyone but yourself – the lack of perfection in your pastor is the least of your worries.

By a long shot: he is the least of your worries. The king is calling you back in and he’s saying, “you are an evil man.”

You.

You.

You.

You.

You.

You singular. You particular. You.

Your wretched pastor is not your worst problem: your worst problem is all the stuff you personally cannot live out and think someone else should do for you. If you were working on that, I’ll bet your pastor’s issues would not make you so crazy. You’d have a full plate.

Your pastor is probably a vile sinner with a dark heart. I would expect such a thing. Pointing that out to him or the whole world doesn’t make him or me any more holy. It certainly is not going to improve your church or demonstrate Acts 2 or Eph 5 to anybody.

And before you ask, there is a VAST difference between the public dialog of the church in which, for example, Phil explores the Scriptural commands for the pastor in order to exhort other pastors (see his intro to his Shepherd’s Conference plenary session), and you blogging that your pastor is a theological chimp, or your blog displaying a side-show of theological elephant men and bearded ladies without any reference to Christ who makes all us filthy, rotten sinners holy. If you cannot see that difference, you don’t actually have the discernment it takes to effectively, well, discern stuff.

That’s it. I have said all I can possibly say about this – in yesterday’s meta, in the brilliant comment Phil brought to the front page, and now here. If you don’t understand what I am saying, you are simply not trying hard enough – and if that’s a fault for your pastor, wear it the way you expect him to wear it.

Frank Turk said...

Jugulum:

SOMEBODY ACTUALLY READ MY POSTS!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

{wheezes}

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

YES!

THAT IS -EXACTLY- WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! The "yeah but" armada is so worried about what is getting done to them, they are missing they point of what has already been done for them!.

E-mail me and I'll send you a free t-shirt. AT LAST SOMEBODY GETS IT!

Jugulum said...

w00t!

So, my suggestion to anyone who's differing with Frank's post:

Start by considering that core take-away. Do you agree with that? Start there--with some introspection and, uh, Christospection.

Then look at the application to "What about bad pastors?" and "What's the proper use of blogs in all this?". Maybe you'll want to differ with Frank's specific comments on those topics. But... First things first. Keep the central part central.

Because if we're getting that part right--the Spirit of Christ renewing the mind of Christ reproducing the life & love of Christ in all that we do--it'll be much harder to go wrong.

Fusion! said...

Wow Frank, where was this when I was going through issues at my old Pentecostal church? Well, I'm gone and am at a church I love dearly. YOu echo the words Iheard froma Pastor years ago. He told a group of us Bible college kids the secret to influencing a youth group. He called it the one disciple who would love God and people and be such an example that it would make people notice. When asked if we knew of such one at church he told us that it was us-or should be. I'm sorry I didn't heed him more carefully. I'm happy to be at my church now. On another note, can I get a t-shirt as a consolation prize?

Frank Turk said...

Fusion --

You can always order a shirt from the junk shop. Nobody is stopping you.

Free shirts are like pots of gold at the end of the rainbow -- you may have heard of a guy who got one once, but you'll prolly never actually meet him or get one yourself.

christianlady said...

At what point is it time to come out of a so called church?

Jmv7000 said...

Frank,

If you would have left an alter call. . . I would have come forward. . . Brilliantly said because it is the right fruit from correct exegesis!

christianlady said...

Part of our consideration for leaving was our children. Had we not felt there would be confusion for them, we would have stayed. We have some friends who have stayed. We pray for them. We sought counsel before leaving, and also did find one pastor in our former church who did affirm our concerns and stated we needed to stay as there needed to be a loving approach to confrontation. He thought we were being this way, loving. We wrote our letter pointing out what we saw as error, giving it to pastors (not announcing to the church or anything). The pastors later had a training session on how to "deal with" people who critique. We were basically told that we were not teachable and that we would be better off to go. Though one pastor on staff wanted us to stay, elders and the lead pastor alike suggested we "find a church that meets the needs of our family." If we had stayed, would our relationship have caused someone to listen to us? Don't know...

Frank Turk said...

Christianlady:

Find me some Bible verses that say you should do so, and I'll help you understand them.

See: my view is that the Bible doesn't tell us to leave our churches. That said, let's say you grow up in a Mormon church, read the Bible and discover the real Jesus and not the Mormon phony: leave immedaitely. Find a church.

But let's say you're in an SBC church, or a church founded by a graduate of WTS or TMS, and the founding pastor dies. My opinion is that if the church is full of people like the people I described over the course of the last two days, they are not going to get a dud for a pastor -- and if they do, they will have a church with which to either reconcile him or get him to figure out he doesn't belong there.

All other situations are variation on this singular problem: are the people there Christians or not?

If you can say with confidence that those people are not Christians, or you are not a Christian, then go. Otherwise, Christians are commanded to love one another.

You know: you first. You love the others.

christianlady said...

What we have learned from this? That we should have been rooted in scripture and likely should have never joined this particular church (we moved into the area and joined after their training classes and small group meetings etc). We didn't know what to look for. When we began to realize there were problems in our former church, it really did feel like we had been in something that could be leading away from Christ. We had witnessed a man be disfellowshipped as well as spoke with a former elder who worked to change things and found it completely unfruitful. He left with his family several months before we did and right when we were seeing issues. He is solid in his faith and humble in his approach. If they wouldn't listen to him, we feared our chances for being of any help.

And you are right, I am useless. I am nothing. I am a sinner. My husband is a sinner. Our kids are sinners. We could have done better in this whole thing. We continue to be in contact with people in our former church, and pray and pray. You were out here when we were trying to figure out what to do, but we had not found you yet. We just had to pray, and seek counsel we had, and made our decision based on the knowledge we had at the time. With the message from our former church to "seek a church more fitting for your family" we went on ahead. We do feel at least they did hear our concerns and we didn't leave without at least sharing. Many leave without a comment at all in order to "keep the peace."

Frank Turk said...

BTW, I think Mt 18 is important and useful here. I think it turns out Acts 2 and John 13-14 are more applicable. That comes first.

Doug Hibbard said...

Frank,

thanks for the church info on the LR area. I don't know anything about churches in Bryant/Alexander. The only thing I remember about Bryant is that, at one time, they had the best Wendy's I'd ever eaten at.

Doug

Frank Turk said...

Not "keep the peace": bring the peace. Be the peace. Live the peace.

You know: we're not talking about the jungle here. These are people with Bibles and baptisms and fish on their cars.

If you act like jesus wants you to act, they will receive it the way Jesus wants them to receive it.

And if they ask you to leave, then leave. But fight the good fight first -- which is not fought by lectures but by being actually holy, set apart, like Jesus. Try that first.

Frank Turk said...

BTW, I am going to be holy with my family amongst the homeschoolers. Pray for us, and for them. Back after lunch.

christianlady said...

I am not sure what WTS or TMS means.

I was given the verse "come out of her my people" but I do not know that this applies to our situation.

We were seeing the P.E.A.C.E. plan taught word for word, Rob Bell's Noomas were played (but we didn't know this first hand and found out later) and the youth groups were affiliated with an emergent youth camp. Pastors were promoting Dallas Willard and others (naming names here...delete if you need to). We felt our church was being slowly taken into contemplative...it had changed the sign out front which included "transforming" and had added a Spiritual Formation pastor. Questions we asked initially skirted issues. It was not that we weren't Christians, or that there weren't Christians in the church...it's that we feel the church was inching ever more toward no longer being Christian. In fact, they played the "christ follower vs. Christian" videos and actually quit calling themselves Christians from the pulpit and in leadership. I would not say that it's a cult...but something scary was going on in our opinion. We were treated harshly by the pastor when we quoted his collegue in the church directly who was quoting "missional" and emergent authors. Then he had to admit he had not read or heard the pastor's sermon that we quoted in our letter (though it had been months and he stated to us he was concerned about our claims). At the time we did debate whether we should stay and try to change the church or leave. But, what made us so righteous to think we could change the church?

So you are right in that Christ makes a church holy, not us. We perceived ourselves as unholy for sure, and feared the high horse we would have been sitting upon. We kept hearing about being loving and unity and all that. We didn't know what was best to do.

Also, the realization as to how blind we had been with what was going on in our church and how bad the teachings were hit us like a ton of bricks. We were part of the problem because we had eaten this bad teaching up or at the very least didn't research (40 days stuff...we just went to the studies like good little church goers, didn't bring up issues we saw because we were too lazy or too blind to realize how bad the issues were).

I fear I'm not answering your question well...I must not be, I'm getting way too wordy...

SolaMom said...
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Stefan said...

Christianlady:

I'm not going to say anything directly towards your situation...I'll leave that to Frank and others.

And I have not suffered through life in a church that is straying away from the Gospel, so I do not feel qualified to admonish you...especially when I do have so many obedience issues of my own to deal with!

But I am grieved that that elder you mentioned left the church a few months before you did. I don't know the circumstances so don't want to say too much, but I have heard testimony regarding another elder in another church who was advanced in age and having heart trouble, but despite the pleadings of his family, stayed on at a church that was drifting into apostacy, mindful of John 10 and 1 Peter 5, because of his responsibility to shepherd the flock in his care.

christianlady said...

The thing is with the elder who left...he still meets with leadership and brings up issues despite being out of the church. He was bringing up issues, then recommended for eldership so he could help "change" things. He said he had been an elder and found that it was not really helping. When we started asking another elder about our issues, he actually suggested my husband be an elder. It seemed a rather strange move to me. Being honest here, my husband isn't mature enough for that role. It was suggested he be an elder so he could "help change things." This seemed first of all a bad reason to be an elder to me. Looking back, it also seemed like a bit of a distraction tactic. There were a lot of polical things going on. Of course, we didn't take that bait at all. Why try for an eldership? Is that something appropriate to "try" for? The whole thing seemed an attempt to make my husband feel pride in himself. We would rather not serve as leadership, really (though we were helping to lead a small group, which I now feel we were not properly trained for and weren't mature enough either). We would rather follow and serve where needed (like in with children or going to help people in need with meals...or paint a classroom...that kind of service). We wanted no part of power, which is likely why my husband was relieved to leave. We were trying to tell people "above us" in authority that what they were teaching was wrong. We respected and loved them (still love them) and it was the hardest thing we've done. (this and we've had late miscarriage and job losses and other very hard things in life). Pointing out the errors when we felt so immature ourselves really hurt.

christianlady said...

Thanks by the way for responding, most especially with scripture and clear statements.

Frank Turk said...

Of course my tone will make me guilty -- not saying what one means never makes one guilty.

I'll pop your blog, Jules, and see what it is you can't say here.

Stefan said...

Is that thanks to me? (I only ask because you followed on from a comment in which you replied to me.)

Anyhow, thanks for giving more of the background. Like I said, I haven't been in such a situation myself (whereas Frank has), so I don't feel qualified to write any more than what I already wrote. I can't imagine that these were easy decisions for you—I'm sure you were greatly burdened.

By the way, regarding the abbreviations Frank used, "WTS" is Westminster Theological Seminary (Presbyterian), and "TMS" is The Master's Seminary (associated with the church that John MacArthur pastors).

christianlady said...

Actually both you Stefan and Frank. When we were considering what to do, there were some who pointed us to scripture, but many did not...

Thank you Stefan for the clarification on the initials...

Must go...little one is done with nap and eating and is onto trying to punch computer buttons....

SolaMom said...
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christianlady said...

Woah Frank,
Just read about your 7 year service in the other thread....

Russell said...

Christianlady's situation raises a legitimate challenge to Frank's point.

While you are there and loving your fellow congregants responding to their questions over a nice lunch you create division as your answers differ from what the elders would answer.

There are a number of passages encouraging believers to flee immorality and pursue righteousness. Christianlady's description of her situation and decision is at least as biblically defensible as Frank's position to stay until someone asks you to leave.

Frank Turk said...

Russell:

You create division if you offer your answers in a way which creates division.

There is a massive difference between saying (explicitly or implicitly), "the elders are antibiblical and perhaps wicked" and "the elders hold to a historically-different theological point of view than I do, but I count them brothers in Christ."

But here's my continuing concern which is still circling around this post and my thoughts here from folks like Russell: loving people doesn't mean you drop a Calvinistic anvil on them. When I say "have lunch" with people, I mean "have lunch", not "launch covert psych ops on them."

Love them. You know: Paul told Timothy, "the goal of our instruction is ..." what? An intellectual bunker? Stimulating intellectual debate? The ability to argue people into oblivion? Good heavens! The aim of Paul's instruction is LOVE from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Pure-hearted love.
Clean-conscience love.
Sincere faith love.

Show people that over lunch, and when they need a babysitter, and when they need a friend, and when they're having a great day, and when they're having a lousy day, and then the Gospel gets preached in a way, as it is said, against which there is no law.

As to verses demanding we flee immorality and pursue righteousness, let's see them. I agree they are there; I deny they mean, "flee your church."

Russell said...

Half the people in my church read this blog- I am discussing Christianlady's situation not our own.

Bad company corrupts good character is a warning that applies to bad friends, a bad bar or a bad church. Since fleeing sin and pursuing righteousness are obviously not in dispute and there are dozens of them can we focus on your contention that they don't apply to the church?

We are called to submit to our elders. If a christian pastor is teaching error week after week and you disagree, engage and nothing changes and you continue to disagree - you are not submitting no matter how lovingly you serve the rest of the church.

I don't have in mind a doctrinal ambush lunch. I mean a lunch where you grow close enough that two hours later you talk about their relationship with a girlfriend and you give a totally different answer than your pastor. You pray differently than your elders. Your home bible study becomes a source of division because it is exegetical and the sermon is not.

Sweet, loving, humble service that demonstrates genuine Christ exalting salvation is of course what we are called too. Refusing to follow dangerous christian pastors can be loving service. When a mature christian who has genuinely loved fellow believers decides it is time to leave because they cannot submit to bad teaching (even when that teaching comes from christian pastors) that is service.

christianlady said...

I do agree that ambush is unfair. We did talk to elders and a pastor, and were advised to write a letter. We wrote a blunt letter (as advised by one under pastor). I do think maybe the lead pastor did feel ambushed though. It took FOREVER for us to meet as it took FOREVER for him to respond to our letter and issues. We could have come to him earlier, probably. I did feel that our letter was done in love (believe me, there was a lot of anguish in writing it). This was the hardest thing we ever did...ever.

I do think it is important to not just leave. Our reasoning was party due to influence on our children. We really did feel we had to leave to protect them. The things we saw coming were meditative practices etc. We were concerned our children would be taught something without us in the room we'd have a hard time undoing. My children were already sharing that they had been asked to "sit in silence and think" during class. It wasn't just listen to the teacher, or pray silently, but just sit for five minutes in silence with no real instruction. When I asked a worker about this later, they asked the teacher who denied this happened. Uhmmm...we had three children in there who sat in different areas and all said it happened. When I pressed, I made the person I asked very angry. Responses from elders and people when we asked about things were either the brush off or explain away. We probably should have just gone to the pastors giving them a head's up that we had issues to talk about. I did think we were doing it alright considering we spoke to a pastor who advised the letter. He seemed relieved to us, and we went forward. Again, we were eventually told that leaving was best. I believe Frank, you're not saying we shouldn't have left. I do believe you are saying people should not all do things like we did, nor should people just leave without at least some fight. I do agree because when we discussed this with the lead pastor he said we "were the only ones." Now, according to the other pastor on staff, we definitely weren't the only ones who have shared our concerns. However, I do get the impression many people leave and never say a word. They just look for something better and shop around. It does come from a lack of knowing WHAT to do. We had that feeling ourselves, what was right? Matthew 18 seemed to not apply since this was leadership and it was doctrinal...not that we caught him in "moral failure" sin but preaching.

Sticky situations all around, and I commend my friends who have stayed and are fighting and asking good questions in their relationships. We know one really great couple who has been doing this. They've been in relationship so deeply that they've even visited the local emergent church much of the leadership kids now attend. They KNOW from experience that the model is not working. Our youth aren't in our former church, they are running on to places not ashamed to be emergent.

Frank Turk said...

Russell:

It will take a book to refute what you have said here.

And ironically, you haven't yet quoted any Scripture to support your position, in spite of your oblique references.

I'll be back on this subject.