Preach The Word (even through tears)

I was privileged to participate in an ordination service for a young man who had recently been called a pastor of a church that had been without a pastor for quite some time. As is boilerplate, the charge was brought centered around the command to “preach the Word” from 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Sadly, you rarely hear spoken in these services (or even in seminary classes) that simply “preaching the Word” will bring grief. Yet I’ve had reminders of that truth in the last 24 hours.

A friend in another state, faithful expository preacher of the Bible – who holds no unscriptural view, who has never even been accused of preaching falsehoods, but instead – because of a broken local church ecclesiology (theology of church polity and power) – has been pushed out the door and forced to move from the parsonage, without pay to even afford another place to live. This man has been a faithful preacher of the Word. He has been honest and faithful to his call – but this faithfulness has also been the dagger that stabbed him in the back. When you preach in an expository format, you cannot easily skip over the controversial, uncomfortable, and “hard” stuff that many topical preachers conveniently just avoid. If you preach the Word, you will meet these difficult passages with honesty, love, and in a way that will very likely step on toes. And sometimes a church that has members rebelling against God in their personal lives will become offended and want more candy and less meat.

But add in the clear need for biblical discipline – such as a church member going on a well-publicized (in state-wide media) racist rant, or radical, community-rocking sexual sin (thing the incestuous forniaction of 2 Corinthians fame) then to get blocked by the church’s un-biblical church government – and you have a perfect storm to completely devastated a pastor and his family.

broken church

No sooner did I get some details on the above case (which is FAR from the first similar case I’ve become acquainted with among pastor friends), I got word of another friend in a somewhat different ministry position who also has been pushed out of his position via an extremely unbiblical and un-Christlike manner.

This is a sad pattern that, as I shared with my friends this morning, is nothing new and will continue to exist until Jesus steps foot on this earth. But I grieve for the damage done to these men who are simply pouring out their heart, giving of themselves in a very sacrificial way to glorify God and “preach the Word”, to make disciples – and to endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Much of this is rooted in an extremely dangerous theological perspective that many churches have, one that I heard hints of even in the ordination service I was a part of yesterday. While we who claim the Bible as our sole foundation and measure of faith and practice, we often take things to extremes. One example we find – we claim that Jesus is the “head” of the local church. We might even give verbal assent to a pastor being an “under-shepherd” to “lead” the church. Yet I have heard many times (and again heard it yesterday afternoon) that a pastor “serves at the pleasure of the church”. This always strikes me as completely incongruent with Scripture. It is about a maximum stretch to find a full-on “democratic rule” of the local church depicted or prescribed in the New Testament, but to find anything that remotely resembles a pastor being nothing more than a convenience to serve at the fleshly whims of the local church is exactly what brings us to the above mentioned recent cases, and these all are found in a very man/me-centered theology, which is an upside-down theology. It is a very small-view of God that actually places man ABOVE God. While Jesus is the head of the local church, and the church belongs unquestionablly to Him who gave His life for her – scripturally, we have the model and even command for the church to be “elder-led” – meaning God’s man (or men) are called to “rule” (we really hate that word). At the same time, the church does have a voice in many factors – but ultimately, a pastor is God’s man, called to be the primary lead – not as a hireling that can be cast aside when tastes and fleshly desires or feelings blow in a different direction.

But don’t we see this in many help-wanted pastor listings? How often do we see a church saying that they are looking for a man who holds certain degrees from prestigious institutions, who has decades of successful (by what standard?) ministry, yet never even mention that they are looking for God’s man – for the soul that the LORD Jesus Christ would be preparing to lead that congregation. As a seminary graduate myself, I appreciate the tool that seminary was (and still is) in my life and ministry – but the seminary does not make a pastor (or preacher). Wordly preferences do not dictate what God would have for the local church. And the sad reality of many congregations, filled with nominal or immature Christians, we have a recipe for disaster.

Does a pastor, who is faithfully dedicating his life, heart, blood, sweat, & tears deserve to be treated in any matter less than with genuine love, grace, and biblical processes? Understand that a God-called man sacrifices more than you could ever know. He isn’t going to brag about the hours spend in prayer and studying. He isn’t going to post a time card listing the miles and hours dedicated to helping that stumbling church member, that sick widow, or the questioning worry-wart. He won’t trumpet the inconvenience of going to a funeral home with a grieving family that doesn’t know how to put a funeral together. He doesn’t ask for lots of vacation time or leave unless there is no other option available. His phone is on nearly all the time, even when it means sacrificing family. And whether you know it or not: he is praying for you, usually by name every single day.

And in our current world of confusion and fear – he too is dealing with anxiety – and possibly measurable depression. Some who have been deprived of preaching time due to lockdowns or personal quarantine and illness, are struggling with simply not emotionally breaking down. These men… we pastors are not selfish when we pray for some return to “normal”, we are not uncaring when we have expectations that believers would act not out of fear but out of confidence in the LORD as a witness, a living testimony to a fear-paralized and broken world. When we desire the least-restrictive church operation possible, we are not seeking the illness or death of church members, but looking to make the facilities, ministries, and services accessible to the most people.

If you are a member of a local church, you may not realize it – but your pastor loves you. He has been entrusted with your spiritual growth and maturity – and tasked not with babying you and acquiescing to the world or church member preferences, but admonishing, encouraging, and yes, even bringing biblical church discipline when justified. If he preaches a message that spiritually slaps you in the face, don’t get mad, but instead get on your knees and thank God that the LORD and your pastor love you enough to speak the truth – then repent and pursue righteousness! Don’t launch a devil-inspired campaign of dishonesty and destruction in retaliation. And if we slip, if we fail – then remember the Biblical means of addressing that – in the spirit of love and reconciliation, walk and act in grace, covered by prayer, remembering that this pastor is a soul too –

Cast all petiness aside (Read and pray through Romans 14, especially the last 13 or so verses). And seek to walk in the truth of God’s Word.

Please pray for these two men hinted to in this entry – one in Missouri, the other here in Arkansas – and the many facing similar circumstances that I just haven’t heard about yet. If you have issues with your pastor – please pray both for him and for your own heart in the matter – and seek the biblical answer to the perceived problem. And act in LOVE, not vanity and flesh.

The Bible vs Women In The Pulpit – Division

We Baptists, particularly conservative Associational Baptists, lay claim to the Bible as our sole foundation for belief and practice. Of course, we have stretched some aspects into tradition, but the foundation we try to keep is Scripture.

Yet one denomination of Baptists is about to pull itself apart (and I fear others that have historically held to an even more conservative reputation) over Scripture – including 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6, et all…

And at the epicenter of this division today is a woman named Beth Moore.  Mrs. Moore is arguably the most successful woman writer of Bible literature, books, etc.  Indeed, at one time, I would not have had serious concerns about her or her materials beyond its general shallowness (theoretically in an effort to make it uplifting and encouraging).  But if one pays attention to both her writing and her public speaking (as well as her social media), one can see a dramatic shift.  From moving away from and ultimately rejecting the biblical view of homosexuality, to working with and endorsing some of the biggest names and figures in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), prosperity gospel, charismatics (particularly Joyce Meyer)moorelead11102018a1. I believe this shift has been fueled by financial success, popularity, and a hyper-inflated ego that has driven her right off the tracks of biblical orthodoxy. Her current positions span the map of currently-trending false gospels and doctrines.  She promotes direct, ongoing, verbal revelation (prophecy given to her), all caged in language that sounds more like a boyfriend that the almighty God, to having her materials  edited to specifically remove homosexuality from the references to the need to repent. Further, in her rush into the Social Justice Movement, she basically launched the #ChurchToo hashtag – the church version of the #metoo movement to claim sexual abuse (even if via being “Oppressed”). Yes, Beth Moore has also joined the ranks of Feminism – which brings us to her position currently in the shakeup of the SBC (and to other Baptist denominations). Beth Moore is now promoting and encouraging women to not only preach in church (in direct contradiction on the matter found in the Scripture passages listed above). And when many addressed her bragging on social media, she again played the victim and stirred up her cult-like following.

Fast-forward to a recent conference where Dr. John MacArthur, a many who has spent more of his life studying, preaching, and doing theology than many of us have been alive, who has dedicated his life, his ministry, and his efforts at proclaiming and standing on the Bible, was being questioned in a somewhat light way. From this came a now infamous quote “go home”. EHHdZsHXkAAb0q_This quote was associated with the questioner’s throwing out the name “Beth Moore”.  You see, Dr. MacArthur is among hundreds of pastors and preachers who have been calling Beth back to the Bible, praying for her to find her way back to Scripture and out of her derailment – and most recently – to quit promoting a radical form of egalitarianism that promotes women preachers in violation of Scripture. She has repeatedly mocked Dr. MacArthur as well as many who have attempted to address her errors. MacArthur’s response, in-context, refers back to the entirety of her departure from Scripture, but with a focus on her claims to being a preacher (and her efforts to promote other women to do the same, and to even bill themselves as pastors). Beth Moore – go home.  Drop these unbiblical aspirations. Drop the efforts to usurp authority that is not yours (something you formerly use to actually respect – but have since thrown under the bus). Beth go back home to the truth – where you don’t partner with and endorse radical heretics. Beth Moore… go home.

And now we have a wide gambit within the SBC and other Baptist groups (mind you, Dr. MacArthur is not a Southern Baptist) casting Dr. MacArthur under that same bus – dismissing everything he has done for many decades for the cause of Christ, the thousands of pastors and preachers he has had a hand in nurturing and educating, and his unwavering stand on the Word of God.  And I suspect it is this latter that has caused the real stir. You see, John MacArthur has been a champion against the growing cancer of the Social Justice movement (a false gospel by any definition). He has stood on many a hill for the sake of truth and in the face of dramatic opposition. And more recently, has apparently lost some long-time friends who themselves have become infected by the insidious tentacles of false Social Justice gospel and the #wokechurch it creates.

And sadly, the most outspoken against Dr. MacArthur and his “go home” comment, remained completely silent as Beth degenerated from the Bible, as she drifted into full derailment. Indeed, they helped her along by their unwavering support and endless promotion.  They bought her books and reviewed them as near-Scripture jewels. And even has her doctrinal fallout began to directly contradict their own doctrinal positions – they simply promoted her more aggressively.

About 50 years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention nearly self-destructed. The radically liberal faction had overrun the denomination, questioning then completely rejecting the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture. But before the denomination fell the way of so many others, faithful men set aside their theological differences on Soteriology (Traditionalists vs. Calvinists), and joined together into what became known as the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Through carefully planned maneuvers and strategic actions, those who still held to the fundamental truth of the Bible’s inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority “won the day”. That historic battle resulted in an SBC that cruised along in a relatively biblical course for decades. the “loss” was the spinoff of a group known as the Cooperative Baptists. This group were the holdout congregations that had rejected the full authority of Scripture, that had been proudly jumping into the far extremes of liberalism and doctrinal error.

Sadly, the SBC is again venturing into the dark place of liberalism but with a new name: the Social Justice Movement. Yet the root of this drift is the same as the previous – a low view of Scripture that places man’s thoughts and feelings above what God said, what God preserved, what God directly inspired.  It is the same old “I know what the Bible says, BUT…” mentality.

I know some women who can teach circles around about any man. Who have biblical maturity and wisdom beyond many pastors and preachers I have known. But they remain biblically disqualified from having authority over men (especially in the church), from “preaching”, and from holding the office of pastor, elder, bishop, etc. (or deacon, but that is another discussion). A godly woman who truly holds the Word of God in the highest of esteem recognizes her extremely important role – and that it is not, nor ever should it be, to usurp the authority over men and the offices God ordained for them.

And lest we forget, there was a time when Beth Moore spoke at conferences and events specifically for women, where men would sometimes attend – and she would clearly open with a thank-you to the men present, and strongly would say she had ZERO authority over them, and that she was speaking to and for the women’s audience.

This is the same Beth Moore who earlier this year, at a conference, commanded a man come down to the floor where she was, to get on his knees, and apologize for all harms men had inflicted on women:

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There is no biblical case for women to serve as “preachers” or pastors. Does this in any way diminish their importance, their worth, or OUR need of women in the church? Absolutely not! Quite the contrary, it ought to reinforce their value and importance that God has ordained purposes for all of His people – rightly fitted together in the local body. But Beth Moore now rejects biblical gender roles and recently made no bones about it at a conference put on by the ERLC.

Let us not reject what God has said in His Word for the sake of a politically-correct pursuit of the false gospel of the Social Justice Movement. Seek the truth. Pray for those who hold a low view of Scripture.  Pray for Beth Moore- particularly that she would “go home” – go home to the Word of God, and to repent of her prideful and radical feminism that attacks the Bible.

Pray for the Southern Baptist Convention, the BMA, and any other denomination (or independent) that needs desperately to refocus on what God has already said and laid out clearly in HIs Word.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Why Your Pastor Should Say “No Moore” to Beth Moore
Testimonies of People who have broken free of Beth Moore
Beth Moore Relentlessly Attacks Straight White Men on Social Media

 

Churches, Pastors, and a Problem

I nearly forgot that I set up this blog! I’ve been using my other for some time (though not as regular as I should), and realized I really needed to post here. But it is with a sad heart that I pick this subject on which to post.

The name of this blog is “Contending For The Kingdom”, and that is exactly what I intend for every post to be geared towards. Issues of Kingdom work – observations and experience related to ministry, the Church, and the Gospel.

In this case – I was brought to remembrance of something that has weighed on my heart for some time.  Churches and their pastor(s).  Biblically, we see in the New Testament, elders/pastors basically appointed by the faithful to lead local congregations. Those men were entrusted with “feeding” Christ’s sheep. They were appointed to be leaders who literally ran the affairs of each local church. Church members (saints) were expected, so long as that elder/pastor remained qualified and faithful to the work, to submit to their authority, and to serve along side them willingly and with joy in the Kingdom work.

But there is a sad reality that has grown worse over the years of history, particularly among congregational-rule churches (as most of us Baptists are). The church issues the “call” to a man to pastor, hopefully after bathing the decision in much prayer and after doing do-diligence to find the man God has chosen for the important position. Even though the local church issues the call (usually after a congregational vote with a stipulated margin to consider it a successful call), that pastor is not, biblically, beholden to the congregation first, but to God.

Scripture clearly spells out the framework a pastor is responsible to fulfill. The most important being the ministry of the Word (this is why deacons were called – to take some of the load off the elder/pastor so they could spend more time in that study and preparation of the Word). And while visiting church members and seeing after the sick might not be a biblically-mandated job for a pastor, most of us actually are blessed to be able to carry out this form of ministry as time allows.

Sadly, some church have a great deal out-of-place. They have placed the pastor into a category of little more than an “employee”. Many such churches have lengthy lists of the required “duties of the pastor” that often bear little resemblance to the biblical model. Equally many churches like this have a “ruling body” in the church that leaves out the pastor. This body, often labeled “deacon board”, must approve even move, and hold the pastor under a microscope. Sadly, this is 100% outside the biblical role of the deacons.

Certainly any pastor/elder who has half a brain would LOVE to have a group of men who are godly, spiritually mature, servant-hearted workers to be able to discuss things, to work along side, and to consult with on issues within the church. After all, the biblical qualifications of a deacon are nearly identical to those of the pastor!

Sadly, many in churches have taken upon themselves, either because they have some kind of “seniority”, because of the size of their giving, or the above mentioned title of “deacon”, feel they have the right to exercise ruling authority over the church, with the pastor being the chief (expendable) part of that equation.

I have watched this unfold in several churches, though thankfully not in a church that I have pastored. I have friends who have been flat-out abused by their church, demoralized, and crushed under incredibly un-loving (and un-biblical) actions.

Let me pause for a moment and say this: There are times when a pastor must go. When a man begins to walk outside the clear requirements of a pastor found in scripture – say he is found to be an adulterer, their, or criminal in some other format – obviously he is disqualified and must be put out. Or, if the man occupying the pulpit is not “rightly” handling Scripture, and teaching/preaching spurious, heretical garbage, he should be put out. But even in these extreme cases, there is a process that the Word of God gives us to deal with them – to be addressed “man-to-man”, then take a couple of mature Christian witnesses, then bring it to the church.

Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord say to oust a man from the ministry because he hurt your feelings by preaching against your pet sin. Nor does the Lord indicate that ousting a man for not being able to make it to see you in the hospital. And one the is particularly saddening – when a pastor is bringing in lost people and ministering to them – but members of the church says they don’t want “those people” in the church…

I have been an eye witness to an older pastor, who had endured many health issues of his own, who had recently lost a son to the same health issue, and who was still reeling from it all, when his church, having the un-Scirptural “annual call”  saw a significant (though minority) number vote against him.  How many had actually gone to him to express any concerns they had or any problems that had arisen? To my knowledge, none.  He was blindsided and resigned days later.

Another, more recent case is a personal friend of mine who is one of the most kind, pastoral-hearted men I’ve ever known.  He is biblically-sound and a pretty good preacher who is faithful in His service to the Lord. Yet some of those “leaders”didn’t like that this pastor had disagreed with him (with a biblical response), and was further angered by not being allowed to run rough-shod over the church. This leader (yes, a deacon) pressed for the ousting of my friend. No actual charge was made.

Had my friend been biblically disqualified, had he been teaching or preaching something in error and refused to repent of it, or had he been ignoring his responsibilities as a pastor/elder to “feed the sheep”, I would have been in agreement with the church. Instead he was ousted based on one man’s agenda, who didn’t like the truth (even when spoken in love), and who was offended that those pastor would minister to folks of a different background.

And here we are a few months later, my friend is still hurting – literally wounded in his spirit and heart, and who is drifting in his own world trying to find some clarity. That church had no right to inflict this kind of harm. And I firmly believe that the individual who led this campaign, as well as those who were willing to be pawns in the game, will give answer before the Lord.

In a world of consumer-driven, disposable product, my way mentality, the last place this should be manifest is in the local church. We as a local church are called to be better than that – to be a lighthouse, to offer the world love in place of pain, hope in place of despair, and grace instead of vengeance. In fact, this is exactly what Peter was writing to believers about:

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

When you genuinely love your brethren, as Jesus said we would if we are His, then that love helps you to overlook or in love, to address issues with a person. And is there anyone in your church that needs more grace and understanding that your pastor, who wakes up each morning with the knowledge that he will give account before God almighty what he has done in the role of pastor as a caretaker of the Bride of Christ?

So – first of all, I would encourage you to love and pray for your pastor. Instead of praying for a new pastor, how about praying for the one you have? Second, if you do think there is an issue, won’t you take the biblical path and go to him. Express your concerns. You might just find that you are the one with the misunderstanding.

But even more important is to address spiritual issues within your church, beginning with yourself. Generally a church that will unjustly oust a pastor has other symptoms of spiritual disease. Often it is a membership that is more flesh-minded that Spirit-minded. Usually there is malcontent no matter who the pastor is. And sadly, there may even be the bigger problem of unregenerate membership – meaning that there are people on the church role who don’t REALLY know the Lord. They base their salvation on their attendance, giving, and position, not on their personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus told His disciples that they would be known by one, very specific, character trait: their love one for another. Do the members of your church really love the brethren? This includes your pastor!

And all this extensive blustering, yet I also am aware of churches led by men who should have been ousted long ago, yet they continue one, exercising a near dictatorial reign over their church. I even knew a pastor who had a reputation for calling people who disagreed with him to the parking lot (apparently to punch them out). Again I say – false teachers and those walking in unrepentant sin must be dealt with, and quickly. But we have to quit hurting good, qualified men of God, because ultimately you are hurting the Church. I wouldn’t want to stand before God and try to explain why I harmed the church!