I’ve done a lot of thinking about the issue of churches taking care of their pastors who leave since I stepped down from my church back in June. I’m not upset or bitter or even remotely angry, but the subject is brought up to me by others. The basic problem is that when a pastor loses his job, for whatever reason, the church does a terrible job in taking care of the man and his family. Let me be clear that the church I left in June did their best to take care of me and my family in my departure. I commend them for that. But my church was the exception, not the rule.
I snagged this shot from Facebook and is something I have been saying for years. The government, especially the IRS have not business telling pastors what they can and cannot preach. That is between the pastor and God. But what these politically correct idiots want us to think is that we cannot speak about things political or we will lose our 501 c3 status. Fine. Give it up! Because this nation was founded on pastors who not only preached the gospel, but the wickedness of the state as well. Remember that our nation was not founded upon the erroneous claim of “taxation without representation.” That was part of it. But you don’t get pastors, who know that taxes are a part of God’s plan for government, calling for rebellion against a king over taxation. They rebelled because King George decreed that the entire nation was to become a part of the Church of England. This was an attempt to control the colonies. That is what led pastors to join hands in the revolution with the taxation crowd.
Of course, I’ve been saying it for years, but it’s good to have scientific evidence on my side. What have I been saying? The reason non-Christians don’t attend church is because they are not Christians. They, and I’m using a reliable source here, don’t seek God and never have (see Romans 3:9-18 for a better explanation).
This study, put about by Pira, or the Pirate Christian Radio, shows that 100 percent of the verses in the Bible that describe non-believers, speaks of them in a non-favorable sense. Chris Rosebrough, who helped put the study together, says the following:
“For decades the conventional wisdom in the broader church growth and missional movements has told us that the reason why unchurched people don’t attend church is because they think church is boring and irrelevant. Although true, the conventional wisdom has not been able to satisfactorily explain why unchurched people feel that way. Our survey, of the Biblical texts, strove to dig down and uncover the real reasons why our pagan non-Christian friends and neighbors feel that way about church. What we discovered was shocking and its implications regarding the newly adopted church methodologies in seeker-driven churches will challenge the core assumptions of the entire church growth industry!”
What they found was that the Bible doesn’t support anything the church-growth gurus have been telling us for years. Wow! Imagine that. The Bible contradicts conventional wisdom born out of a business model? My jaw is metaphorically dropped!
Here is the chart:
Looks pretty conclusive to me. Non-Christians don’t like church because they don’t like God. They don’t like the Bible. They don’t like anything having to do with the faith. I think Jesus said something about this if I’m not mistaken: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
This is why I’ve always thought that the Seeker-Sensitive churches were getting it wrong, along with the Emergent churches. We don’t need to reinvent the church, but let the church become what it is supposed to be: the people of God gathering together for the purpose of worshipping God. The church doesn’t come together to evangelize the lost or make the lost feel more comfortable. The church is to proclaim the truth, which is not comfortable. The church is to edify the saints, not seduce the lost, so that the saints can do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11ff). The church is here for the people of God and for God’s glory, not to make non-believers feel more comfortable.
Hopefully more in the church will realize that and we will start doing what we are supposed to do instead of doing what those with MBA’s are telling us we should do. After all, God’s word about what the church is and how it is set up predates any MBA program by a good 1,900 years. You would think that God had it already figured out.
Shortly after I graduated from seminary, I remember that the president of the school decided to leave and go start a church up north of town. He was planting a church in an area that could have used another church, but what happened was unreal. The very first day the man preached, there were 700 in attendance.
I would like to think that this was so because he had worked the neighborhoods, sought the lost, evangelized and was used mightily by the LORD for His glory. But I knew better. The man was not only the president of the seminary, but also a nationally known pastor for his radio program, at least nationally known among the Christian subculture.
The people were not there because the LORD was drawing them there, they were there because of his fame. Yet, the Bible warns the church against following men in this manner. Paul writes to the Corinthians against following men: 1 Corinthians 3:4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
What of the churches where these people had been attending? Had these people not made a commitment to the LORD there, before men, to be faithful to that body of believers? I know in the Presbyterian Church in America, we have those who join our churches take an oath before the LORD when they join. Part of the questioning process is:
Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline
of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?
By leaving one congregation, and going to another simply because that pastor is more famous is breaking that commitment. I know not all churches have such commitments, but it is still wrong to leave one church and go to another simply because a man is popular. This is exactly what Paul was warning us against.
Now, I do understand that there are times to leave a church. For instance, when the pastor is not preaching the word of God, and simply telling moralistic, feel-good stories about himself and others, then it is good to leave a church. But this should not be done without first confronting a pastor over such issues. Far too many people fail to hold their ministers in check when they refuse to preach God’s word. They simply leave. I know, it’s easier that way, but this is not what Christ calls us to do. He gives us the admonition in both Matthew 5 and 18 to deal with a sinning brother. Go to the leadership of the church if you have problems going directly to the man.
If there is no change in the man’s preaching, then leaving a church is perfectly acceptable.
The sad reality about the popular preacher I mention above is that he preaches good stories and moralistic messages. Yes, he adds a gospel preaching message at the end. But that is not the gospel. Giving people messages about how to be better people by listing the 10 ways not to be a liar, is not the gospel. That is a message that we can better ourselves if we just try harder. The gospel shows us that we cannot try harder and become acceptable to God. Our efforts bring us nothing. The Gospel message is that Jesus saves His people. They don’t save themselves. Jesus doesn’t make it possible for us to save ourselves. He saves us.
But the point of this post is that people should not follow a man because he is famous. This is the sin of sectarianism, and Paul condemns this sin outright. The way most people see it today is when a pastor leaves a church, over some dispute, and goes and starts another church across town, encouraging his people to follow him. Sadly, this happens all the time. In doing so, those who follow him are joining with him in his sin. This should be discouraged on every level.
I know there have been times where I thought about doing just that when things were going well in the church where I was a pastor. Fortunately, the Spirit never gave me peace about starting a church and I never followed up on it. I thank the LORD for that. He has always had a place for me and kept me from committing such a sin.
In the book of Galatians we have the account of Peter being confronted by Paul because Peter decided to be a part of a clique. He was eating with the Gentiles when there were only Gentiles. But as soon as other Jews showed up, he quit eating with the Gentiles and only ate with the Jews. Paul immediately confronted Peter in front of all those there. He had to do this for the sake of the gospel.
The very idea of a clique is antithetical to the gospel. The gospel is not only intended to bring men into a right relationship with the Father by dealing with our sin against Him, but also meant to bring people together united in Christ’s blood. Cliques in the church like the one Peter was joining undermine the gospel for at the heart of the clique is pride and a belief that while we are all saved by grace, some are not worthy of the fellowship that was purchased by the blood of Christ.This very attitude needs to be confronted and dealt with because it also grieves the Holy Spirit.
If we are all justified by the same Christ, where is there room for a clique in the body of Christ? I began thinking about this when I was preaching that it is Jesus Christ who establishes His church and the gates of Hades will not stand against it. The church belongs to Christ, not to men and their cliques. As those called to be faithful, we must fight against the temptation to join cliques and to ignore them in the body of Christ. They are there, and like Paul, we must stand against them.
In looking at this topic, it also helps to realize that cliques are nothing more than a manifestation of sin in the body of Christ. We can all fall into one or many of these categories. The hope here is that as we look at these different groupings, we see the greater need for humility in our own lives. After all, when all is said and done, we are all in the body of Christ because of God’s grace toward us, not because of anything that we can use to prop up ourselves a superior fashion. That is all a clique really is, a means to prop oneself up in a superior fashion over others and this is a sinful attitude.
While writing this, I realized that I could actually fall into a clique as well: those who point out the problems of the church clique. That is not my goal. It is easy to point to the faults of others and ignore our own faults. This is why I should plan on writing about the theological accuracy club, a clique that is centered upon God’s word, but is just as heinous as the rest of the cliques.
The only true group we belong to is that group in which our Savior began some 6,000 years ago with Abraham and sealed it with His blood 2,000 years ago. It’s a group made up of sinners. If we have anything to boast about, it is the grace of God toward us, and even in that, we must set our own pride aside.
Where to start? Today I’m starting with the Domineering-Old-Lady club, or DOLC. I will eventually cover the Good ‘Ol Boy Club, the Charter-member club, the Bible-study clique, and Education Nazis (This group is subdivided into the the Private-School Nazis, or Classical Christian School Nazis, or the lesser known, “My children are missionaries in the public school” Nazis, and Home-school Nazis. It includes any group within the church that thinks of themselves as more superior because of how they educate their children and I’m not bashing the ways in which we have been given in this country to educate our children. It’s a matter of the sin of superiority in these groups that is the problem).
Domineering-Old-Lady Club (DOLC)
This clique is one of the worst cliques imaginable. It is made up of older women who like to think of themselves as the matriarchs of the church, sort of like Sarah in the Bible. However, this is never the case.
The true matriarch in the fashion of Sarah is not the woman who is getting her way by being demanding, manipulative, conniving, forceful, ugly, rude, etc. The true matriarch in the fashion of Sarah usually goes unnoticed. Everyone loves her, because there is something worthy to be loved in her. She is a desire to be around because she is sweet, kind, nice, gentle, long suffering. You know those fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22? These qualities saturate the true matriarch and are never found in the members of the Domineering Old Lady Club. The DOLC deceive themselves by thinking they are like Sarah.
Every church I have had the opportunity to pastor has had their fair share of DOLCs. Their names are everywhere and on everything. Other members of the church and DOLC wanna be’s hold up these women as something to aspire to. However, they lack any real submissiveness towards those in leadership. If you notice, they get their way and will do what it takes to bring it about. In doing so, DOLCs reflect their true spiritual mother, Eve, not Sarah. Instead of deferring to Adam, as she should have done, Eve wanted to display her leadership ability. That wasn’t her role. Yes, Adam was failing in his role as well. We will get to that in a subsequent post. However, I’m covering the DOLCs because they are the most dangerous.
There are two reasons this group is so dangerous. The first is that men tend to fear this group. The second reason is that so many other women aspire to become DOLCs.
DOLCs like to think of themselves as the women who surrounded Jesus in His ministry (Luke 8:1-3). However, their nature is more like that of Herodias, whose daughter danced before Herod and asked for John the Baptist’s head (Matthew 14:1-12). The degree of their sin may not be as severe, but it is still the same sin.
What these women should be are those quiet women in the congregation that seek to serve Christ in all humility. You can find these women described in Proverbs 31 and Titus 2.
Just look at the Titus 2:3 woman found in the first 5 verses of Titus 2.
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
We see two aspects of this verse for what older women are to be. The first is that older women are to help instruct younger women in what it means to be a godly woman. They are not to rule the younger women, but to come along side the younger women and help them in being godly wives and mothers.
The DOLC usually sees the younger women of the church as a threat or a bother. They will separate themselves from the younger women and make sure that they younger women are not involved in any aspect of the women’s ministries, or other ministries for that matter, when it might challenge the DOLCs control and power. I know of one case where a DOLC actually threw a tantrum because a younger woman in the church suggested a name change to a woman’s ministry. There was no godliness at all in the DOLC, just the kind of tantrum that one would find in say a 4 year old that demand his way.
The second truth to the Titus 2 verse is that the godly woman has her home, husband and children as the focus of her ministry. She helps at the church, but the church is not her primary realm of ministry. Her family is her ministry. She thrives on providing a loving home that both her children and husband love because of the sweet aroma of Christ that is found there. She doesn’t see the home and the work there as a throw back to some forgotten generation, but a delightful ministry that the LORD has given specifically to her. Only she can do what is necessary there and she loves the ministry because it is from the LORD, not something she has been saddled with.
DOLCs are more interested in who they are in the church and running the church than they are in providing homes that are safe havens for their family. They acquiesce to terms like “submission” but only for the sake of looking good to others. The reality is that the word “submission” is not a reality in DOLC’s life. That is what others do to her because of her place of prominence and longevity in the life of the church.
This longevity is part of the problem in that DOLCs see the church as actually belong to them. They get upset when newer couples come along and threaten to change things in their church. This attitude is only enhanced if the DOLC is a Charter member of the church. It just compounds the problem.
As hard as it is the leadership of the church must stand against DOLCs, for they profane the name of Christ and bring reproach to the body. When elders ignore these realities, they are actually affirming the DOLCs in the role. By not doing so, the DOLCs actually begin to inhibit church growth and outreach. Their power is so entrenched that anyone, including a new pastor, becomes a threat to the greater good of the DOLC.
In not resisting this group, the group gains the upper hand in church matters and prevent any type of change that may occur. This leads to the slow and eventual erosion of the body, to the point that if this group is not confronted, the church dies. In fact, the church may already be dead when a group like this is in control. My first church was like this. Nothing moved without the approval of the DOLC. It wasn’t long before I realized the church was dead before I arrived. The best thing to do with a church like this is to bury it. After all, it’s bringing only shame on the name of Christ.
BTW, this is one of the reasons that I believe women should not be placed in leadership in the church. Not that they are not qualified, or capable, but there is a tendency for them to slide into the role of Eve and rule the day, instead of living out the role of Sarah, humbling submitting to the leadership in the church. When women get placed on boards, sessions, committees, etc., they have a tendency to end up running those board simply because men like to play the role of Adam, instead of stepping up to the leadership position that God has given us. When a woman is on the board, men are actually afraid of disagreeing with women because they don’t want to be seen as chauvinistic. And if they do disagree with a woman, they will be seen as chauvinistic. So let us avoid the controversy by encouraging men to shepherd as they are called to do, and let women minister in support roles in the church.
To those who have been praying for us, thank you. After searching for a permanent call for almost 5 years, your prayers have been answered. I received word on Sunday that First Christian Church of Roswell, NM (please, no redundant alien jokes), voted overwhelmingly to extend a call to me so that I may be their next pastor. We have been in contact with this church since early September and went to visit them in early October.
First Christian Church is the second oldest church in Roswell, and has been on the decline for a number of years. They were a part of the Disciples of Christ denomination when they began, but as that denomination drifted to the left theologically, FCC drifted right. FCC left the DoC about 15 years ago and they have continued to pursue the scriptures in order to be true to what the word of God says.
In that process, they began to sense that they should pursue looking into becoming a part of the PCA. That is where I come into the picture. In early September, Dominic Aquilasent me their information and asked if I were interested. You bet! (The elders contacted Dominic because they have mutual friends in the PCA). I really was excited about the prospect from the get go and sent my resume and MDF to the search committee immediately.
What was about the church that got me excited? I think part of it was that they were non-denominational and looking to come into the PCA. They were also going through Embers to a Flame, which is a church-revitalization ministry out of Birmingham, AL. I’ve taken two churches through Embers and neither one has followed up with Fanning the Flame, which is very helpful in church revitalization. I’m not sure they will follow through with FTF, but it helps that they see that God is not through with them yet and that they have the hope of God’s hand in their lives.
I am also excited because they have a hunger for the word of God. Not just to know more about God’s word, but to have God’s word in their lives so that they may be used by the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. This was obvious when I was there earlier in the month. I taught then in Sunday school and preached for them and both times they were truly blessed, as was I.
It really is amazing how God has worked in my life to prepare me for this call. I must confess that about four months ago, I got fed up with looking for churches in my current denomination and just decided to quit looking there all together. What I wanted was not more denominationalism, but a church that has a true desire to seek God’s will and leading in their lives. Please note, that these things are not mutually exclusive. There are a lot of churches in the PCA that are doing just that. The movement of the Spirit was more for me than for the PCA. I felt like God was bringing me to the point of letting go of the PCA in order to prepare me for the next call.
The irony of all this is that this non-denomination church came to my attention through Dominic, who is entrenched in the PCA. FCC is non denominational as I mentioned above. But their desire is to be a part of the PCA. I truly believe God was preparing my heart for this church. I will still be a member of the PCA, working out of bounds. And if and when FCC is ready, they will join the PCA as well.
Joining the PCA is NOT a priority. That is a goal that we will have as church leaders. The main goal is to teach and preach Christ crucified in order to build up the body of Christ for the work of the ministry (Philippians 1:18, Eph. 4:11ff, 2 Cor. 4:5). If we join the PCA, that is icing on the cake. I pray that over the next couple of years, that the congregation comes to the point that they desire to join the PCA and understand all that it entails. Not that there is anything to fear. What I mean is that I hope and pray that the see joining the PCA as a benefit to who they are in Christ, that we will be joining together those who have like minds about the Word of God, His Mission and His purpose with us so that we can work together and carry out the Apostolic mandate found in Ephesians 4 on a grander scale.
However, if we do not get to that point, as long as we are being true to the overall calling of Christ, I will be fine with that as well. What I truly want is a ministry that bears much fruit, and a church that does the same. We may not all be theologically on the same page, or even have the same goals. But if we truly show the love of Christ toward one another, and are seeking His will, then I can certainly live with that. I long to live with that. May He use my desires and theirs for His glory and for the building up of the Kingdom, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
The subject of Grace Presbyterian Church came up again last night, this time between my wife and our 6 year old, Andy. He called it “Satan’s Temple.” That was so disturbing that she brought me into the mix since calling a group of people “Satan’s Temple” really is quite serious. He said that he called it that because the people there were so bad.
I made sure that he understood there were a lot of good people in the church who are good friends and were not behaving in a godless manner. He agreed. But he knew enough to know that there were people there who were behaving less than cordial (I was going to say “Christlike” but they were not even close.)
Is Grace Presbyterian Church Satan’s Temple? I’m not sure. But I will say that Satan can and does use believers from time to time to try and disrupt the plans of God. Remember that Jesus had to rebuke Peter when he was being used by Satan to prevent Jesus from going to the cross (Matthew 16). We cannot say that those who were so ugly are without faith at GPC. But we can say that seem to be acting in a manner that is less than Christlike.
I can also say that the actions of a few have truly grieved the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
The group that rose up two Sunday’s ago to confront the elders and demand my removal were not acting in a manner that can be construed as “kind to one another; tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” They were grieving the Holy Spirit according to God’s word. That is really all we can say about them and what they did. They were not acting in a manner that was submissive to the leadership and in their rebellion against that leadership, they were rebelling against Christ as well.
That should grieve our hearts as well. Whenever those who are called Christians act in a fallen manner, it should cause us to grieve and examine our own hearts. When these people were so ugly, how did we respond? Did we try and get even by sending across some well-worded zinger? Or did we respond in kindness as Christ calls us to do?
I know there were times when I responded in anger and with the zingers, and for that I repent. It was wrong to respond that way even though justice was not being carried out. My responses in anger and harsh words, would probably be hailed in more worldly circles, but we are not called to be of the world. We are called to be like the ONE we know who didn’t respond with anger, but took on the death of a sinner even though He was innocent.
It is that reminder and the reminder from Ephesians 4:30-32 that allowed me to respond the way I did when things came to an end for me at GPC. I knew that tensions were growing in the congregation, although I wasn’t sure about why the tensions were so high. I did know that I was staying very close to that verse. I came across it while preparing what ended up being my last two sermons. I was preaching on the Maker of the Church, the Sender of the Church and the Equipper of the Church, from Matthew 16, 28 and Ephesians 4.
I really wasn’t writing these sermons for the people of GPC here in Jackson. I have already preached these things here. While I knew it would be a good reminder to those who love God’s word, I also knew that some in the church would reject the message out right, simply because they were no longer listening to anything I said. I could have said, “Jesus wants you to be rich, happy, wealthy and wise, just believe in Him,” and they would have rejected it.
I was preparing those two sermons for a church that I was interviewing with in New Mexico that invited me out for a visit. One of the elders called me and asked me to preach on the purpose of the church so that those in the congregation could be reminded why it is that Christ has made the church. After the first sermon, I could tell the contentious bunch at GPC was even more contentious and when I preached the second one, they were spewing venom from the back pews.
This didn’t surprise me. While praying the previous day, I prayed that the Lord would tender the hearts of those who belong to Him so that they could hear the message and rejoice. I also prayed something more serious. I asked the LORD to harden the hearts of those who were rejecting HIS word and make it obvious to all who were there. I’m not sure why I prayed that, but I did.
And He answered that prayer. While I was confident in the message given to me to preach, those whose hearts were hardened, exploded that Sunday. I don’t know the full extent of it, but they went after two elders and an elders wife. The vicious attack led the elders to conclude that it was better if I resigned. They asked me to that night, and I did.
I knew the LORD would take care of me and my family. He had a job waiting for me in New Mexico and I thanked the two elders who had stood with me for the two years at GPC. I don’t begrudge them at all. They were actually doing me a favor by asking for my resignation. They provided me two months severance and the opportunity to leave that church. I was thankful and relieved the battle was over. It was a blessing from God.
The sad reality is that those who attacked did not need to. Had they been patient, the LORD would have moved me and my family on without the need for them to sin against the LORD and His elders. They added more burning coals to their already scalded heads. That is what people do when they are not walking in the Spirit. The flesh has a tendency to destroy itself and what is left of that church will now turn on itself. The two elders that were raked over the coals, resigned after I did and left the church. The congregations is now down to about 15 people. While I’m not sure what will happen to them, unless there is some repentance on the part of those brood of vipers that ran us off, that church will remain Satan’s temple. As long as we operate in the flesh, as they did, we too can be used by Satan. That is why we need to keep our eyes on Christ, walk by faith in the Spirit, and trust Him with His church. After all, it’s His church to deal with. He can redeem those in it, or leave them to their flesh, the world and the devil. I thank God He has redeemed me and brought me out of Satan’s Temple