“One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organizations do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.” AW Tozier
Al Mohler-Public Domain by Timmy Brister
Today, we are going to attempt to tie the problem with membership covenants to authoritarian or inflated views of the role of pastors. We also believe that such a view of leadership is connected with the current controversy at Mars Hill. Once again, we stress that written and signed membership covenants were not developed to encourage the faith of the member but to protect a given church entity from lawsuits. They have been devised and drawn up by attorneys.
We have had several TWW commenters fussing at us about unfair lawsuits against churches and church leaders. Well, we have news for everyone. There are often highly suspect and abusive tactics used against members, and even, in some cases, non-members who attend a church.
Why is this? TWW believes that certain theological models have been developed that stress a highly centralized, autocratic leadership system that actively seeks to mold members into the image of some pastors' theology "du jour." We believe that one of these groups is the Calvinistas, a term coined by this blog. Please visit this link to a page of TWW's definitions. We hasten to add that we have no difficulty with those who adhere to Reformed theology. We merely despise the “militaristic, our way or you will most likely go to hell because you really can't be a Christian and not see it our way” demeanor. This sort of belief system is not limited to today’s Calvnistas but is seen in many groups that those on the Internet Monk have aptly termed the “fundagelicals.”
For example, Ken Ham regularly posits that those who do not believe in a Young Earth are potentially denying the “doctrine of the atonement.” This is theologicalese for “you ain’t saved, baby.” Others use this lingo for those who don’t baptize in their approved way, don’t pray in tongues, do drink alcohol, or, as we have seen in the strange case of the Driscollites, are not fond of discussing oral sex in church on a regular basis.
Since my conversion, I have always been around those who believe in “A” issues and “B” issues. “A” issues are the things of the creeds (Virgin birth, Resurrection, etc). “B” issues might include the age of the earth, charismatic gifts, etc. With the advent of the new “sex” pastors, we believe their needs to be a third category called “E” issues meaning “Enough is enough, Lord have mercy."
We have seen a creeping autocracy in today’s churches which has been pushed by well-known and highly admired pastors. There is practically a whole school of apologetics that has sprung up to help the acolytes of such pastors defend their very utterances. And, unfortunately, these image pastors seem to believe their own press. Recently, we have discussed the ridiculous bash here thrown to honor Head Apostle Mahaney (his self-dubbed moniker when that event was held).
When church membership covenants force you to submit to these sorts of leaders, you may be in for a devastating experience. It is one of our goals to help our readers determine if they are in the presence of such leaders. These guys are drunk on their authority, seldom understanding that they are merely admirals in rowboats and should behave accordingly.
Trust me, we are not talking about heinous sins such as the one Paul spoke of when he chose to address discpline. (A man who flaunted sleeping with his mother in law). Nope, nosiree. This crowd gets to decide what is subject to serious discipline and, for many, it is simply asking a question. Mark Driscoll calls it the “sin of having a questioning spirit.” And let me tell you, he will enforce his viewpoint because, after all, he is a pastor and he has the “authority” to do so. Yep, you, too, could be shunned for asking a question.
This sort of punishment is not simply getting irritated at you and not inviting you to the next men's leadership brunch.This is big time, video making,”punch you in the nose” punishment.
Today we have an excellent example from one of the biggest leaders in the Reformed Baptist movement, Al Mohler. Dr. Mohler was invited to speak at the FBC Jacksonville Preacher’s Conference 2 /2011/.
The following is from Tom Rich’s excellent blog FBC Jax Watchdog here.
We thank Tom for letting us reprint some of his post. It is vital for our readers to understand that Dr Mohler was speaking to a roomful of eager pastors. I think it is fascinating to hear what topic this Reformed leader addressed when given the opportunity. As you read this, imagine how these thoughts might influence discipline in a church.
“But Mohler is preaching primarily to preachers at the conference, and when you hear preachers preaching to other preachers, you might expect to learn some things about how they view themselves and their profession and their role in Christianity – especially when it is one of their premier scholars doing the preaching. In his summary at the end, Mohler offers three important "understandings" for the pastors on this matter of endurance of the Christian mind.
The first one on the list, and presumably the most important one is that the main way that God keeps Christian people from slipping into sin and ignorance is the preachers' sermons. He says:
"The main means by which God saves his people from ignorance is the preaching and teaching of the word of God. That's why a conference like this is so important. It's not just because we think of the pastorate as a profession set along side other professions so that we can gather together for a little professional encouragement to go out a be a little better at what we do.
No, we're here because we believe that those who teach and preach the word of God are God-appointed agents to save God's people from ignorance. "
This sort of thinking by one of the premier Christian thinkers in modern evangelicalism helps lay people like us understand why pastors view themselves as specially-anointed Christians, with extra insights into scripture because they have been assigned by God to holding an "office" that gives them special rule and authority over other Christians.
The premise: we lay folk are woefully ignorant and we tend to move toward ignorance, but the pastors, the "pastorate" – they are wise and anointed. We are stupid sheep, they are learned scholars whose feet we must sit at to fully understand the Bible and what it means to be a Christian.
I thought that the one time "pastor" was used in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:11 (where it is used in plural form, to indicate that it is not an office but a gift that multiple people in a church exercise) it meant "shepherd" – now I know it means "saver of the plebe from their own ignorance". Notice Mohler describes it as a "profession" – it never was intended as that in the Bible, as even Paul was not a professional pastor. Mohler even uses the word "pastorate" making "pastor" an office, and it just ain't so. It ain't even in da Greek.
But Mohler continues…
"So don't stand in the pulpit if you're not going to preach and teach the word of God. Life and death, heaven and hell, hang in the balance. "
Yes, to be in the pulpit and teach sound doctrine is important. But one of the problems in modern Christianity is that we tend to put TOO MUCH weight on the words of a guy in a robe or a suit (or a Hawaiian shirt) with a bible in his hand. No, heaven and hell don't hang in the balance when you're in the pulpit, pastor. Get over yourself and your sermons. The message should be to pastors: stop telling fantastic flowery stories of yourself and your life in the pulpit. Stop the exaggerations (Caner). Stop misusing scripture and stop brow-beating people into doing what you want from the pulpit – like giving money to build your building or support your ministry. Just teach the Bible, and be honest in the pulpit and don't lie and don't use your pulpit for your own selfish interests or to promote your family or your Holy Land trips or to go after your critics.
But Mohler ratchets it up…
"If you do not preach and teach the word of God, if you do not faithfully teach the word of God such that your people hear it and understand it and grow upon it they are consigned to unfaithfulness and many will be consigned to hell.
"We ought to be yearning to get from sermon to sermon preaching with such vigor and such energy and such faithfullness and such convinction that the people who hear our preaching also can't wait to get back sermon from sermon to sermon. God's people are those who recognize THEY CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THIS! "
Ironically, God's people are those who are in increasing numbers realizing they CAN live without "this", – the preacher's sermons and bible interpretations and brow-beatings and in some cases spiritual abuse. Many church members are leaving churches with pastors who hold to this view of themselves, and they are finding churches where the pastor is a humble shepherd. Many people are starting home churches where they meet with other believers who exercise their gifts of being pastors and teachers to help people live the Christian life. They realize they can live without forking over 10% of their income to a church system that exists primarily to pay professional ministers and to build and maintain buildings.”
There is no reason that an ordinary lay person can't learn as much, and even more, than one who has gone to seminary. Lay people minister to non-believers in their secular jobs, often reaching far more people than a pastor who is limited by his congregation. A pastor should be in the business of equipping and supporting the saints to do the work of the Lord. Instead, the saints are relegated to ignorant status and are perceived by these individuals as being in serious danger of hell unless they listen to the appointed shepherd.
These shepherds are as flawed as the "ignorant" masses they serve. One only has to look at a number of statements from Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney to understand that they have no magic bullet to protect themselves from the very ignorance with which they accuse the sheep.We have gone from servant leaders to kings who rule in mini-fiefdoms.Their subjects are ignorant, dumb sheep who, without these pastors, would go to hell!! Good night! Where is the Holy Spirit in all of this? And better yet, where is the love for those that they serve? From this blogger's perspective, this faith appears cold and mean.
It is vital that unsuspecting church attendees spend a lot of time assessing a church and the pastors and leaders before ever contemplating signing a membership covenant. We also advise that such a potential member show such an agreement to an attorney before waving any rights to confidentiality. In fact, here is a link to a post we did called “Hurt, Wary? Do Not Join a Local Church." We highly recommend you think about the points made in this post.
Ignore us at your own risk. One day you might end up like the following people. KOMO News (Seattle) did a short story on the Mars Hill debacle. We highly recommend that you take these stories into account before you sign any agreements with a church which has a pastor who believes that you are ignorant and that he is your vehicle for illumination. Funny, Dr Mohler never once mentions the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people. But, then again, he never has been big on the priesthood of the believer and calls the concept “dangerous" here.
So, in the interest of illuminating our readership, here is the news segment. Kevin Potts speaks on camera. We featured him in this post on 2/3/12. Kevin and Kaelee, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance as you heal from this despicable treatment at the hands of a church.
Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 10:1-11:23 Colossians 3:18-4:18 Psalm 78:56-72 Proverbs 24:28-29