“False greatness is unsociable and remote: conscious of its own frailty, it hides, or at least averts its face, and reveals itself only enough to create an illusion and not be recognized as the meanness that it really is. True greatness is free, kind, familiar and popular; it lets itself be touched and handled, it loses nothing by being seen at close quarters; the better one knows it, the more one admires it.”
Jean de la Bruyere
Recently, Andy Davis wrote Pastorally Speaking: Andy Davis on “Gossip amd Slander: Poison in the Lifeblood of the Church on the Between The Times blog here.
Here is an excerpt:
“So, if you feel that someone has sinned and the sin needs addressing, follow Matthew 18 rather than the promptings of the flesh or the devil. Go to that person directly and with humility work it out. Galatians 6:1 speaks of doing it with humility and gentleness. Jesus said in Matthew 7 we are to take the plank out of our eye and then we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.”
Then, he adds a zinger:
“One final word. The issue of gossip and slander is especially poisonous when it is directed against the elders of a church.”
I believe that Davis inadvertently showied us his true colors. In today’s churches, particularly in Calvinista circles, we see that church leadership appears to dividethe church into two groups: the “important” and must be protected crowd (pastors and leaders) and the rest of the congregation.
However, I might be able to make the case that Davis engaged in similar behavior himself. Do leaders get in trouble? TWW wrote an article on Davis and his church on 12/8/11 titled: Andy Davis is Biblical; I’m Not link.
You can read this posts directed at Davis who recounted his history “reforming” First Baptist Church, Durham. I happened to know one of the couples he discussed in this post and became incensed how those who disagreed with Davis were portrayed. Here is what he said about those who disagreed with him.
“During this time, the ministry of the Word of God was having a powerful and divisive effect on the church. The genuine saints were being deeply challenged and were growing and flourishing, while the nominal, unregenerate church members were becoming openly hostile.” (Said couple had given years of service to that church, btw).
As readers can see, it appears that it is hunky dory for Davis to judge the state of the souls of the dissidents and call them names (hmm-gossip? and slander? because I, along with others, knew to whom he was referring?) but he implies that it is not alright for the dissidents to use language towards those who are pastors/elders. By the way, some of these folks had been in church leadership but I guess being a pastor trumps being a lowly leader. Then he gets to write an authoritative post on gossip and slander? Takes one to know one, I guess.
Why bring this up? I think this sort of attitude is helpful in understanding the state of leadership in today’s churches and how that may have affected the Tom Rich situation.
Pastors and elders can gossip and “slander” as much as the next guy.
Then they cry foul when the rest of the world joins in. Matt Chandler called a man a “narcissistic zero" in a public setting. Driscoll called British Christians “cowards” in a public setting. Davis called some people "unregenerate" (which I believe is a horrible epithet. I thought only God could judge a man’s soul) on a public blog. Mac Brunson called Tom Rich a sociopath in the local newspaper.
So why do they get a pass? Oh yeah, that’s right, sometimes they don’t thanks to bloggers like Tom Rich. Wade Burleson wrote a great post on ths matter here.
"Last Friday First Baptist Church, Jacksonville settled the defamation lawsuit that came as a result of Tom Rich being publicly identified as "a sociopath" by their pastor. Last Sunday, Rev. Brunson read a statement of apology to his churc):
"In April of 2009, I was quoted in a Times-Union article regarding an Internet blog which concerned this church. The article stated that I had labeled the author of the blog "obsessive compulsive" and a "sociopath." I did use those words and those conditions to describe Mr. Tom Rich, the author of the blog. These are serious and debilitating conditions. These statements have resulted in protracted litigation for myself and this church. Mr. Rich and his family were longtime members of this church. Mr. Rich is not obsessive compulsive and is not a sociopath. I regret making those statements. I want to apologize to Mr. Rich and his family. I also want to apologize to you and the church.
Sometimes the world makes stubborn pastors and elders do the right thing.
No church is above the law, no matter how much they quote Matthew 18.Wade pointed out that as recently as February 18, 2012, Brunson refused to apologize for his statements. Let me assure you, Tom Rich would have stopped the litigation a couple of years ago if only Brunson had apologized to him. Brunson refused to do so. Think of all the years wasted and all the money spent by Brunson (or the church-I don’t know) in pursuing this matter. What a waste!
The world is watching so don’t try to hide behind the church doors.
Christian are naïve if they think keeping an event “quiet” will help the cause of Christ. In fact, the watching world is more appalled when the church clumsily tries to hide a problem. Those outside the church want to see Christians handle our foibles honestly, not deep six them, like everybody else.
Why not go and sin boldly? Why not show the world that we are sinners and we want to do the right thing when we fail? Many people are quite forgiving when others admit their faults. Instead, we think we are oh so clever by hiding our faults. But, we don't. And we wonder why outsiders and insiders are rejecting the faith or running from the church.
For a perfect example, Mac Brunson was recently designated one of the scariest people in Jacksonville by a local newspaper here. Does the church really think they are fooling anybody by donning facades of moral righteousness? They see through us, folks! I cannot stress this enough. We are positionally holy but are functionally still sinners.
If a church or pastor uses the media to promote their agenda, then they better be prepared to be critiqued.
Today’s churches and pastors love to use the media to plug their churches and their books. They have all entered the public square by doing so. Think of it this way. They are all pretending to be Paul (on steroids) at Mars Hill, setting off fireworks to get the attention of people. If they want the world to look at them, they cannot complain when the world does so and doesn’t like what it sees.
Do these people actually think that people should buy their books and join their franchises and not say a word about the weirdness that surrounds some of these ministries? Do they really expect us to cough up the dough and keep our mouths shut? Do such leaders get a pass that the rest of the world is not entitled to, just because they are “pastors?”
Pastors and leaders need to apologize when they fail to live up to their stated standards.
What ever happened to “I’m sorry?” I mean, an honest-to-goodness apology. Wade Burleson, in the referenced post said,
“Thankfully, last Sunday, Rev. Mac Brunson apologized for his statement. Nobody knows the motive for why Rev. Brunson apologized after three years, but there are at least two possiblities:
(1). The Holy Spirit brought Rev. Brunson to repentance for his statement in less than eight weeks (February 2012 to April 2012) after He could not bring the gift of repentance to Rev. Brunson during the previous three years (February 2009 to February 2012). After all, the Holy Spirit is the One who enables us to display to others "what Christian life is all about," right? Or,
(2). Part of the settlement of the lawsuit, which included an undisclosed financial payment to the Rich family, included reading an apology to the church for the original statement by Rev. Brunson that Tom Rich is a "sociopath."
I hope the apology was real. If not, Brunson will have to answer to God. However, many people, looking on, will have a tendency to believe that this was a coerced apology. Think about how effective such an apology would have been if Brunson had called the local media, prior to the depositions, and sat down and talked about how wrong he was and how God forgives sinners. He then could have publicly apologized to Tom Rich. Such a step takes true humility. Sadly, that chance has been lost and this apology will forever be suspect.
Blogging is here to stay. Churches must learn to deal with it.
Churches should engage the blogging world like they purport to engage the non-Christian world. For all the yip yap about Paul and Mars Hill, many pastors hide out in their safe world inside a building somewhere. They need to get out into the world and start debating. Warning: They should not play the game of deleting critical comments on their blogs. Everyone knows when they are doing it. It is discussed elsewhere and they end up looking like wusses who cannot stand the courage of their convictions.
Could some bloggers be modern day prophets?
Something struck me the other day. Did you know that some of the pastors criticize bloggers, saying that they are men in their bathrobes, living in their mother’s basements, eating Cheetos? (Digression: It obviously does not apply to your glam TWW bloggers.)
How was the prophet, John the Baptist, described? He came in from the desert wearing a camel hair shirt, eating locust and wild honey. In other words, he didn’t dress up in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt with a hoodie, looking very manly and cool. He looked a bit odd. Yet he was called by God. Could it be that these pastors are missing the point with their silly little putdowns? Would they have done the same to John?
Recently, Mark Driscoll wrote on the Mars Hill blog that the Scripture indicates that there are the prophets, priests and kings in local churches. He identified some in his church by name. Although I do not agree with his “exegesis,” I will use his example. Driscoll, of course, gets to identify his prophets who, of course, would probably fall all over themselves agreeing with him
In the Bible, the prophets were called by God to confront unbiblical behavior. They were not always a part of the inner circle. They also really, really irritated the kings and leaders. And, if John is any example, they might even have looked a bit odd. My guess is that Mac Brunson and Mark Driscoll are not very good discovering the “prophets” in their lives.
I want to end this post with a final quote from Wade’s blog.
“Finally, just a word to my fellow pastors. If you are publicly criticized, censured, or condemned, it would be good to follow the advice of King David, who when verbally castigated by one of his subjects and asked by Abishai if he could "go cut that dead dog's head off," responded, "Let him alone. God hath bidden him to speak."
Could it be that some of these bloggers have been sovereignly placed here, for such a time as this, to keep church leadership honest? Could it be that God is using the Internet for His purposes? Come on, guys, you are the Calvinists who constantly assert that God is sovereign.
I think Tom Rich is one of those prophets that FBC Jacksonville and Mac Brunson not only overlooked, but treated poorly. Maybe they should spend some time in self-reflection instead of planning the next “delightful” cruise for the well-to-do at FBC Jacksonville.