“Your pastors are called to watch over your souls. It is your soul that is most important to us. It is your soul that is our main concern.”
C.J. Mahaney (April 17, 2016 sermon)
Tomorrow will be one month since Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2016 began. You may recall that it was on the first day of the conference that Al Mohler lauded his close friend C.J. Mahaney in front of a crowd of around 10,000. Mohler's attempted joke boomeranged through the blogosphere, bonking him on the head in the aftermath. Dee wrote about it here.
Obviously, Mohler didn't foresee such an adverse reaction; however, we definitely could have predicted it.
For further background information, we recommend an article that appeared in The Daily Beast entitled Pastor accused of covering up abuse returns to spotlight.
What we found particularly fascinating about the T4G leaders was their indifference to the controversy swirling around Mahaney, despite the negative press leading up to the conference and the protest that took place outside the KFC YUM! Center on the first day of the event. Perhaps even more interesting has been C.J. Mahaney's focus and demeanor in the aftermath of T4G. As a case in point, he attracted quite a bit of media attention with the first sermon he delivered in the wake of the conference which he entitled A Happy Day, based on Hebrews 13:17. Here is that Bible verse.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Now that C.J. Mahaney is a Southern Baptist pastor, the Baptist News is definitely taking note as evidenced by this news story — C.J. Mahaney says churches should defend their pastors. Here is an excerpt from that article:
Fresh off an invitation to speak at a major pastor’s conference that stirred up memories of an alleged child sex-abuse cover-up at his former church, Pastor C.J. Mahaney reminded members of Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Ky., of their biblical mandate to stand by “God’s man” in his Sunday sermon on April 17.
Preaching from Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account,” Mahaney said one responsibility of church membership is “a joyful disposition to trust and protect the pastoral team.”
“Any slanderous comment about the pastoral team should be challenged, and if necessary resolved,” Mahaney said. “Why? Because the pastors are just sensitive souls, because pastors are so sensitive? No. That protection is needed in order to preserve the trust, in order to protect the unity of this church. That’s why that’s needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church.”
Slanderous comment? Can there be any doubt that Mahaney is now going on the offensive because he feels vindicated by Mohler's endorsement, by the loyalty of his T4G colleagues, and by the applause of ten thousand Neo-Cals?
Later in his sermon, Mahaney launched into his 'watching over your souls' mantra. The Baptist News article included a refrain that those who attended Covenant Life Church (and other SGM churches) likely heard ad nauseam, specifically:
“Your pastors are called to watch over your souls,” he said. “It is your soul that is most important to us. It is your soul that is our main concern.”
“Our care for you is not simply or primarily about the present,” he said. “No, actually it’s informed by the future. … Our concern today is to give all of our energy to you, to serving you, watching over you, to prepare your soul for that final day. Our concern is with your soul in relation to heaven and hell.”
Finally, the Baptist news piece ended with this:
As Mahaney said some church members are “uncomfortable” with the language of obedience and submission for many reasons, including “a bad experience” with an authoritarian pastor.
“If that has been your experience in the past, I am so sorry,” Mahaney said. “I want to make real clear — that isn’t going to happen to you here.”
We are fairly sure that many members and former members of CLC would say they had a bad experience with an authoritarian pastor. So much for their (former) pastor caring for their souls…
Mahaney's sermon topic following T4G also caught the attention of those across the pond. Christian Today posted an article similar to the one in the Baptist News. That article begins as follows:
Days after his presence at the Together for the Gospel conference was heavily criticised, CJ Mahaney preached about the biblical mandate for churches to defend their pastors.
T4G was heavily criticised for allowing Mahaney, one of its founders and now pastor of Louisville's Sovereign Grace Church, to preach because of previous accusations that he and other leaders of Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, were complicit in covering up crimes committed by its youth leader Nathaniel Morales.
On Sunday, days after the controversy, Mahaney preached from Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account."
He said that church members should have "a joyful disposition to trust and protect the pastoral team.
"Any slanderous comment about the pastoral team should be challenged, and if necessary resolved," Mahaney said. "Why? Because the pastors are just sensitive souls, because pastors are so sensitive? No. That protection is needed in order to preserve the trust, in order to protect the unity of this church. That's why that's needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church."
It is certainly worth noting that less than a year ago an article written by C.J. Mahaney entitled The Pastor and Personal Criticism was uploaded to the internet. Here is a screen shot of the conclusion, but we hope you will take a look at Mahaney's other points.
Here Mahaney readily admits that he has failed to respond humbly to correction; however, in his April 17th sermon he talks about pastors being slandered and that such claims must be challenged (presumably by the congregation).
In all sincerity, we believe it is Mahaney and his fellow pastors at Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville who should be concerned about their own souls.