“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely. … He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf link
[Update] Before I get into today's topic, let me update you on the home front. Last Wednesday, my mother in law was seen at Duke and was determined to be in end stage cancer. She is becoming confused and very weak. I have learned much in caring for her and will share my thoughts in the future. Please forgive me for not answering emails and phone calls. I will get to them whenever I have a moment.
Now you have a reason to be a proud TWW reader.
My husband has become interested in our genealogy. I am proud to announce to our readers that you are reading a blog endorsed by a descendent of none other than Jonathan Edwards. Edwards oldest daughter, Sarah, married into the Parsons clan. I was so excited that I asked on Twitter if this familial tie will cause The Gospel™ Coalition to unblock me!
Does your pastor love you?
Always pause when you read pastors, theologians and wannabes who use words like *love.* Ask the question, "What does he mean by *love?* Never assume a writer means the same thing you mean. For me, love is a very important component of my faith. It was the realization that the God of the universe loved me and wanted to be in relationship with me that turned my heart to Him. .
Recently, I have been noticing a number of articles posted by groups like Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks that put a different spin on the word *love.* It seems to be going the way of words like *gospel* and *biblical.* In other words, love does not necessarily mean what you think it means.
Recently TGC posted DOES YOUR PASTOR LOVE YOU? by Erik Raymond. This post demonstrates an interesting spin on the word *love.*
Who is Erik Raymond?
It is often helpful to read the bios of authors. I also like to visit the website of any church with which a pastor is affiliated. It is amazing the number of clues one can discover about the theological bent of the writer.
Erik is the senior pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. Remember, in certain circles, a senior pastor is considered the key authority and visionary of the church.
Pastoral ministry became the clear priority for Erik after graduating from Grace University in 2002. He served as a pastoral-intern and later as an Assistant Pastor at Omaha Bible Church from 2002-2010 before leading the church planting efforts for Emmaus. Along with other like minded area pastors, Erik began The Omaha Gospel Network which later became The Omaha Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This network strives to promote gospel-centered ministry in the region.
Since he started the Omaha Gospel Network, one can be quite sure that he buys into mindset of The Gospel Coalition which stresses the need for discipline for the membership along with an hierarchical authority of pastors and elders.
Emmaus Bible Church membership agreement
I always read through the statement of faith, beliefs, visions etc. Often, it is within membership agreements that I find the most information on the thinking of the church leadership. This particular membership agreement does not alert the members that they are signing a legal document. Whether or not it is stated, this agreement is a legally binding agreement (with lots of loopholes but that is for another post.) In case you don't believe me, read our post Proof That It’s Not a Membership Covenant™ But a Legally Binding Document
Here is a link to Emmaus' membership agreement.
I will aim therefore, with the aid of the Holy Spirit and in response to the gospel of Christ, to walk together in Christian love, to be submissive to the leadership of the Elders, to strive for the advancement of the ministry of this church–even to the laying down of my life in the service to Christ–to promote its growth in the gospel; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully, sacrificially, and regularly of my income as God has graciously blessed me. In view of the glory of Christ and the purity of the church, I will aim to serve Christ and one another heartily, according to my gifts and talents. I expect and trust that if I am persistent in sin that this body of believers at Emmaus Bible Church will hold me accountable with loving reproof, instruction and exhortation to help keep me faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. If ever I continue without true repentance, I implore this body to seek my spiritual restoration by following Jesus’ plan for purity in his church as outlined in Matthew 18:15-20.
I moreover resolve that if the Lord moves me from this church that I do so in a manner consistent with biblical love, communication, truth and the good of Christ’s body, including notifying and requesting counsel from EBC leadership, and further, to unite with a church where I can carry out the principles and spirit of this agreement.”
Let's look at some of the expectations of members that stressed in this agreement:
- Be submissive to the elder.
- Lay down your life for the ministry of this church.
- Sustain the discipline of the church.
- Give sacrificially.
- Be disciplined for undefined persistent sin which could mean anything.
- Get counsel from the leaders if one plans on leaving the church for any reason. This means you have little to no freedom of conscience since they can reject your reasoning.
Please note that there is no reciprocity in this agreement. In other words, the members are to do all of these things but there is little on the part of what the leaders should do for the members. I would never recommend signing this legal document without counsel from an attorney. I can assure you that the church leadership has done so on their part. Personally I would never sign such an agreement.
So, before I even read the post by Raymond, I already had a hunch that I was dealing with an authoritarian leadership which is willing to discipline any undefined *persistent sin.* For example, he could go after you for *questioning authority.* There is nothing in the agreement to prevent it.
Where is the love?
How is pastoral love defined/demonstrated in Raymond's post Does Your Pastor Love You?
1. He feeds the flock (the church) the Word of God.
Please note that only the sheep are called out for making bad decisions. The shepherd protects them. However, what happens when the shepherd makes bad decisions?
There are threats on the outside from wolves and threats on the inside because of bad decisions by the sheep. In both cases the shepherd is to be actively engaged in the thoughtful care of the sheep.
2. The shepherd's loving ministry of the word consists of doctrinal teaching.
The pastor who loves Jesus and the flock is to preach the Word. He is to herald, proclaim, announce, declare the Word of God.
Assuming that this pastor is a Calvinist, this means that the doctrinal teaching that demonstrates his love is Calvinism.
What is the content of this loving ministry? It is to be doctrinal preaching. Doctrinal preaching is preaching that endeavors to teach theological truth.
Here is how you know your pastor loves you. He rebukes you.
I am not so much here talking about the preacher’s style or mannerisms but the content of his sermon.
- Does your pastor give you the Word of God?
- Does he reprove you?
- Rebuke you?
- Exhort you?
- Is this done patiently?
- Is it done doctrinally?
- If so, you have reason to believe that your pastor loves you.
Pastor Ed Stetzer doesn't do funerals or hospital visits but preaches. Is this love?
Ed Stetzer who oversaw a failed church plant wrote a post a couple of years ago. He took on the job of a bi-vocational pastor in order to *reach* 48,000 unchurched people. We wrote about this in Ed Stetzer and the Four Fence Posts that Define His Ministry. Let's take a look at his view of his role as senior pastor.
That's all fine and good, but Stetzer has stipulated what he will and will not do in a series of articles recently published by Christianity Today. Here are "Four Fence Posts" that Stetzer believes will lead to a healthy ministry:
- Recognize your role in the church
- Pursue personal health
- Guard your flock even from other Christians
- Know your boundaries
Stetzer goes on to explain his approach to ministry this way:
"When you establish these four fence posts – recognizing your role in the church, pursuing personal health, guarding your flock, and knowing what you can and cannot do – you will enable and encourage growth in yourself and your church. Without these four, you will more than likely experience ministry burn out and hinder the development of those under your care and the church as a whole."
He then describes more specifically what he will and will not do:
"At Grace Church, there are three things and ONLY three things that I do: I meet with the staff/apprentices, I preach about 70% of the time, and I lead a small group in my home.
One of the benefits this boundary has brought to our church is that we are very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I'm very upfront with my role to my church. I explain I can't do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This leaves the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they are needed, and to respond accordingly."
Ed Stetzer is speaking as it he is merely a talking head. How can anyone consider themselves to be loving pastors if they don't do funerals, visit the poor and hurting or return phone calls to those who are seeking or in pain? It is the day to day contact, the hugs, the arm around a parents shoulder who has lost a child that makes a difference. Jesus touched people, like lepers, physically. He cried for his friend who died. He held and loved on children and waded into the crowds, allowing th masses to touch him.
There is no question that I believe in good, expositional preaching. Except for Ed Young Jr. every preacher in each church I attended, including the one with the pedophile situation, were doctrinally sound. However, not all of those pastors were loving. The ones, like Pete Briscoe, who were loving left an indelible mark on my life. The one who treated us so poorly over the pedophile situation left me cold. He could preach the Bible but when push came to shove, he couldn't live it under pressure.
I fear that the word *love* now means doctrinal preaching, church discipline, and controlling the comings and goings of people. There is precious little discussion of loving the person, merely talking at them and controlling them. This is not the God and the faith that I envisioned when I came to Christ at the age of 17. I still believe in that loving God these many years later and believe that most people want to hear more about that God than the God who cannot wait to smack us down for each and every little sin.
To those who are depressed, dismayed, let down or tired, let me assure that there is a God who loves you dearly and does not view you as a worm, worthy only of His wrath. Too many arrogant seminarians today are preaching discipline while drunk on their own authority. Don't go to their churches. Instead, find a church in which the pastor wants to get to know you, who smiles when he sees you and liberally gives out hugs. Find a pastor who will return your phone call and would be delighted to eat lunch with you. Run from the church in which a pastor hides in his study and only hangs out with a select few.
And when you find such a pastor and church, please let all of us know.
For those pastors who are "oh so lovingly" preaching doctrine, take a clue from CS Lewis.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Celebrty Endorsement: This blog post is heartily endorsed by William J Parsons, a direct descendent of Jonathan Edwards! Sola Amare!