“What right have such men to represent Christianity—as if it were an institution for getting up idiots genteelly?” ―
Tim Challies avoided learning about the sex abuse scandal in Sovereign Grace because it was “poor time management* to do so.
Seven years ago, Tim Challies wrote a ridiculous post regarding the accusations of sex abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries. Challies, a supporter of CJ Mahaney in his heyday, decided that it would be poor time management to learn too much about the abuse situation at Sovereign Grace. I wrote: Tim Challies and SGM: “I Have Deliberately Avoided Learning Too Much. (Subtitled Profiles in Gospel Courage…)
For this reason I have deliberately avoided learning too much. I have had to question my motives, especially since I have repeatedly been on the receiving end of scathing criticism for not using my platform to speak out against Mahaney. I have chosen to read the news stories, to understand the basic facts, but conscience compels me to stop there. To do more may not be spiritually beneficial, it may not reflect good time management, and it may not be loving toward those who are involved.
It is my opinion that the actions and attitudes of Tim Challies and his gospel dudebros are among some of the reasons that sexual abuse has been allowed to fester and increase for years in the evangelical church. This is the nonsense that I had to stand against when writing about CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries many years ago. His gospel dudebro, Joe Carter, accused me of libel for calling out the SGM sex abuse mess. I’m still waiting for an apology. Challies’ *time management* post is one of the reasons that I lost respect for Challies and his BFFs who supported each other in their determination to avoid looking at sex abuse in their midst. I continue to stand by that assessment as we slide into 2021.
Tim Challies wants you to follow mediocre leaders because it’s biblical to do so.
It is important to realize that Challies is a *gospel dudebro.* He believes in the authority of pastors to rebuke and discipline you. He is also part of a group of pastors who believe in *discipline for thee but not for me.* I wonder if the increasing number of complaints and documented abuses by authoritarian pastors and church leaders is the reason for his post. Is this another way for Challies to say *move along, nothing to see here* just like he did when a number of SGM victims came forward (and maybe coming forward again? ) For those of you who don’t know about the SGM scandal, here is a great article. (Looks like it was good time management for the Washingtonian to report Mahaney.)
Challies wrote the following stunning post: On Following Mediocre Leaders. Here are some highlights.
The fact is, there are not a lot of great leaders.
…most of us are of average leadership ability. A few are brilliant, a few are awful, but most fall somewhere in the middle—average, adequate, mediocre.
…Perhaps the place to begin is with admitting our own mediocrity
…We often lead erratically, impulsively, selfishly, unsympathetically.
…We must follow others as we’d wish to be followed
Here’s where it gets theologically intense. 😉 You are Biblically obligated to follow these mediocre leaders because it’s part of the natural order of things.
…From the humility of our own mediocrity we can consider God’s natural ordering of the world. Embedded in the Ten Commandments is a guide to the way God has ordered relationships.
You see, our leaders are like our mom and dad and we are to follow them because they are like our mom and dad. (Like that thoughtful sentence.)
By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” The commandment begins with the most basic relationship of authority—children to parents—then extends to all others.t
It is their position which God demands that we follow, no matter how inept they are.
We must see and understand that it is not the skill of the leaders that gives them the right to call us to follow them. It’s not their ability. Not their track record. It’s their position. Their authority is intrinsic to their position.
We follow him(God) by following them. That’s true whether they are brilliant leaders, bad leaders, or, more likely, just plain mediocre leaders. The exception clause the Bible offers is not to be exercised when we don’t like the way we are being led or when we are being led poorly, but only when we are being led in ways that contradict a higher authority.
Even worse, God will judge us if we don’t follow inept leaders.
It’s not an easy thing to follow. It’s not an easy thing to follow a leader who doesn’t know how to lead with skill, with integrity, with excellence. Yet to resist authority, even authority exercised with mediocrity, is, in the words of scripture, to resist what God has appointed, and “those who resist will incur judgment”
OK, enough of this nonsense. Let’s think about this. Do you go looking for mediocre?
- Would you go to a mediocre neurosurgeon to remove the tumor in your little girl’s head? Absolutely not. My husband and I called people all over the country who encouraged us to stay with the neurosurgeons at Dallas Children’s Hospital. Mediocre was not what we wanted.
- Would you go to a mediocre guy to fix your car? I sure do my homework on finding the best repair shop for the money.
- I am about to pick up Chinese food from a great hole in the wall restaurant. (They are the best.) I don’t spend our hard-earned money on mediocre food.
- Would you let a mediocre electrician rewrite your house?
What do you want to bet old Tim looks for better than mediocre when it’s his money and life on the line? Yet he’s asking us to put our spiritual lives in the hands of mediocre leaders. Is he trying to make this argument because of a number of mediocre pastors in his circles that I have exposed on this blog?
Why I would never go to a church that encourages mediocre anything.
If you have been reading TWW for any length of time, you have read story after story of abuse in churches led by *mediocre* pastors. In the next week or so, I will be writing the story of a woman who was abused by a church that emphasized the mediocre practice of biblical counseling, ACBC style.
- There was mediocre Matt Chandler who abused Karen Hinckley.
- There was mediocre Andy Savage who molested Jules Woodson and went on to become a mega pastor.
- There are Mark Dever and 9 Marks who will not let a member resign from a church without their mediocre permission.
- There is the TGC, 9 Marks, and Acts 29 requirement that one sign a church contract (covenant). These mediocre leaders plan to discipline you for any infraction which they do not define ahead of time.
- I have written, time and time again, of decent church members who have gone to their mediocre pastors with some concerns and find themselves on the wrong end of the church discipline process.
- My blogging buddy, Todd Wilhelm, who quit his 9 Marks church in Dubai because he disagreed with them pushing CJ Mahaney’s books, landed on their member care list (a euphemism for church discipline.) He stayed on it for 6 months because he refused to immediately join another church. (He was being careful not to land another mediocre church.) He was guilty, like Martin Luther, of exercising his freedom of conscience. That 9 Marks mediocre leadership didn’t like anyone like Todd wh, unlike them, is decidedly not mediocre. Unlike them, he stood up for those who have been abused.
According to Tim Challies, we are to submit to church discipline. According to Challies, we also should be willing to be judged as needing church discipline by mediocre church leaders/pastors. Given my almost 12 years of blogging, I believe that there are far too many mediocre and unloving p\astors who should be avoided at all costs. One can only read Challies’ response to the CJ Mahaney situation to get that he’s one that should be avoided. He was on the wrong side of history and is demonstrating that he is quite mediocre. But he doesn’t mind. In his book, mediocre means he can be your leader and you need to follow him anyway.
Don’t settle for mediocre pastors who are authoritarian junkies. Seek out good, kind, and loving pastors. They are out there. I’ve found quite a few along the way. Wade Burleson on EChurch is one. I attend a church that has pastors who are far, far better than Challies’ group of mediocre leaders. Do not let yourself be bullied or disciplined (sometimes they are the same) by second rate church leaders. God loves you. Make sure your church leaders do as well.