Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. C. S. Lewis link
This is a long post, but I think it is worth the read to really understand what is going on in the so-called *revitalization* movement in the SBC.
One of my favorite pastors said something a couple of decades ago which has stuck with me during my journey through the post-evangelical world. This pastor had a son who was seriously intellectually impaired from the time he was born. As he reached his teen years, with the body of a man, the family became unable to care for him without 24-hour help.
He gave a sermon on what we are willing to give up to do the right and hard thing. He said that if a great scientist were to come up with a cure for his son but, in order to do it, he would have to ignore his wife and children in order to spend his life in the lab then the end cure would not be worth the sacrifice. Wade Burleson said it this way. We should not let our theology trump our love.
In other words, the end did not justify the means. I have thought about this for years and have begun to see it more clearly as TWW considers all of the pain and sorrow in the body of Christ that is sometimes perpetrated by church leaders.
9Marks does a puff piece on Andy Davis based on The Screwtape Letters
If you have not read The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, I strongly urge you to do so. It is a masterpiece by Lewis, and it makes me sad that a 9Marks author would use this classic to push a new book written by Andy Davis and Mark Dever. In April, 9Marks posted Dear Wormwood…
Nevertheless, my dear soldier, I’m writing to you today because we’re concerned to see a steadily growing trend in America. It’s called “revitalization.” This dreadful new movement seeks to send men and their wretched families and friends into dying churches with the purpose of bringing them back to life. Much to our frustration, it seems to be working well! There are several strong church and para-church organizations backing this movement with their resources, encouraging it with their platforms, training for it in their seminaries and internships, and writing books about it to spread awareness and enhance education.
One book in particular has been particularly troublesome for us at the central office, as it seems to be the most in-tune with the spiritual reality of the war we wage. A particularly devious and rotten man named Andy Davis is the author (perhaps you’ll recall this nefarious dog from our overseas training in Japan), and the propaganda is called Revitalize. Does our enemy lack so much creativity as to title a book with such simplicity?
Read this next part carefully. Note the typical gossip and slander baloney. And focus on the idea that they are only fighting over tertiary matters of doctrine.
I pray, Wormwood, that you would double down on your labors of deception. Do whatever you must to increase gossip and slander. Do whatever you can to get these idiots fighting over committees and tertiary matters of doctrine.
Revitalize is focusing on how to move into churches that have many assets — trusts, buildings, land, etc. — but are *dying.* This is a great way for the young Calvinistas to take over a church, instead of trying to build one from scratch which involves raising lots and lots of money.
Did you notice the reference to tertiary doctrine? This made me smile. This movement is Calvinista in origin and the churches, by hook or by crook, will become Calvinist churches. For them, it is a primary doctrine, and some will hurt people to make it so.
Andy Davis puff pieces continue at SBTS and The Gospel Coalition.
Southern Seminary Magazine first published The Reformation of FBC Durham: North Carolina pastor Andy Davis revitalized his church through verse-by-verse expository preaching in their Spring 2017 issue. Then, on June 1, 2017, The Gospel Coalition reprinted this under the title U-Turn in North Carolina: A Story of Church Reform The Revitalization of First Baptist Church Durham.
Here is how they represented what happened to Davis.
When Davis finished his PhD in church history in 1998, he accepted the call as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church Durham, North Carolina. Scripture memory and meditation sustained him as he withstood a powerful faction of deacons and committee chairs. In 2001, his opponents tried to drive him away after he led the church to change the bylaws to reflect biblical roles of gender and authority.
Now nearly 20 years later, the pastor and TGC Council member leads his thriving congregation the same way he did back when the cabal tried to oust him: verse-by-verse, expository preaching.
…While he designs his messages to feed his flock, he’s also equipped them to ward off threats to biblical authority.
…When Davis lost an early battle in 2001 to change the church bylaws to clarify male-exclusive leadership, he showed up the next Sunday and continued preaching through Romans. This approach hasn’t changed, even when a growth in new membership allowed for the bylaw change to pass decisively a year later.
Watch how he manipulates the message here.
He claims that Christianity is going to be more controversial, and Satan is fighting to marginalize it. In other words, if one does not support his gospel™ mandates of male-exclusive leadership, one is going the way of the evil one.
If you faithfully preach the Word and don’t shrink back from controversial, pointed topics, you’re going to have a hard time,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to get worse in our culture. I think Christianity is going to become more and more controversial, and Satan is going to try to marginalize
Andy Davis’ version of events as written in 2011.
In 2011, David wrote a piece published at 9Marks called The Reform of First Baptist Durham. The Deebs live about 30 minutes from this church. I know a few people who currently attend the church, and all of them are Calvinists. However, I have an insider’s track to the *rest of the story.* For a number of years, I have been quite friendly with an older couple who were members and leaders of this church when Andy Davis arrived.
I take personal umbrage of them being portrayed as wicked, unregenerate, a part of a cabal, etc. This couple has devoted their lives to Christian causes such as pregnancy support, faith-based medicine, as well as serving their churches as leaders. This couple, along with many others, were on the receiving end of Davis’ authority™ based, unloving leadership.
I wrote the following 2 posts back in 2011. It is a lot to take in. However, it gives you another point of view. After we posted these, we received a couple of emails from seminary students who let us know that Davis’ version of events is being taught in Calvinist seminaries. One of the students thanked us and said “I had a feeling there was more to this story.”
The bottom line for me is quite simple. While everyone is jumping up and down, praising Davis, there are some people who were given the left boot of fellowship. It appears the ends justify the means within this group.
As the SBC 2017 convention gets underway next week, we hope they know exactly what is going on in the area of “revitalization”. Love appears to have nothing to do with it. Maybe this group of folks is trying out how the ends justify the means. Machiavelli. What a guy!
(P.S. – Do not mess with CS Lewis)
Sovereign timing and total depravity
I am sometimes amazed when I realize that God has placed me in circumstances that eventually result in a blog post. Today is no exception. I want to make one thing perfectly clear to the Calvinistas who will read this post with gritted teeth. If you claim to believe in a sovereign God, then you will need to ask why I, who writes a blog, was given this unique perspective by those who were on the “receiving end” of Davis’ judgments. Also, since some of you subscribe to the total depravity of man, you will need to deal with the fact that even a much-admired pastor can be capable of misrepresenting a situation.
Several years ago, my husband and I made the acquaintance of a delightful couple. They are deeply committed Christians, involved in multiple ministries, both within the church and through para-church organizations. I have been privileged to hear one of them teach from the Bible on numerous occasions and contend that both are conservative Biblical expositors. Little did I know, until recently, their involvement in a major brouhaha at a local church.
Andy Davis’ inexplicable and ill-advised decision to resurrect old wounds
Approximately a decade ago, a huge conflict occurred at First Baptist Church, Durham. The pastor, Andy Davis, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had been the head pastor for three years. Although there was unresolved pain, the passage of time had allowed most parties to move on.
Unfortunately, Andy Davis decided to resurrect old wounds by writing a self-congratulatory article titled “The Reform of First Baptist Church of Durham” for the 9 Marks (Mark Dever) blog here. A shortened version was subsequently published on J.D. Greear’s blog. We have reason to believe that this article will continue to be reprinted far and wide within certain Calvinista circles. Davis, of course, was “the Reformer”.
Why TWW decided to respond:
We believe Davis’ treatise appears to be shameless self-promotion, while, at the same time, demonstrating a profound insensitivity to the lingering pain of the parties involved. Frankly, we believe this missive was unnecessary and borders on being, in our perception, downright mean. Because we know some of the parties involved in this incident, we have decided to add some information to the discussion.
We believe that Davis’ recounting of the actions and responses of some of the people may have been inadequate and even misrepresentative of their true feelings and motivations. Although we have some insider information, we developed most of our thoughts based on Davis’ article alone.
Davis’ call for the church to repent:
About three years after his arrival, during a church service, Davis took the unusual step of telling the people in the church that they must repent. He claims that he included himself in the process but, as you will see, later on, he really doesn’t count himself amongst the guilty because he was following the Bible and the rest of these poor schlocks were not.
Here is what he says:
“So I began worship by calling on all the people of FBC to repent—including myself. In the spirit of Daniel 9, I felt that all of us must take responsibility for violating God’s clear guidance.”
Now, what pray tell, is found in Daniel 9? Here are some selected verses from the NIV:
- “We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.”(5)
- “We have not listened to your servants the prophets.”(6)
- “We and our kings, our princes, and our ancestors are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you.”(8)
- “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us because we have sinned against you.”(11)
- “Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.” (13)
There are many more verses but they carry on in the same vein.
So, it sounds like the church is guilty of a most horrendous sin. So, what is that sin?
The church membership disobeyed Davis and elected a woman deacon!
They not only elected a woman but they did so over Davis’ vehement objections. Here is what Davis says.
“I began corporate worship at First Baptist Church (FBC) Durham by calling on the members of the church to repent. The church had just elected a woman deacon for the first time in its history, and deacons in our church’s polity were treated as spiritual leaders with shepherding responsibility for the flock. I had been teaching the congregation that Scripture reserves spiritual leadership to men, and I had made private efforts to forestall this result. Still, the church voted in a woman as an authoritative spiritual leader.”
Make sure you get Davis’s point. The people disobeyed him even though he believed that had been teaching them from the Bible.
Davis says the people were angry at him because they did not believe in repentance after conversion!
“My call was an object of horror to many of the members of the church. They were outraged. In their minds, repentance was something you do at the beginning of the Christian life and then never need to do again. For them, it was as if I were saying, “Because you voted for a woman as a deacon, you are not Christians.”
I believe that Davis demonstrates that he does not have the gift of a prophetic mind reader. I can attest to the fact that the two people I know, who were deeply involved in this incident, understand that regular repentance is a part of the Christian life. This is insulting to them, and most likely many others in this church who both understand and follow that concept.
As for the horror during the service part, I can safely say that, had I been a part of that church service in which I was being told, via Daniel 9, that I was wicked, rebellious, and guilty of turning from God’s commandments because I voted for a woman deacon, I would have caused quite a scene. Davis would have seen outrage that wasn’t only in my mind!
How Davis could take a secondary issue, a woman deacon, and turn it into a sinful, wicked rebellion against God, is beyond me. It is pronouncements, such as this, that cause people to run from God. Remember the person I quoted at the beginning of this post? She said, “It is so hard for me to get strict, punishing God out of my head & heart. I pray to God and struggle with this and assurance of salvation. Was I repentive enough, did I really mean it, if not did I really want to repent, etc. I am tired, worn-out.” Could Davis have produced our next email by his actions?
There is something even more concerning about such an action. This is a secondary issue and yet the people were called to repent for voting on their belief that a woman can be a deacon. Just imagine all the other secondary issues out there like Young Earth creationism. Davis’ good friend, Al Mohler, says this is the issue he is going to push this year. Could that mean more calls to repentance? Will your glam blog queen now be listed as one of the “wicked” in need of “repentance?” Will you?
There is far more to this story. Davis has some pretty negative things to say about some of the people who called him to FBC Durham and that does not speak well for him. He discusses his attempts to change bylaws, etc, all the while proclaiming himself as a truly Biblical leader. We will take this up tomorrow.
TWW continues in the analysis of Davis’ “reformation.” I will state the bottom line upfront. Unless you agree with his view of gender and authority and totally support his self-proclaimed “Biblical” view, you are most likely wicked and unregenerate. And I think this sort of thinking sounds like overreaching arrogance. Perhaps he did not mean for his article to be interpreted thusly. Unfortunately, he gave little reason for me to see it any other way.
However, the real agenda is stated by him at the end of this post. And frankly, it is deeply disturbing. Do not miss it because it spells out how much trouble the post-evangelical church is about to experience.
Please refer to yesterday’s post for some background. Here is the link to Davis’ article which was posted on the 9 Marks blog.
Did Davis announce his Calvinista leanings and view on gender prior to his call to FBC?
Here is what he says.
“As I prepared to assume the role of senior pastor at FBC, I knew there was a significant flaw in the polity of the church that I would have to address: the issue of gender and authority.
We have reason to believe that Davis may not have revealed his intentions prior to his arrival at FBC, Durham. In fact, his narrative clearly indicates a church that was blind-sided by his absolute, singular emphasis on gender and authority. There has been some discussion on our blog, and others, that some pastors, who receive a call to a church, do not fully explain their view on Scripture. Then they pull a bait and switch and whine when the people do not march lockstep. We believe that deliberate concealment of intentions to change church polity is dishonest and we certainly hope that this is not true of this situation.
Davis believes that women in leadership is unbiblical and outright states that Gordon- Conwell seminary is guilty of unbiblical teaching.
“Now I personally believe that 1 Timothy 3:11 allows for women to be deacons, but I also believe that deacons are in no way to “teach or have authority over a man,” as 1 Timothy 2:12 puts it.”
“My master of divinity degree from the egalitarian Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary had taught me the best arguments for “evangelical feminism,” and I had come to reject them as unbiblical.”
Here is a little-known fact about your glam blog queen. A wonderful couple, who were attending Gordon Conwell, reached out in friendship to this then shy, brand new Christian and helped me to find some fellowship in the Boston area. I was allowed to sit in on some classes at this seminary and even sat in on the great Elizabeth Elliot’s class. Now, as many of our readers will know, she is hardly a liberal. In fact, Harold Ockenga, and Haddon Robinson, have all been involved at the seminary.
Davis shows his disdain for such spiritual giants by his arrogant pronouncement of the teaching at Gordon-Conwell.. “Andy Davis, you are no Harold Ockenga or Elizabeth Elliot and you should be ashamed.”
Frankly, he could have simply stated that disagreed with their interpretation. But such kindness is not in keeping with “my way or the highway” beliefs.
Davis demonstrates his naivety by assuming that the majority would agree with his plan to change those demon bylaws since they were “clearly” unbiblical.
The bylaws allowed for female deacons and it is apparent that he knew it when he accepted the offer.
“As I went to Durham to assume the role of senior pastor, I naïvely assumed that the church simply needed to change its by-laws back to the way they were in 1988, and all would be well. In fact, I was entering a spiritual war zone.”
He tells a woman not to run for deacon and is startled by her response.
“In the conversation, I asked her to refrain from pursuing the office until I had a chance to teach first the deacons and then the church about my convictions on gender and authority. She bristled. And later she would say that I threatened to preach a sermon about her if she didn’t withdraw.”
Interestingly, he did end up preaching one heckuva “repent you wicked people” sermon. So he did preach against her indirectly. She got it; I get it and I bet others did as well.
He claimed that he wanted people to delight in the clear teaching of Scripture.
“My next step was to write a paper entitled “Gender and Authority in the Church” and to present it at a special Saturday session to the whole deacon board. It was one of the worst meetings I’ve ever attended.
“It became clear how divided our church was. Some of the deacons truly delighted in the clear teaching of Scripture. Others were aghast and enraged.”
Of course, his clear teaching was that women should not be deacons. So, if I disagree with his clear teaching, does that mean I don’t “delight” in Scripture?
Apparently he “knows” that his is the only clear teaching and everyone else must be wrong. You will see what he says, later on, that will confirm this.
Davis mind reads the response of some deacons.
“I remember the horrible looks on the face of the most powerful leader of the deacons. At one point, I was teaching them that God has prescribed in Scripture how the church should conduct its life together, and along the way, I referred to the moment when God struck Uzzah dead for his irreverent act of touching the ark. At that moment, this deacon recoiled in his chair, appalled. He gestured down at the open Bible on the table before him and said, “I could never believe in a God like that!”
Does he really know what the deacon meant? Could he have been appalled that Davis was equating the use of that passage and the conflicts at FBC? It sure sounds like it to me.
Does the Lord still strike people dead for touching the current day ark? Is Davis subtly implying that disobeying his teaching was similar to touching the ark which God clearly forbade? Even if Davis did not mean this, his ham-handed treatment of this teaching could have led those present to misunderstand his intent.
Davis wanted to change the church polity to match his “clear” view of Scripture.
“At other times of the week, such as Sunday and Wednesday evenings, I taught on gender and authority. I was always clear that the issue was not about “women deacons,” but about ensuring that our polity matched Scripture, which meant deacons should not be viewed as spiritual leaders in the church.”
Church members, who disagreed with Davis, are classified as nominal, unregenerate church members.
“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.”
Election of a woman leads to Davis’s call to repent.
“On Sunday, August 19, 2001, cards with the results from the deacon election were distributed to the congregation. As I already mentioned, I stood up and called the church to repent.” (Read yesterday’s blog post).
Couple leaves church and calls Davis a liar.
“Soon after this first woman’s election, she felt pressure from godly friends in the church and decided to resign. She and her husband then left the church, but not quietly or in love. At a climactic church conference, the husband, who had up to that point been my friend, essentially called me a liar in front of the whole church. He and his wife left the room and the church from that moment. “
Could it be that this couple was telling the truth? Could it be that they believed that Davis hid his true intent from the pastoral search committee in order to assume the pastorate? Could it be that they were implying that Davis pulled a classic bait and switch?
That couple may have been onto something.
“From the first time I read FBC’s constitution and by-laws, I knew that the church needed to change its by-laws on deacons. So I learned how to change a by-law at FBC, followed the procedure, and wrote a new by-law saying that only men could be nominated, elected, and serve as deacons.”
Did Davis inform FBC of his objection prior to accepting his position? Surely such a doctrinally minded individual read the bylaws prior to his agreement to be pastor.
He discusses his intense agony and adds some information that might lead some to logically believe he knew about the bylaws and planned to change them prior to arriving at FBC.
He accuses the people in FBC of being “hate-filled”. Could it be that they were very upset with the machinations of Davis and not full of hate?
“It was not a particularly difficult passage to preach on, but I was preaching to so many hate-filled faces that I found myself clutching the sides of the pulpit to keep upright.”
“I barely made it through the sermon, then went home to recuperate for the evening service. I lay down in a hammock out in the backyard and prayed. I had just found out that week that one of the opposing church members was organizing a lawsuit against me. The reason? “Breach of contract,” I had heard. The logic was that, in changing the church’s by-laws which I had known about before coming to the church, I had misrepresented myself to the church.”
Davis continues to call those, who opposed the bylaws change, wicked!
He is given Psalm 37 to read which he finds helpful. He is right and his opposition is wicked!
“Wicked people make plots and schemes against the righteous, but they will fail. In the end, the righteous will inherit the earth, and the wicked will be no more. So do not fret or be anxious; do not worry or be alarmed. Simply stand firm and watch the deliverance that God will bring about.”
He then makes what appears to be a judgment on the salvation of those who disagree with him.
He calls those who disagreed with him “unregenerate.”
I took a branch (with leaves on it) with me to work and still have it. The leaves are completely dead now because I cut that branch almost ten years ago. It represented the end of the era of unregenerate church members dominating the life of FBC.
Unregenerate means not reborn spiritually and not repentant
Andy Davis, you are wrong to say such a horrible thing. I know the couple who left your church. They may disagree with you but they love and follow the Lord. Scripture is very clear that you should not judge the salvation of others. In fact, this may be the worst thing you could have done and you need to repent.
When the church voted to keep women from becoming deacons, he calls it “following biblical authority.”
Look what he calls the final vote when he gets his way. “It was something like 170-120 in favor of following biblical authority.” So all of the 120 nays were made by those who disagree with “biblical” authority? I don’t buy it.
He continues to demean, years later, decent people who disagreed with him.
“Simply put: Do you believe the faithful ministry of the Word of God is sufficient to reform a drifting church, to revive a dying church, to convict a sinning church?”
He advises people to avoid gossip but does he?
“We need to be especially careful to avoid gossip and slander against people who have wronged us or are opposing us.”
So calling people wicked, unregenerate, hate-filled sinners is loving and kind? His very article is full of gossip and innuendoes and the people involved have no way to respond. Maybe they should start a blog?
Here is the crux of the matter and the church better be prepared!
Davis believes that there are no non-essentials!
“I once heard a story about a well-known preacher of the Word whose expository ministry has helped shaped my own. To this day, this man is characterized by boldness and uncompromising clarity in his preaching, but he also tends to admit of no gray areas. Everything is equally true, certain, clear, essential.”
The Calvinistas are on the move and you better believe exactly as they do or you may be unregenerate and a sinner. Can you imagine if they had the governmental power of Calvin? Good night-grab the babies and head for the hills!
The Donner Party
Eagle, one of our frequent commenters, made an astute observation today. He said that the post-evangelical church is beginning to behave like the Donner Party.
From Wikipedia here we learn about the Donner Party:
“The Donner Party (sometimes called the Donner-Reed Party) was a group of American pioneers who set out for California in a wagon train. Delayed by a series of mishaps, they spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness.”
We are in real trouble. If everything is essential, just wait until the boys start imposing all sorts of essentials. And guess what? They get to identify the essentials! Davis is friendly with Al Mohler. Mohler believes that Young Earth creationism must be stressed and considers it his priority for the coming year. Off with my head, right?
Folks, we will be eating our own, and Davis is quite clear that it is justified.
What Davis wants to do
“The reformation of First Baptist Church is one of the greatest displays of God’s glory that I have ever seen in my life. My prayer is that God will use this narrative to effect similar reformation in other churches around the world for his glory.”
Are you scared yet?