“Many of us [in the church] are like porcupines trying to huddle together on a bitterly cold night to keep each other warm, but we continually poke and hurt each other the closer we get.” Howard Hendricks
Today I am going to touch on politics but not in the way you might imagine. I still do not want comments about who to vote for or which politician to hate. I want to delve into why there has been such an uptick in the connection between politics and faith. I have a few ideas but we need to take a look way back in history. My family members sent me the following post from The Atlantic: THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH IS BREAKING APART: Christians must reclaim Jesus from his church by Peter Wehner. I find much to agree with within the article but my love of church history combined with my 12 years of blogging on abuse in the church give me a unique perspective.
MacLean Bible Church, under David Platt, is used to claim that the mess is all about politics. That is only one small part of the picture.
I had to smile that the author used the mess that is going on at McLean Bible Church with David Platt as the head. The author appears to lay all of the blame on the huge fight over elders, etc on the political right.
Platt, who is theologically conservative, had been accused in the months before the vote by a small but zealous group within his church of “wokeness” and being “left of center,” of pushing a “social justice” agenda and promoting critical race theory, and of attempting to “purge conservative members.” A Facebook page and a right-wing website have targeted Platt and his leadership.
Although there is some of that going on, it runs far deeper than that simplistic explanation. I wrote about the whole mess in Was McLean Bible Church *Predestined* to Come Under the Umbrella of David Platt and the Southern Baptist Convention I believe it has as much to do with Platt’s secrecy involving the incursion of the SBC into the church without carefully explaining this to the members.
The Washington Post wrote David Platt’s dreams for McLean Bible Church sour as members file lawsuit over elder vote. These were the elders that Platt wanted. Then, there were reports of some shenanigans when those elders lost the first round of voting and then won on the second round.
Platt has angered other members for maintaining the church’s reputed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The church’s constitution describes it as an independent church that “shall not, and cannot, be affiliated with any denomination.” But in 2016, under Solomon, the church began to give money to SBC church planting programs and it has donated about $100,000 a year as a cooperating church. When Platt began preaching at McLean, the church was identified as an SBC church in press accounts.
Current McLean leaders have denied that the church is a member of the SBC and posted a letter from the SBC’s Executive Committee to support that claim. The letter describes McLean as a partner with the SBC but not “affiliated denominationally with the SBC.”
But a spokesman for the SBC, while saying “McLean Bible Church, like all Southern Baptist churches, is an independent and autonomous local church,” confirmed that McLean is considered an SBC church.
Yesterday, in the midst of this mess, I checked the SBC church directory and MBC was still a member but the elders are worried and I bet that won’t be the case for much longer. This church has been playing the *we are not SBC* game for far too long.
There is also the problem that the church had Lon Solomon, the previous pastor, sign an NDA so he cannot speak adding to the suspicion of the congregation. So, when The Atlantic attempts to claim that all that is going on at MacLean is due to a bunch of rednecks, they fail to see a much bigger picture. I am not saying that there aren’t rednecks. I am saying that there is much more to this controversy.
Overlooking the authoritarian, Reformed leadership of David Platt also contributed to the problem.
David Platt is no Lon Solomon. Not only was he the head of the International Mission Board of the SBC, but he is also a died-in-the-wool Calvinist. I have written that the Calvinists have a playbook for taking over a congregation. I have also said that the SBC, now under the control of the Reformed crowd, has been looking for big churches with awesome infrastructure to bring into the fold. Think $$$. Again from my post:
Mclean Bible Church was ripe for the picking. Ask yourself a question. Why would the head of the SBC’s International Mission Board, a died-in-the-wool Reformed Baptist, suddenly become available to preach on Sundays while running the IMB which had enormous financial problems. At the same time, he claimed he wanted to spend time with his family. He was not going to be a real pastor at that moment but it was almost guaranteed to happen. The baloney of being onboard as the head of IMB which coordinates things with the NAMB is seen in this article.
I can picture the SBC dudebros drooling over the possibility of acquiring MacLean. I wrote this post in 2017. David Platt May Be Many Things But He Will Not Be a Pastor to the People at McLean Bible Church. Platt couldn’t keep up his commitments and within the year became their full-time pastor. I wonder if anyone at MBC had an inkling of what might be going on. Platt got money, bodies, buildings, and even the possibility of changing the theology of the church. There is nothing that a Calvinista loves more than changing the direction of a church.
Some of you may want to read this post. The Reform of First Baptist Church of Durham. There are remarkable similarities.
Platt appeared to lie about the membership in the SBC. I think there are many things he didn’t share with MacLean and I think there should be an independent investigation into this mess.
So, I make my case that the author only caught one small part of the problem at MacLean. How easy it was to make this all about politics. It was, just a little bit.
When the historical comparison doesn’t fit the world today.
From The Atlantic:
Many Christians, though, are disinclined to heed calls for civility. They feel that everything they value is under assault, and that they need to fight to protect it. “I understand that,” Dudley said. “I feel under assault sometimes too. However, I also know that the early Christians transformed the Roman empire not by demanding but by loving, not by angrily shouting about their rights in the public square but by serving even the people who persecuted them, which is why Christianity grew so quickly and took over the empire. I also know that once Christians gained political power under Constantine, that beautiful loving, sacrificing, giving, transforming Church became the angry, persecuting, killing Church. We have forgotten the cross.”
I have made this exact same argument many times myself. However, there is a flaw in applying this too broadly. I have often spoken of the burial societies that the early Christians formed. Bodies were thrown over the wall into the burning garbage dump. Christians, showing their belief that man is created in the image of God, would go to their unbelieving neighbors and offer to prepare the deceased for burial. I learned about this in the Ray Vander Laan series “That the World May Know.”
However, if the early Christians wanted to go into the public square and demand their rights, the Romans would have taken care of them in a minute. They would have been killed. Go back 2,000 years and think about the life of the average peasant. Poverty was rampant. Schooling for children was unheard of, medical care was nonexistent, and hunger was common. Entire people groups were sold into slavery. Yet slavery was one way that people could be fed. Of course, the love that was shared by the early Christians was welcomed. Their bravery when facing the Coliseum was widely known. Perpetua is one of my heroes.
The church was a place that protected their people. The history of the monastery movement is replete with instances that they hid people from persecution and attacks. They were known for medical care and they taught people how to farm using crop rotation. As time went on, other Christian groups would emerge. One of my favorites is Jan (John) Comenius who championed to the teaching of children.
But, the Revolution in the US and France earmarked a change. Finally, average people could participate in the governmental process. The average person had a voice and could join others in pushing for reforms in the government and in society. This is where we find ourselves today.
How then do we live with one another?
Make sure people understand their faith to prevent *insider abuse.*
I find myself in agreement with this.
Some of the most distinctive features of the evangelical movement may have left it particularly vulnerable to this form of politicization. Among religious believers, evangelicals are some of the most anti-institutional, Timothy J. Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Manhattan, told me. The evangelical movement flourished in this relatively anti-institutional country at a particularly anti-institutional time. Evangelical ministries and churches fit the “spirit of the age,” growing rapidly in the 1970s, and retaining more of their members even as many mainline denominations declined.
At the same time, Keller argues, that anti-institutional tendency makes evangelical communities more prone than others to “insider abuse”—corruption committed by leaders who have almost no guardrails—and “outsider-ism,” in which evangelicals simply refuse to let their church form them or their beliefs. As a result, they are unrooted—and therefore susceptible to political idolization, fanatical ideas, and conspiracy theories.
“What we’re seeing is massive discipleship failure caused by massive catechesis failure,”
One of the eye-opening experiences that I have had at my Lutheran church is helping with catechism classes. I find myself in awe as the two-year course carefully teaches the kids the important basics of the faith. I only wish my own children had such a course. I have mulled an idea. Why not get this going for adults who missed this growing up? The average person entering the church today does not have this sort of background. Not all of them will do what many of us did-catechize ourselves.
If people in churches are more committed to their politics than their church, the church may be to blame.
I think we sometimes hold onto “what worked” 40 years ago. However, it is quite apparent that today’s culture is immersed in politics. Sadly, I’ve seen some churches try to make a difference by simply “changing the politics” from left to right or right to left. Instead, we need to rethink how we are teaching the basics of the faith to the people. It is interesting that I have not seen any political polarization in my current church. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Our pastors pray for a wide variety of topics. Last week, they prayed for justice yet did not say what sort of justice. Perhaps they were leaving that for us to figure out. I asked myself, “How do I embody justice in my day today?”
Authoritarianism and keeping secrets from the church body leads to mistrust.
Sadly, this is apparent in David Platt’s new gig at MBC. He has Joe Carter as his executive pastor. Joe is deeply enmeshed in the authoritarian “we are in charge” type of Calvinism. This will continue to lead to more anger and more lawsuits. They should just confess that they blew it and start again with more openness. Stop with the stupid NDAs and other forms of securing the fort.
I truly believe that today’s church must start with where were are at. The average person has the ability to enter the political arena and make changes that the early Christians could not. This is good. Sometimes, the political machine overtakes them. That is bad. It is time for churches to innovate by accepting that politics are here to stay. Teach people the faith. Tell the truth. Ditch authoritarianism for love. Stop trying to be “in control.” Often churches are just another version of the political morass. We can make a difference.