“Susan B. Anthony. “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do,” she once said, “because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. -Barbara Brown Taylor.
This is what started the discussion.
Interviewer: “I’m not walking away from Jesus, but I’m done with the church” (context is Mark Driscoll harm)
John Piper: “IF YOU DO THAT, YOU’RE WALKING AWAY FROM JESUS!” pic.twitter.com/STfNgQhahS
— Brian Morris (@brmorris) October 14, 2023
This hit a nerve on social media, as well as it should. Has anyone taught John Piper how to nuance anything? The Gospel Coalition needed to back up their man, and Trevin Wax had the honor of writing Prone to Dechurch, Lord I Feel It. Piper needs lots of people to defend his thoughts.Wax starts by telling us what John Piper meant. I’m not sure anyone knows what Piper means when he goes off on a subject. However, Wax said:
While not ruling out the choice of a believer to walk away from a particular congregation, Piper stressed the impossibility of thinking someone could follow Christ and leave the church altogether. “To walk away from the church is to walk away from Christ,” he said.
Wax wags his finger at those who have said similar things about walking away from the church. He claims they are individualistic and that such a thing was not present a mere decade ago.
That this statement was controversial says something about our contemporary, individualistic context.
Wax has a problem, and he attempts to deal with it quickly but acknowledges the scandals in the church. Sadly, he does not mention that The Gospel Coalition backed up CJ Mahaney until they could not do it anymore. Instead of letting everyone know that they had “changed their minds,” they just buried it. Mohler is the only one who said he made a mistake. Wax appears to suggest that these scandals were “out there.”
It’s true we’ve experienced a season of rot and corruption being exposed in a number of high-profile churches, so it’s not surprising that some might conclude a personal relationship with Jesus is what matters most, to the exclusion of organizational Christianity in all its messiness.
He goes back to Hebrews to claim:
it’s a contradiction to claim to follow Jesus and yet disregard the apostolic instruction. An unchurched Christian, as John Stott pointed out, is “a grotesque anomaly. . . . The New Testament knows nothing of such a person.”
As I read through the New Testament, I saw minimal mention of pastors who abuse children, pastors who sexually abuse church members, etc. Are there any examples of a child being sexually molested in the church and the response of the apostles to that specific?
Wax does not address the long-term consequences for those who have been abused and for those who were collateral damage: they found out about the abuse and were upset. He does not address what happens when a group of Christians confront a church over such abuse and find themselves becoming target practice for the pastors, elders, and those who covered for them.
I would contend that sexual abuse has far-reaching effects. Hence, Jesus’s words to tie a millstone around the neck of the one who causes a child to stumble.
What do you think would have happened if the apostles had participated in abusing children or committing clergy abuse with members of their churches? I think the church would have stalled in its historic growth.
Wax contends that most people leave the church because they want to leave the church.
Of course, people leave the church because of many reasons. I’m sure that was the case in the early church as well. Some gradually drift away because church membership is not meaningful to them.
We choose to invest our time in something other than our local congregation. We put off the decision to join a local church when we move to a new town. We prioritizeother activities over worship with other believers.
Unfortunately, he lumps the following statement in with the previous quote.
We leave a fellowship if we experience hurt and distress there, and we choose not to look for another church where spiritual healing might be found.
Wax appears to have little understanding of the impact of abuse on the individual. Sexual abuse victims require intensive psychological help in dealing with their abuse. The abuse victims are often looked at as problematic to new churches. One only needs to look at how a Sovereign Grace heaped more abuse on Rachael Denhollander as they learned of her abuse at the hands of Larry Nasser. Does Wax think this sort of reception is hanging out the welcome sign for victims? This sort of thing happens over and over.
Wax contends that God will deal with the abusers but fails to mention the possible timetable.
Wax needs to be very careful here. These bad shepherds will be punished one day, but it might not happen here and now. Many abusive pastors are still out there, leading churches or speaking at conferences. What happens to the victims and those who love them when God delays the needed retribution?
I can hear the howls of protest already—as if insisting on church membership is just another way to minimize, justify, or excuse the abominable behavior of some who claim the name of Christ. Let’s be clear about the rot in the church. God will not be mocked. He will deal justly with bad shepherds who misuse his name to commit atrocities and prey on his precious flock. No sin against his people goes unnoticed.
Wax quickly reminds all that it’s not the scandals that drive people away from the church; it’s “wayward hearts.”
most of today’s dechurching is the result of our wayward hearts, not church leader scandals. The human heart tends toward sin, and when we walk down a disobedient path, we’re inclined to rationalize our direction and decisions.
One only needs to look at the trajectory of Catholics leaving the RCC. Its great dechurching coincides with the exposing of the sexual abuse crisis in that church. Wax carefully ignores that sexual abuse and other scandals affect more than the victim. How many Protestant Christians decided that the RCC scandal was because priests couldn’t marry? Then we learned that marriage doesn’t prevent pedophilia, as we have experienced in the evangelical world.
I believe that the sexual abuse crisis, along with domestic abuse, is considered so heinous by decent people that abuse could cause more than the victim to leave the church. One church I know lost more than 1,000 members when its sexual abuse of many young teen boys became known.
Here is the statement from that article that landed on Twitter.
Lentini claims we are living in decades and decades of dealing with abuse and other crimes and sins, and many churches covered it up. Currently, We are finding out concerning stuff about Piper’s church and MacArthur’s church. It is happening in. smaller churches as well.
The following is a video by Lentini. He goes through every aspect of Wax’s article. It is pretty long but thorough. He says that the church has neglected sexual abuse victims. Sadly, the church waited for the #MeToo movement to wake up.
- “The biggest threat to Christianity is Christians.”
- “It’s saying you love Jesus and cover up abuse.”
- It’s hypocrisy. It’s when Christians hide the fact that people sin.
Lentini goes on to discuss this at length.
Why hasn’t TGC apologized for their support of CJ Mahaney? Until they do, I think they will never get it. So, can leaving a church be a net positive for one’s faith?