Thinking Out Loud

March 25, 2013

When Your Pastor is a Jerk

Defective PastorThe title of this has probably raised some eyebrows, but relax, it’s more of a Bible study than anything, and it had a much more refined title when it appeared last week at C201. Still, a couple of times in my life I have found myself in a position of being under the leadership of a pastor who in many different degrees I did not respect, and I know some of you have as well. Believing him to be placed there in the sovereignty of God, I have made a statement like, “I don’t respect the decision he made [or direction he is taking] but I will support him [it] because I respect the office” that is to say, the position he holds. In other words, I didn’t want to undermine the general support I think a pastor should have once they occupy that position.

Some of you have been in the position of knowing a Christian leader or author or pastor intimately enough that you are aware of some severe flaws in their character, and yet their preaching or writing was solid; their teaching of God’s word was able to penetrate your heart or move people to a place of repentance.

Ideally of course, this type of situation — or character double standard — shouldn’t exist. It’s really at the heart of hypocrisy.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus addresses this issue. In Matthew 21: 1-3 we read:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

In Matthew Henry’s commentary he looks at this. The language is older English than we speak today, so read slowly and unlike at C201, where you can read the original I’ll try to paraphrase some of this:

Christ allows them their office as expositors of the law; The scribes and Pharisees (that is, the whole Sanhedrim, who sat at the helm of church government, who were all called scribes, and were some of them Pharisees), they sit in Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2), as public teachers and interpreters of the law…

First: Many a good place is filled with bad men; this is nothing new; sometimes the vilest men are promoted even to, in this verse, Moses’s seat (Ps. 12:8) When that happens the men are not so much honored by the job as the job is dishonored by the men…

Second: Good and useful positions and responsibilities are not automatically to be condemned and abolished, just because they fall sometimes into the hands of bad men, who abuse them. We must not overreact and pull down Moses’s seat, because scribes and Pharisees have are in control of it; rather than so, let both grow together until the harvest, Matt. 13:30

…As far as they sit in Moses’s seat, that is, read and preach the law that was given by Moses” (which, as yet, continued in full force, power, and virtue), “and judge according to that law, so far you must listen to them, as conveyers to you of the written word.”

The scribes and Pharisees made it their business to study the scripture, and were well acquainted with the language, history, and customs of it, and its style and phraseology. Now Christ desires the people to make use of the helps they gave them for the understanding of the scripture, and do accordingly. As long as their comments illustrate the text and don’t pervert it;  as long as they make plain, and don’t make void, the commandment of God; to that extent they must be observed and obeyed, but all the while exercising caution and a judgment of discretion. Note, We must not think the worse of good truths for their being preached by bad ministers; nor of good laws for their being executed by bad magistrates. Though it is best to have our food brought by angels, yet, if God sends it to us by ravens, if it is good and wholesome, we must take it, and thank God for it.

Our Lord Jesus promises this, to prevent the nitpicking which some would want to make in this situation; as if, by condemning the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus intended to bring the law of Moses into contempt, and to dismiss it; whereas actually he came not to destroy, but to fulfil…  Sometimes, we need to carefully fine tune the difference between the office-holder and their offices, so that the ministry isn’t blamed when the ministers are.

emphasis added

I looked at Matthew 23: 1-3 after reading a chapter in a recently released book, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things by Ken Wytsma (Zondervan). In Chapter 6, he looks at this from the point of view of our behavior and reminds us of our responsibility not to be jerks, and thereby hypocrites. 

Pursuing Justice - Ken WytsmaIt’s deceptively easy to believe a lot of good things about God but fail to live out those good things. It’s been said what we do is actually what we believe. It’s easier than we think to have the spiritual exteriors without the spiritual heart. It’s easy to mistake the packaging for authentic living, to confuse the décor of religion with genuinely loving our neighbor.

Think of James 4:17, where we are reminded of this truth: “Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Or Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold the good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Sometimes trying not to do the wrong thing is the surest way to do the wrong thing.

[This type of sin*] is subtle. We’re often one step away from becoming the Pharisee. And the minute we care more about avoiding the bad than doing the good is the moment we’re in deep trouble. Our spiritual pride blinds us to our own imperfections, causing us to become “lukewarm” from a Biblical standpoint — good only to be spit out.

True morality — true righteousness and justice and love — can never lead to external legalism because we cannot be fully righteous and just and loving. For that we need God’s grace, every moment of every day, and grace is the stake through the heart of legalism.

pp. 93-94 [* eusebeigenic sin, term coined by Eugene Peterson; a sin picked up in a place of righteousness; a type of sin only available to those within the church]

So it may be at times in our lives we are called to follow less-than-perfect leaders; times our food will be brought by ravens and not by angels. Nonetheless, we are to follow genuine teaching from God’s word, and also to look in the mirror to make sure that our leadership or place of influence in someone else’s life is free of anything that would be hypocritical.

January 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

II Cor 10_13--15  Online Translation

And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.

  • Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
  • Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do? 
  • And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
  • David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
  • Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
  • “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
  • Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
  • This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
  • “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
  • So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
  • Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
  • More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
  • Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project.  Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
  • Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types,  here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
  • Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
  • Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
  • Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.

Christian books I hope you never see

July 11, 2011

Perry Noble Lays Down The Law

NewSpring Church pastor Perry Noble has declared that he’s had enough of people arriving to church late, criticizing the music, etc.  They also have a rule that if you have to leave the auditorium during the message you cannot re-enter.  And kids under 12 are not allowed in the service at all.  A little over-the-top authoritarian?  Here’s what FBC Jax Watchdog had to say:

It ain’t easy being a member these days at NewSpring Church pastored by Perry Noble – the rules, the regulations, the sheep beatings, the curses.

According to Perry Noble, you “officially suck as a human being” if you express to Perry that you are purposely late to church because you like his preaching but don’t care for the music style.

NewSpring members need to be careful that their church doesn’t begin to fall into the category of a cult. Cults often begin by having a very demanding, charismatic leader, they will require conformity with rigid extra-biblical rules, they will devalue outsiders and non-conformists, and they will suppress dissent.

You see all four of these beginning to emerge at NewSpring. Not saying they are a cult, but when the charismatic leader starts telling people that :

  • - they can’t come back into the auditorium after the sermon starts even if they leave to tend to a child or go to the bathroom;
  • - that you suck as a human being if you disagree with the pastor over music styles;
  • - you are not allowed to designate how your donations are spent;
  • - you must give 10% of your income to the church un-designated or God will curse you;
  • - parents cannot bring children younger than 12 years of age into the church services;
  • - you must show up to church on time or you can’t get into the church service;

…then you better begin to get concerned.

So I decided to check out the sermon video for myself.  Perry makes some good points.  People have become apathetic about arriving to church on time, while they would never think to be late for work, or a sports match.  And some people seem to have no problem about the people they are distracting when they sit near the front, need to leave, and then return.  As for the issue of kids, I agree with Perry that his sermons tend toward PG-13 content.

But some of it was very disturbing to listen to.  Is something else going on here?  Where is grace in all this?  Why give up an entire Sunday sermon to an apologetic for the church’s rules and regulations?  Let’s return to the FBC Jax Watchdog blog:

Lest you think that I’m overstating things by bringing up the word “cult” – don’t forget what happened to a critic of Perry Noble’s at the hands of staff members a few years back that is the subject of an on-going lawsuit. You see from the “you suck as a human being” quote how those who even mildly express dissent are devalued by the pastor. I would say it is this kind of rhetoric from the pastor towards dissenters that breeds the actions taken by a staff member against the Noble critic back in 2008 and 2009.

Perry Noble even tells the parents that if they don’t conform to the “authority” of the church leaders, they will breed rebelliousness in the hearts of their children . No, actually subjecting one’s self to non-biblical requirements for the pleasure of the pastor might teach your kids that they must endure spiritual abuse at the hands of an over-bearing preacher.

This is classic sheep beating. A pastor is to be the picture of humility and servant-hood for the people he shepherds, but instead Perry Noble is a stand-up comedian who makes jokes about troublesome church members, denigrates Christians who disagree with him, and lays down extra-biblical rules that are burdensome on people.Unfortunately in Perry Noble and other mega pastor superstars these days, we have professional religious men who have turned Christianity from its essence: the release of sinful men and women from the burden of having to try to please God with their works and their alms through simple faith in Christ – into a strict religious system that demands conformity to religious practices, tells people how they must think and what rules they must obey to be pleasing to God and their priest, and uses tactics of guilt and shame in the process. And, oh by the way, they get filthy rich while doing it.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus were here, he would warn the people of NewSpring about the arrogant Perry Noble and his professional religious men and describe them as he did the Pharisees:

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Mat 23:4)

March 12, 2011

The Lie That Women Shouldn’t Teach Men

Several years ago I had a conversation with someone who told me about the monthly editorials by J. Lee Grady in Charisma Magazine.  I immediately became a fan.  In an environment often characterized by excesses, Grady is a balanced Pentecostal.  As such, he has my highest respect.

I should say now that this isn’t a book review, but rather a chapter review from his latest, 10 Lies Men Believe: The Truth About Women, Power, Sex and God, and Why It Matters; the final chapter, which is titled “#10 – A Man Should Never Receive Spiritual Ministry from a Woman.”

Grady begins with the story of the famed Southern Baptist event where guest speaker Anne Graham Lotz was met with the commotion of many men turning their chairs in protest so that their backs were to her as she spoke.  Class act, huh?   He then goes on to present a rather convincing case that this viewpoint, that a woman should never teach the Bible where men are present, not only has no support in scripture, but that the Bible shows the very opposite to be true.

“While they praise mothers in the natural, they leave no room for spiritual mothers.” (p. 171)

Grady is convinced — and convincing — that the admonition against women in the New Testament is an isolated case.

“While Paul once clamped down on a group of women in Ephesus and forbid them to teach; if we look at the women who served with Paul in gospel ministry, it is obvious that he empowered men and women and invited them to be part of his team.” (p. 172)

Then he provides a list of some standout examples:

  • Priscilla (Acts – note she is always mentioned before her husband)
  • Phoebe (deaconess of Romans 16:2; word is prostatus, which means presiding officer)
  • Nympha (Col. 4:15; no other leader mentioned)
  • Junia (Romans 16:9; not Junias, the male form, as some translations tried to change it to fit their theology)
  • Euodia and Syntyche (who Paul describes as ‘fellow workmen’ in Phil 2:3)

He then refers to Old Testament examples such as Sarah, Deborah, Hannah and Huldah; and then jumping to modern day examples notes that both Bill Bright and Billy Graham cite Henrietta Mears among their greatest spiritual influences.

At the end of the chapter, he concludes that I Tim 2:12, the verse that says,

NIV I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

  • conflicts with the Old Testament
  • conflicts with Paul’s own practices
  • conflicts with his writing in other places which encourages women to participate

# # #

Because some of you are no doubt curious, here is the list of the ten lies covered throughout the book:

  1. God made men superior to women
  2. A man cannot be close to his son
  3. A real man is defined by material success
  4. A man is the ultimate boss of his family
  5. Sex is primarily for the man’s enjoyment
  6. It’s OK for a man to hit or abuse a woman
  7. Real men don’t need close male friends
  8. A man should never admit his weaknesses
  9. Real men don’t cry
  10. A man should never receive spiritual ministry from a woman

10 Lies Men Believe is available in paperback from Charisma House, at 14.99 U.S. and went on sale last month.  To learn more about J. Lee Grady’s Mordecai Project, a ministry to empower women around the world, click on the book image above.

January 7, 2009

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:44 pm

brian-stillerI remember doing a magazine interview years ago with Brian Stiller.  He had just left his position as national director for Youth For Christ Canada, and was executive director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.   He would later go on to become president of Tyndale College.  (I’ve since told Brian that he has really lived three lifetimes.)

On that day, Brian told me about the great number of leaders who stepped up after World War II.   He told me about the various ministry organizations that were founded in those years including Trans World Radio, World Vision, etc.   He said the problem today is that the current “leaders” are simply doing “maintenance” of those organizations.   There is not that same maverick spirit.   And that interview was over twenty years ago now.  I wonder what Brian thinks of many of our current Christian leaders.

After interviewing Brian Stiller, I wrote a piece on leadership.   I began by noting how in summertime, children will often play “school.”  The job of schoolteacher is in many ways self-perpetuating; everyone has had exposure to the role.   Then I asked if it’s possible that some of us are just playing “church.”

jleegrady_newIn today’s link, J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma laments three specific traits that he sees lacking in today’s generation of Christian leaders.  Lee breaks away from obvious leadership qualities and looks at deeper, underlying spiritual qualities.   I see Lee as the ‘conscience’ of the Charismatic and Pentecostal sectors of the Christian world.  These are words worth considering.   Continue reading here…

Photos:  top – Brian Stiller, bottom J. Lee Grady


The Silver is the New Black Theme Blog at WordPress.com.