I believe there is a great deal of truth in this article. It was a good reminder that if we are not careful, all we may end up doing with our children is turning them away from Christ instead of pointing them to Christ. I recommend all true believing parents to read the blogpost found here by Jennifer Phillips.
As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.
After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.
Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.
Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.
The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.
So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.
The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!
Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.
I would appreciate prayer over a serious matter. As many of our readers know, my wife and I were privileged to adopt two little ones into our home about 7 years ago. Since then, I have long lamented that there is little in the way of Biblical resources for how to handle many situations that arise due to adopting a child or two or more into the family. I was encouraged by a friend to begin finding a forum that could be used to compile resources that would help Christian families.
We have begun with a Facebook group and one day hope to expand it into a regular blog and more as the Lord directs. Prayers are appreciated for this new endeavor. There will be opposition to some of the solutions we will strive to present, but our foremost goal is to glorify God in all things. There are also blessings as this is obviously something that seems to be needed and addressed. In less than 2 days, we already have over 60 people who have asked to join the group.
The group is being built as a means of support for Biblical families who have been blessed by God to be able to adopt a child or children or who are looking to do so. It is also for those families and friends who are actively supporting those who are or who have adopted.
Finally, while there are unique challenges to adopting children, a primary purpose of this group is to provide Biblical answers to those challenges in many different areas including special needs, discipline, and education.
Thank you for your prayers.
Have you ever seen this scenario take place?
A good friend calls you to tell you that they are struggling with their current church and wants your advice on how to work things out. Your heart sinks as you realize that what he or she is wanting is not what they are asking for. The first or second time the phone call took place, you may have encouraged them to speak with the pastors or elders to try to work out any differences or resolve any issues. Now, the real reason they are calling you is not to seek your help and guidance in seeing relationships restored. What they really want is for you to say that it is acceptable for them to don their Peter Rabbit suit and hop to the next church that might or might not make them happy.
I am reminded of the old joke about the ship that stops at what they thought was a deserted island only to discover that an old man lives there as a castaway. Taking a tour, the man proudly shows off his little hut where he lives and takes the captain into another little building that has a steeple made of coconut palm leaves. He informs the captain that this is his church where he worships God. Thanking them for coming, the island castaway walks with them back down to their ship. However, the captain is intrigued about a third building that the man had said nothing about, so he asked him what it was. The old man replied, “That’s the church I used to go to!”
Sadly, hopping from church to church often becomes the normal pattern for many Christians. Instead of considering what may be wrong in their own life, the fault is always placed at the feet of the church that they used to attend. The sad reality is that even if they were to attend by themselves, like the old man on the deserted island, they would eventually find a reason to leave.
I have long contended that the reason people go to a church is more times than not the very reason why they will leave. As an example, if you go to a church because they have a great music program, when that ministry fails or begins to struggle, you will look for another church. The same is true if you go because of the programs or all the ministries designed to keep your children happy and entertained. If the really hip, cool, relevant youth leader leaves and the youth group dries up, you will soon be on the search for a new place to worship.
For the record, I am not discounting leaving a church because the church refuses to address sin, or because of a change in teaching to a doctrinal position that is clearly not in line with Scripture. I am speaking about the plague that has infiltrated churches to the point where members are switching from one church to another faster than they switch fitness clubs or switch from the latest diet to the next.
Now as honesty is the best policy, I am afraid that in the beginning of our marriage, I was there. We hopped so many times that I had a custom-made Peter Rabbit suit that I would wear before I even attended the first service. While I was ensuring that my family was with me, I was certainly not being a spiritual leader.
The normal routine was to schedule an appointment with the pastor. In that meeting, I would grill him on the usual “important” issues like the KJV Bible, or if they used CCM in their services, whether they had adequate programs to babysit my children when my wife and I wanted a break, etc., etc., etc. Yes, I remember playing the spiritual card of “We just want a place where we can serve and where our family can be fed!” That would normally score points with the pastor and his wife.
However, it may have been a week later, month later, or even a year later, we would become discontented with something that was being done and we would “miss” a Sunday to see if somebody came to visit or to call us. Eventually, my standard phrase became, “Well, I think we should be looking for a new church because we are not getting fed at this church! What do YOU think, Sweetheart?” That was always a good indicator for me as to whether she was unhappy with the church as much as I was or whether I was just looking for an excuse to leave so we would not have to become too committed.
I can remember a conversation with my father one day while we were in the midst of yet another church hop. His comment was, “Son, I’m sure that every church around your area can’t be bad! What is it you are looking for?”
That was a good question and the standard answer was usually, “mumble-mumble-mumble-just don’t feel like I am getting fed-mumble-mumble-mumble.”
Looking back, I realize that not all churches and pastors we visited or were part of it for awhile were preaching false doctrine or involved in covering over issues of immorality. Some of the churches were struggling works or small and it was just easy to come up with excuses about how we “need more teaching for ummmm…yeah, more teaching for the kids.” That was the answer! Some of the churches were large though and the excuses then would be, “well, we feel like we are just a number and our needs are being overlooked!”
But the truth is that until I was willing to find a place that was first and foremost doctrinally sound, the rest of what we were looking for was actually irrelevant. Further, when we found a place where doctrine was the focus along with expositional ministry of the Word, I should have been thankful that somebody cared enough to feed my soul and my family as we worshiped together. However, this was rarely the case because doctrine was not as important to me as I thought it was or as I pretended it to be. You see, if doctrine was really important, THAT would have been the reason why I remained instead of looking for another excuse to run to the next place.
So instead of focusing on learning and how I could be a blessing to others, I simply became Peter Rabbit again and laid the blame for the next hop on the previous pastor or church we were attending.
However, this plague that is devastating to churches is a problem that occurs for two main reasons. It is often these two reasons or a closely related one as to why I and others like me would have hopped from church to church, or even why you or somebody you know is still getting plenty of usage out of their Peter Rabbit outfit.
First, pastors and elders have made it too easy to be part of their social club. Having been there as a pastor, I can recall how great it felt to finally get some visitors to come in to service. Of course, in our desire to see them back again, we would invite them to lunch to get to know them. While there is nothing wrong with taking guests home for Sunday lunch, there were times when during the conversation I would be listening to all the things they would tell me they had done in their previous church and how eager they were to find a church where…yep, you guessed it…where as they would put it, “We just want a place where we can serve and where our family can be fed!” Hmmmmm, where had I heard that before?
My problem was that I was focusing on numbers instead of disciple-making. What I should have been asking was WHY were they leaving their previous church? Was it a doctrinal difference or was this another church hop? Then, I could have clarified WHAT kind of doctrinal difference would cause them to initiate an upheaval in their family and leave their local fellowship behind. When it got to the point where they were expressing an interest right at the beginning, I should have taken the time to contact my fellow brother and colleague to verify there were no hidden issues.
The problem would become compounded if there were issues or if the family was not leaving their previous church due to moral or doctrinal problems, and by accepting them into our assembly, we were choosing to overlook the issues hoping that our church would be the catalyst that might throw them into a better relationship with God. Sometimes that does happen, but I am afraid that accepting problems from one church is only going to add to the problems that already exist in your own ministry. By accepting the problems when a person is leaving for an unbiblical reason, we have not helped that previous church or pastor, nor have we helped the family looking to join, nor have we helped our own church.
Another sordid example from my own life came home to roost when I first pastored in England. Like the times when we would leave a church for the wrong reasons, we had some folks do the same with us where I was pastoring. It caused quite a bit of turmoil, and while they left because in their words, “We prefer to go somewhere that we can hear nice, fluffy messages,” they simply ran right down the road and were accepted into membership there. I never received one phone call, but neither did I attempt to contact the other pastor. As far as I was concerned, “He could have the problem if they want members that bad!”
Now I recognize that not all leavings fit into this category, but I have found that many do. It is hurtful and does not portray a unity within the body of Christ to those who watch us from the world.
Today, my ministry is different and I hope there are a few areas in which I have grown considerably. Numbers are not so important any more and I try to be content with those whom God has placed in front of me each week at each meeting that I have the privilege of opening His Word. When I speak with a person now, I want to know the answers to those hard questions that I should have been asked and that I should have asked in prior ministries.
And if our assembly accepts somebody into the fellowship, my prayer is that it will be for the right reasons and that they will be coming for the right reasons. I do not offer programs with the hopes that more will come and I have no desire to present people for acceptance if they look like they are hopping to avoid problems that they refuse to address either in their own lives or that might just be a minor difference or even based on a personality conflict. I do ask them if they have sat down with the leadership at their previous church and spoken about their concerns. If they have not, I do tell them that I will contact the leadership to see if we have their blessing to work with the family and if there are any concerns of which we need to be aware.
As a little side note, there is something to be said for the “letters of commendation” given from one church to another as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16. I am NOT talking about the little postcard sent when people transfer their membership by letter either. But that should probably be a post for another day.
Now on to the second problem for the plague of church-hopping and it is fairly simple. Members today have little to no commitment for the hard things of God or His Word. As long as they do not have to be committed, nor are expected to be committed, they will continue donning the Peter Rabbit suit as often as it suits their whims or desire for the latest and greatest programs racing the church circuits.
Commitment seems to be a dirty word in many circles. It requires that we give up our pet foibles and whims in an honest desire to share fellowship with brethren around what is important. What is important is what is clearly stated in Scripture, and not the latest battles raging today over minor issues like Bible versions, style of music, or a whole host of other concerns that are separating brethren that are not worth the fight and only make us look foolish to the watching world.
To conclude, my encouragement to fellow pastors and elders is to be careful who we consider allowing into our midst. Sometimes wolves start off looking like nice fluffy little pups. We are to guard our flocks in our calling as overseers and this will require taking a more proactive stance on dealing with issues like the perennial Peter Rabbits. Brothers, we are not islands to ourselves and should be working to fellowship with others who are like or simmilarly minded in doctrine and teaching. Our churches profit little if all we are doing is growing by sheep-stealing.
And, to my fellow brothers and sisters, from past personal experience, the Peter Rabbit suit is not all that it is cracked up to be. It is uncomfortable to wear for you and your family and to those you keep leaving behind. Wearing the suit will normally only serve to get you all hot and bothered. Then you will end up looking for fellowship in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons. It is time that we take the suits off and don’t bother hanging them back up in the closet to wear another day. It is time they were destroyed and that we started seeing commitment to God and His Word, and to have a heart to deal with the problems as they arise.
In all this, our one desire should be 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD!”
In light of certain ministers signing The Manhattan Declaration, there are several questions that arise. Is discipline necessary in such a case? How does discipline play a vital part in the integrity of the local church? How do we maintain our roles as pastors in a world that accepts just about everything simply because the name evangelical has been slapped on as a label? How do we instruct our people in the matter of discipline while recognizing that such discipline is for the purpose of restoration? And finally, does discipline really matter when the majority of evangelical believers will either deliberately ignore the matter of discipline or they will fall for the lies of the evil one who was the first to question, “Has God REALLY said such and such?”
It is not my intention to rehash the first three parts of this series, but I want to reiterate one point. The bottom line is this in regards to judgment – NO JUDGMENT = NO HOLINESS. NO HOLINESS = NO PURITY. NO PURITY = NO CHURCH. NO CHURCH = NO LIFE. NO LIFE = NO CHRIST!
When it comes to discipline in the local church, we must remember that the Bible teaches that each local assembly is to be autonomous. They are to govern themselves. There is no Scriptural mandates for a denominational hierarchy that is to set the standards for the church and then ensure those are obeyed otherwise discipline against the pastor and church will be enacted. Simply put, I do not believe there is any Scriptural command that permits one local church to discipline a member of another local church. Therefore, for those who believe that ministers like Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan should be disciplined, I would urge caution because this would be a matter for his own local church to enact against their pastor if they believe that he has crossed the line of doctrinal integrity.
However, I am convinced that the Bible not only teaches independence and self-governance, I am as strongly convinced that the New Testament makes it clear that the early churches were inter-dependent. They made their own decisions, but did not have the liberty to enact decisions which would reflect on a sister church or the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. With that in mind, how does one local church respond to a sister church that is descending a slippery slope into heresy, false teaching, or even going down the road towards an all-embracing gospel? How do 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 play a part in the way we deal with others?
We who are true believers are required to follow the commands of Scripture such as found in 2 Cor. 6:14-17, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”
The admonition is clear. We are not, cannot, must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. In the matter of TMD, regardless of what Mohler, Duncan and others say, this was drafted to be a theological document. Thus, in signing their names to this, they have broken the commands to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. We are called to be separate in every aspect of our lives. We are in the world, but not to be of it. Thus, the remaining problem is how do we respond when evangelicals we respect choose to break the commands of Scripture.
2 Thess. 3:14-15, “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.“
This post is not intended to question whether Mohler or Duncan are true believers. The issue is how to respond in a biblical fashion to those who are brothers, yet failing to follow the “word in this epistle.” The Scriptures are clear that we cannot be yoked with those who are of the world, and it is just as clear that we have a responsibility not to keep company with those brethren who would act and teach contrary to the commands of God’s Word.
Therefore, in the matter of church discipline which is local church specific, the commands in 2 Thessalonians 3 show that we still have a responsibility to perform. It is with the purpose in mind of restoration at all times, not with ostracizing a brother or trying to throw him under the bus. My prayer is that Mohler, Duncan and others will repent of their desire to link up with the enemy and repent of such. My prayer is that they will seek forgiveness from those they are leading astray as men called to shepherd their flocks. If they do not and continue on their current path, then other evangelical leaders/pastors/believers have a responsibility to disassociate with them until they do.
The problem with evangelicalism is that we do not take biblical separation seriously. We will condemn those who cross certain lines, but it is only verbal. Rarely is further action involved. Evangelicals talk a good talk, but that is where it seems to stop. They will continue to endorse one another’s books, invite each other to conferences, share pulpits, and do everything that was done before the offending brother crossed the line. If we are going to be serious about our positions, we are going to have to show to the world that refusing to keep company with a brother is vital to the integrity of each local church. If we are going to seek purity in our churches, we cannot continue to endorse IN ANY WAY those who fail to heed the commands of Scripture. Pastors are called to a high office and to be servants of the Most High God. It is for the sake of the gospel that we stand firm, no matter what the cost to us or our ministry for in the end we will give account before God, NOT to each other.
I challenge my fellow pastors that if we are going to verbally call into question men like Driscoll for his vulgarity, like Piper for his saying that Wilson and Wright do not preach a false gospel, like Mohler and Duncan for signing The Manhattan Declaration, etc., then we must back up what we say publicly. We must refuse to endorse their materials, must admonish our people when they blindly follow these men, must stop inviting them to conferences and sharing pulpits with them, and MUST ABOVE ALL continue to seek full restoration with each other as part of the Body of Christ for whom Christ died. If we do not, then we are being hypocrites. If they are wrong, then they are wrong and pacifying the masses may be good for future book sales or endorsements, but it does not bode well for the future of true evangelical Christianity.
What we underhandedly endorse today will only become the new standards for tomorrow, and the false teachings and ecumenicalism of tomorrow will become the stepping stones towards a greater liberalism than we see today! May God give us strength to stand firm in the face of ALL opposition. May He grant us mercy and keep our feet strong so that we do not waver from the faith once delivered to the saints!
For the sake of the Gospel,
The Desert Pastor