Monday, September 15, 2008

At What Point Is It Complicity?

Ok. It's come to this. I have to put this out as an issue. I think it is that important.

There has been talk about Ray Comfort's speaking at conferences which includes "Word of Faith" leaders. Then there is Ravi Zacharias who is now becoming involved with Robert Schuller at "ReThink". But the issue I'm addressing here has become intensely personal. Here it is as follows:

It is no secret that my wife and I have been searching for a good church. You know, one that doesn't seek to entertain. One that doesn't play games with God's Word. One that sincerely serves the Lord and sits under a pastor who exposits God's Word.

I've heard it. You've heard it. You ask people about their church and they say "Well, our pastor preaches from the Bible. He uses the Bible". Note the word "uses". Yup. Lots of them do. To their shame.

Case in point:

Yesterday my wife and I sat in church and our pastor gave a "sermon". His launch pad was in 2 Corinthians 10, speaking of how we fight a spiritual battle. The main points were "We fight a spiritual battle. People are blinded by Satan. They can't be saved until they are given sight. See here in Matthew 12? Jesus drove out demons by binding Satan. We are to bind Satan. And if we pray believing enough, God has to do it because, after all, 'where two or more are gathered in My Name, there I am in the midst. Also, 'whatever is bound on Earth is bound in Heaven. So if enough of us pray for someone, they will no longer be blinded and then can be saved!"

What utter rubbish! What plain old humanism! This clearly puts man in charge of the act of redemption, not our Sovereign God! Here a verse, there a verse. Everywhere a verse verse!

This pastor started with a decent premise. Yes, we do fight a spiritual battle. Yes, Satan does blind people to spiritual truth. However, in Matthew 12, Jesus was validating His ministry, not showing us a pattern to be followed. Furthermore, Matthew 18, the "two or more" verse, is a context of church discipline, as is the mention of ". . .where two or more are gathered in My Name".

What utter folly! How long are we to put up with such scripture twisting?

More importantly, the question becomes "As a Bible Believing, Regenerate Child of God, at what point am I personally responsible before the Lord for the teaching that comes from those who would call themselves my pastor or some other "teacher"?

It gets puzzling. Very puzzling. Especially when you know what's coming before you even walk in the building.

Yesterday, as we walked toward the front door of the church, my wife had to chide me for mumbling "I am not responsible for what the pastor says in his sermon. . .I am not responsible for what the pastor says in his sermon. . .I am not. . .". Yet, there comes, at one time or other, a certain sense of accountability for what is going on.

I've been wondering if there is someone who can draw a simple black and white cartoon that shows a hunched-over Christian, walking to the church door. A balloon over his head reciting the words I gave above, with the words "contemporary preaching" on the door. I'm serious! How many of us must be in the same situation!

Talk to the pastor? Doesn't answer emails. His home phone is answered by a modem or fax or something. Can't get him there. On the way out as you shake his hand with a line of people behind you? Not appropriate. Try to talk to him about anything at any other time? He always gives you a smile, a pat on the emotional back and a smile.

Let's cut to the chase. Each one of us is a priest in a kingdom of priests. A pastor is not some separate, untouchable elevated member of the kingdom. At what point are any one of us responsible before God for standing up, at least verbally, during the pastor's sermon and saying "Hold It! This Is Heresy! The Bible Doesn't Teach What You Are Saying! Please Shut Up And Sit Down!"

At what point do we become complicit in the pastor's error? At what point do we become an enabler to the pastor and complicit in his error by leading others in the pew to think that "all is ok" because we don't take a stand? At what point have we pulled a "Ray Comfort" or "Ravi Zacharias" in our own church?

How long do we have the liberty of silence? And at what point do we share in such abuse of Scripture out of "politeness"? At what point do we become responsible to "cleanse the temple"?

***Update*** To help keep the discussion focused, this is not about "just leave the church", or "Start your own". Sometimes you can't just change churches because there are not others in the area. Let's leave the topic of selling your home and moving for the sake of finding a good church for another post. The discussion I'm looking for is "At what point, if any, is it right and good before God to 'nail the theses to the wall'".


Jfranklin6 said...

I have had, and still mourn, this same experience. I heard my pastor preach "Be proud of yourself" from 1 Cor 1:1-9. Took me a week to pin him down and confront him one to one. That was the last Sunday in that church. I still mourn the fact that I did not stand up and confront him to his face in front of the congregation. That may not be popular today, but it is what Paul did.

This sent me in search of what is a biblical church. I am convinced that this is exemplified in Scripture. Worship in the home, plurality of elders, Lord's Supper as a full meal, down hard Bible preaching. Then when you combine this with true fellowship, actually being a part of your brother's life so as to look out for him and likewise, you have what you see in Acts. A church built of living stones, humble, weak, yet powered by God.
But I always think of those still there, did I fight hard enough, did I contend for the faith? I know that the Gospel is not preached in that place, and I still believe that I failed my Lord.
But, be strong and of good courage, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Regardless of your performance, if you persevere in Him, you will be glorified.

gregkedro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Brown said...

I appreciate the input, but the question I'm asking is at the end of the article.

If you are attending a church that is like this, at what point do you become responsible before the Lord for taking a stand?

I'm not talking about "changing churches". If you simply and quietly leave, may it be an issue of not making an attempt to correct the error. At what point do you nail the "theses to the door" so to speak?

Jesus Christ didn't just leave the temple and start a new one.

I'd really like to see some discussion on this. I'll save my own thoughts for later.


beaconlight said...

Great question Tim. Drawing upon my own experience with a church that became Purpose-Driven and failed to preach the Gospel I offer this thought.
I attended that church for 10 years so I was a committed part of the congregation, and I must admit I regret that I gave up the fight so easily. I never confronted the pastor (until after I left) and I didn't fight for reform. I simply left them to their fate. It still bothers me, and that was over 2 years ago.
In answer to your question I would say if this is just a church you are visiting or have only been attending a short while, speak to the pastor or write an email correcting his interpretation of scripture, dust your feet off and go your way. However, if you are invested in this church and have strong relationships with the brethren, you should, out of love for them and the pastor, offer correction because wrong doctrine is a poison in the veins of all who receive it. It's about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you believe them to be true disciples of our Lord Jesus, plead and persuade them to turn away from the path of error they are on. Begin with the Pastor. If he doesn't take heed plead with other members and then bring back all those who agree and plead with the pastor again. In the end, your decision to stay or go may be made for you. But hopefully the pastor will humble himself and listen to the warning calls of his sheep.

terriergal said...

Oh, I hear you -- it is hard to know ... and many people who do take a stand will be judged unfairly even by those who agree with their stand! (being blasted for 'how' they do it... because the others 'wouldn't do it that way' -- how do they KNOW they wouldn't if they wouldn't do it at all?)

I have written a piece along a similar vein -- where people who have fled, say Purpose Driven after taking a stand (and receiving both friendly and enemy fire) suddenly find themselves in the same situation when confronting ministries where they have been welcomed after that Purpose Driven fight. They are shot down for sounding an alarm about a pastor who has sinned against a brother. All in the name of "unity" (After all, 'discernment ministries' have so few friends we have to take what we can get!) I'm not including myself in that 'we' but just roughly paraphrasing the mantra I hear from many of them.

here is the link if you would like to post it
Another Purpose Driven Deception - this time from the Discernment ministries

Tim Brown said...


My first comment in this thread was for the commenter that withdrew his entry.

Having more time to read and respond than I did earlier today, I want to say I appreciate your point.

I recall maybe 28 years ago, a friend of mine (who is now a pastor elsewhere in my state) once stood up in a church business meeting where they were whining about the hardness of the pews. This church was basically a conservative Swedish social club (Baptist General Conference).

My friend stood up during the meeting and said "I think the Lord is more concerned about our cold, hard hearts than He is our cold, hard pews". I'll never forget that. I spoke with him a bit over a week ago and reminded him of that. The last decent church we attended is one he was pastor of. He's moved to Champaign since (four years ago).

There are times when you just want to raise your hand during a sermon and say "excuse me. I think this is wrong, can I tell you why?"

The pressure, of course, is to be "civilized" and not do this. But is this in reality a lack of faith? It's a line that takes care to draw. And of course not all cases are the same.

I was thinking about what Martin Luther did but you well reminded me of Paul.

Paul Washer has done at least one sermon on not being "civilized". Too bad we can't look for him to be in on this conversation. It'd be interesting to get his perspective, wouldn't it?

Thanks again, and I hope he input keeps coming!


Tim Brown said...


Thanks for your input and the link. I'll give it a read when I get the time.

Rory said...

Wow Franklin, good post. We were compcit for 13 years, loyal staff, and we departed from the Word. God have mercy on us. Our 10 thesis are here if you are inclined. We have been out of the church scene for 4 years and loading up on the Word. What I read here sure parallels a lot of us, does the word "Remnant" ring a bell?

Berean Wife said...

This hits so close to home for us. We have announced we are leaving our church of seven years due to the direction it is going. (I've explained it on my website.)

This wasn't a sudden thing but something that we have wrestled with for years. We didn't just sit back, either. We have avoided certain activities. We have voiced our concerns to staff and members. My husband has taught about things in his SS lessons and prayer meetings. He most recently brought an issue up in the deacons meeting. We have provided research about CCM music the youth were listening to and movies mentioned from the pulpit. Nevertheless, few agree with us and none has taken a stand with us.

We decided our next step was the hole we leave, as my large family contains four extremely active church members. (SS teacher, deacon, soundman, musician, librarian, nursery worker, etc.) At least people will notice our being gone and, hopefully, that will give us some opportunities to discuss the issues individually.

We live in the country with just a small town nearby. Where we will go is something only the Lord knows. We have nailed as much of the thesis as we can and now we have to set an example that what we believe is worth living for and leaving for if, we claim it is worth dying for.

Berean Wife

Tim Brown said...

Berean Wife:

After my conversion, my wife and I began seeking a church. It it was in 1999 that I ran into an old friend of mine from decades ago that is now a pastor. We ended up attending his church about 15 miles from here. Unfortunately, he ended up leaving for Champaign Illinois to start a new church. After he left, the "worship team" took over and everything was wrecked.

We've been through a few places but the latest one looked the most promising. Teaching is not deep but the points the pastor made were accurate. Seemed like the best we could find.

He also pushed the idea of evangelism, telling us "We don't do enough". So, I took that as my cue to do something. I suggested Way of the Master classes, which he seemed interested in and I proceeded to take steps to do something about.

Well, he went along for the ride for a while. But while he didn't fight me on it he also stopped mentioning evangelism at all from his pulpit. Kind of like I called his bluff and so he decided he'd be better off not mentioning it.

I gave him some flyers for bulletin inserts to advertise WOTM evangelism classes but very few of those got handed out. I had made 70 copies and most were still in a stack. I kept donating tracts but while some were taken at first, now very few are, if any. I think it's a forgotten issue.

Then in an attempt to address the shallowness of the preaching, I asked him if he had heard of Stephen Charnock, or Tozer. Nope. He just has his KJV Scofield. So, I bought him a copy of "The Existence and attributes of God". When I gave it to him, he just said "It's probably a waste of your money, I don't do any reading" or "I don't read much". I had already written him a note in the book so I told him that he could keep it anyway. Besides, his wife may read it and point something out.

This past week's sermon was a train wreck theologically. It's to a point where you just figure "Forget it" but you hate to just jump around. But I'm getting so tired of the "proof text preaching" that I am seeing him start to do.

I think we've been there since late April.

My attempts to discuss things with him are listed in my main post.

But you just wonder "What is my obligation to stand up and let people know what's going on". On the other hand, this is a small church where you have may 30 per service on Sunday morning. It's such a "family atmosphere" that you wonder if it'll make any difference.

They have a men's prayer group on Monday nights but as it turns out, it's mostly an hour session of yammering about boating and fishing while someone copies a list of prayer requests. After an hour, the lists are passed out, the pastor prays and the "prayer group" is done. The last time I sat there, I just played with my cuticles thinking "What am I here for?" If you don't want to talk sports, you don't fit.

I guess at least I can say I left tracts there for the tares to find and read. Other than that I'm not sure I've really fulfilled my duty there.

Rory said...

Once upon a time a man named Jesus called out His lambs from the church world of His Day. They all walked away from the traditions and kingdoms of the apostate leadership of Judaism. History now repeats as Jesus is calling so many of us to "come out from among them" and "come out of her MY people" that we may be cleansed of the leavened bread we ate. THANK GOD. Yes, it hurts to leave them and walk into the wilderness, but there is a path in the wilderness lit by the light of the Word. "The LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I shall not want". Praise His name.
rory and linda moore. 4 years out of the system, 4 years taught of the Lord, 4 years of growing in The Faith and knowledge of the Word.

Tim Brown said...


I agree with you about God calling His own to be separate.

I noticed your statement that you are "four years out of the system". Are you fellowshipping anywhere?

Jfranklin6 said...

What I believe Rory was implying by "We have been out of the church scene for 4 years" is house church. This is what I made mention of in my comment. This is fellowship if done for the proper reasons and with the Bible held as not only the rule of Who God is , but also How to worship Him.

Please do not construe this as and endorsement of Rory's website or the things taught there, for it is not.

Tim, if you or anyone else would like to contact me for further info on this subject, or to object to my reasoning, you can contact me through my blog. Other than that, I don't want to hijack your post Tim.

Tim Brown said...

Nah. I don't think you're hijacking the post. Not at all.

Thanks for the clarification. Sometimes I tend to overanalyze things.

Whatever other thoughts you have, feel free to submit them!

Berean Wife said...

Mr. Brown,

Our family used as many resources as we could to share our concerns. We used our positions of leadership and we went to the source or leader as opposed to complaining behind the leaders back. We also were clear about why we did not participate in certain activities. But we found that once a church starts moving in that direction nothing will stop the slide down the "slippery slope" unless the Lord does it Himself.

I'm the church librarian - no one reads anymore! I tried giving books away and buying good books for the library, but no success. If they do read it is fiction or The Purpose Driven Life. I am amazed when someone doesn't know who Luther, Spurgeon, or Jonathon Edwards are.

Of course, they also don't know who Uzzah, Nadab and Abihu are either, even after I point out that they are from the Bible. :)

Berean Wife