". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Noble Task

I keep seeing this post getting shared on Facebook. Every time I do, I cringe anew. I have a very difficult time understanding how anyone could find it to be helpful.

The author begins by asking a few questions. I would like to answer them.

Would you go to the church on the corner knowing that the pastor is an ex-con? 


What about the congregation three streets over, where the pastor is prone to lying? 


The pastor at the store-front church who’s always questioning the truth about what the Gospels say about Jesus? 

No. (Really? This needs to be said?)

What about bad language? If the new pastor has a potty-mouth, would you still regularly attend church? 

And risk my children hearing their pastor saying things for which they would be punished? Um, no.

What if he’s kind of a thug too? 

No, no, no.

Here's the deal. "Ex-con" means that the man has repented of his previous sinful lifestyle. We are all sinners, pastors included. Someone who has repented and been forgiven and now rejects the sinful behavior should not have it held over his head the rest of his life or be prevented from using his God-given gifts and talents to serve a suffering world.

The problem with the rest of the questions is that they indicate ongoing behavior. One who is "prone" to lying is one who does so habitually. One who is "always" questioning the truth about what the Gospels say has no business teaching those Gospels. Someone who "has a potty-mouth" (as opposed to occasionally slipping and saying a bad word) demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to attempt to moderate his habit of speech out of love for his flock. Someone who is (not was) a thug is one who repeatedly acts in thug-like ways, bullying people, lording over them, running his church like a mob boss.

So to answer the broader question, no. Assuming I had a choice, I wouldn't go to a church like that. Yes, we all sin. We all fail every day. By the grace of God we repent and are forgiven. Sometimes even then we fall into the very same sin again. Again we turn to our Lord and repent and again He forgives. But if we get to a place where we don't see the sin as sin or where we view ourselves as prisoners to sin, hopeless to ever stop it, constantly throwing ourselves on God's mercy again and again because He forgives again and again, we are to my thinking in a very dangerous place. "It's just the way I am. But God will forgive me."

Yes, He will. But at what point have we quit being truly sorry, telling ourselves before we even commit the sin, "I can do this because afterward God will forgive me"? It is extremely treacherous territory, and when it is institutionalized into the life of a congregation because that congregation's shepherd is constantly hiding behind the Gospel, never truly repenting but constantly excusing and rationalizing bad behavior, that is not a church I could feel safe at. I am frankly dumbfounded that this sort of thinking is being promoted as something good.

I don't know--perhaps I am extra sensitive on this matter because I have in the past been hurt by my church and pastor. But my suggestion to anyone reading and sharing this piece is to go study 1 Timothy 3 and think long and hard about the ramifications of going to a church with a pastor who does not appreciate the seriousness of the calling with which he has been entrusted. The spiritual and emotional damage that can be done by such a man is real and long-lasting. 

(P. S. And don't tell me there's no such thing as a perfect church or a perfect pastor. God disabused me of that notion a long time ago and I am very thankful He did. But there is such a thing as a safe and healthy church, and there is such a thing as a faithful, upright, and loving pastor. And when you seek out a church home you are justified in looking for both.)

1 comment:

Katy said...

Well said! I have read the piece you refer to here and thought it was rather duplicitous of the author to mix the first question with the subsequent ones as if the reader should answer all of them the same way. He may not realize it, but the author seems to imply that we should never question a pastor because he is a pastor, and that we should willingly submit ourselves to spiritual abuse. That kind of thing can be extremely harmful to one's faith. It's sad and disturbing that this attitude is apparently becoming mainstream even in the LCMS and is being promoted by a high-profile LCMS pastor.