Today, I am sad.
It is Sunday morning, and instead of being in church- teaching my Sunday school class, hushing my children during the sermon, and supporting my husband, the worship pastor- I am sitting in bed, alone, writing to you.
As I write, my husband’s letter of resignation is being read to our church family. Well, I guess it’s not our church family any more.
And that makes me sad.
We have been at this church for just over a year and a half. It is a small church, what some might even call a “country church”. And a few days ago, the pastor called my husband and asked him to resign or he would be fired.
Why? Did my husband have an affair? Steal money from the offering? Teach unbiblical things? No.
The “window dressing” reason he was given for this ultimatum was a dumb joke he made in front of some other church members. Was it a wise thing to make this joke? No. Do we all stick our foot in our mouths from time to time? Yes. And when we do, we should handle the situation biblically: go to the people we have offended, apologize, and ask forgiveness. Which my husband immediately volunteered to do, but was prohibited from.
Because, ultimately, that wasn’t the real issue.
The real issue is that my husband and I rocked the boat.
We knew this would be a difficult church when we accepted the call. During our initial interview, I asked the pastor where he and the church stood with regard to complementarianism versus egalitarianism. He had never heard the terms. Though he verbally affirmed complementarianism once it was briefly explained, there was a female youth director. There was a woman teaching a co-ed Sunday school class. A woman was the head of the personnel committee and considered herself the pastor’s and my husband’s direct supervisor. We heard about the horrific dismissal of a pastor a few years previously, and later came to realize there were other doctrinal issues and problems with church polity, as well.
During our tenure, there were several instances of sloppy doctrine and unbiblical circumstances we did not confront directly in the interest of patience, grace, and teaching. Instead, we took a “long haul” view and did our best to lead by example, teach God’s word faithfully as we had the opportunity, and pray that God would set things right.
Other times, however, we could not look the other way, and my husband had to address situations directly or stand before God in dereliction of duty as an ordained minister of the gospel. I was proud of him for standing on biblical truth and attempting to lead the church and influence the pastor -as much as a worship pastor can- to submit to God’s word.
But that stand came with a steep price tag.
We have all recently witnessed the unbiblical and appalling demise of the Mars Hill franchise at the hands of Mark Driscoll. He was a megalomaniacal dictator who ruled through intimidation and tolerated no dissent. His word was law, and those who questioned him or his methods were summarily slandered, excommunicated, and shunned.
We watched from afar and feared lest our own pastors succumb to such a toxic ecclesiology. “But it’s a problem megachurches can fall into,” we comforted ourselves, “It could never happen at my small church.”
Well, maybe it couldn’t.
But maybe there’s an insidious, equally toxic ecclesiology going on at your church that you may not even be aware of.
Are things nice and comfortable at your church? Everybody comes and does their nice Sunday morning thing and just floats gently down the stream of current evangelical “love God, love people, can’t we all just get along” theology? What would happen to a church member or staff member who stood up and showed a Sunday school teacher, or a committee, or the pastor, or the church at large -from Scripture- an issue of corporate sin, a popular pastor the church shouldn’t follow, Bible studies or Sunday school literature that shouldn’t be used, biblical mandates that aren’t being followed? Would that person be hailed as a hero or ostracized as a villain? Would he be seen as striving to preserve biblical unity or attacking your church’s own definition of unity?
Mark Driscoll is an easy target to throw stones at, but is your church without sin? Does your church body do the same thing he did to people who speak up in defense of God’s word against unbiblical practices and teachings? And does your pastor (or other church leadership) go along with it to protect his job?
You may not have a fuhrer at the helm like Mars Hill did, but it’s just as much a sin to be a fuhrer in the pew. And that’s where many of our churches -including mine- are these days. The sheep wander around doing as they darn well please, biblically or not, and, as long as they’re happy and things are going smoothly, the under-shepherd lets them. But woe to him who commits today’s unpardonable sin of rocking the boat by urging the church to follow and obey the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. No, that cannot be tolerated.
Today, my family became just another casualty of the battle for the purity of the bride of Christ. And so…today I am sad.