Author: tmart2007

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Why Is It So Often Tolerated?

Why do so many tolerate, excuse, defend, stand on the sidelines and/or remain silent when it comes to the terrible decisions and actions of those in positions of prominence and power in ministry or the local church?

It is disturbing to witness spiritual leaders engaging in and shameful relational behavior, and people remain silent. It is even more disturbing to witness those who are in positions that were designed to hold leaders accountable — remain silent.

I know that there are a good number of “reasons” that allow ministry leaders and pastors to repeatedly fail at loving God’s flock, and not be held accountable. One of the most obvious, and maybe on top of the list, is relationships!

Again, in recent days, I was reminded of unaccountable pastoral behavior. A member of a local church was marginalized. There was little to no love, kindness, or concern shown to them or the family. A brief phone call was made, words of concern were expressed over the phone, but any meaningful pastoral interest was totally absent!

There “always” seems to be an explanation, excuse, or plausible justification as to why what was done, was done, or not done. Nuanced wording, blame-shifting, or a justification of having passed off the responsibility to another member of the staff — is how it is handled and explained.

Pastors are the face of the church. It is the senior pastor’s God-given responsibility, as the undershepherd, to be the person who expresses genuine care. Yes, having other church members, deacons, or other ministry leaders express their sincere compassion and concern — MATTERS. Nevertheless, there is nothing more significant and better received than when the SHEPHERD of God’s flock expresses love, care, and kindness in a personal way — by being there himself.

When that doesn’t happen, and as others become aware of that failure, it seems just “acceptable.” Rarely does anyone speak up, “talk” to the pastor about it, or when resisted, press the issue and express how shameful it is to be identified as a shepherd and fail to take guardianship of the sheep.

May I suggest that the number one reason for silence, and/or for allowing such unacceptable behavior to go unaddressed, is . . . .

It wasn’t you!

One day, it may be you, and then you will be, like I am, standing on the sidelines, confused! Why is no one speaking up? Why is there no accountability, and maybe even outrage of the lack of care and concern for God’s people!

It wasn’t you!
It wasn’t one of your loved ones!
It wasn’t a dear friend!

With me — the difference is that I refuse to stand on the sidelines and be silent! Along with a few other willing and even courageous fellow laborers, I refuse to let it go by the boards! Calling wrong-doing out in ministry is not antithetical to the Gospel. And it is the Gospel, a Gospel which calls on us to speak up for the marginalized in this world and even in the church.

I want to tell my children (maybe even some of God’s people who were the recipients of such spiritual maltreatment), that when I saw it, I spoke up!

Though no one join me, yet I will follow . . . . the example set out by the Lord, to speak against those who are there to care, and who “could care-less-ness.”

Kids — I spoke up and spoke up LOUDLY!

. . . . .

Rachael Denhollander

What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth 


What is a little girl worth?  If it’s your little gorl — It is PRICELESS! 

What is a little girl worth if it is not your little girl?

The answer is still the same!

— Ted Martens —

Self-Defense: A Pastoral Art Form

  No — It is a fair criticism!

The heading reflects what is way too often a pattern of response to fair and just criticism.

Rather than humility, in response to what is legitimate criticism (and there is legitimate criticism), the ministry leader or pastor defends the undefendable!

There are a variety of “self-defense schools” and approaches. Nevertheless, they all thrive because of the lack of humility and the inability to give fair weight to the criticism and instead go after the person who offered it. Without listing them, we all know what that looks like and the typical words used to deflect from the failure — We used some ourselves!

Yes . . . .

  • Leadership does mean that there will be criticism. 
  • Indeed, if you are doing anything that matters, you will hit some roadblocks.
  • Without doubt, Satan is alive and well.
  • No one is perfect — What a cover story that statement is, and how often it has been used to hide behind!  We will all make mistakes — and some are serious and tragic ones (and then there is even more reason for humility).

But some mistakes and problems would require just some honesty and a little humility to resolve or make a difference. But, sad to say, as a retired pastor, they are in short supply when it comes to ministries and the local church. 

The proof for that statement, and my headline, is all too clearly on display over the past year and a half during Covid-19. Just peruse the numerous articles that speak about the decline in church attendance across the board of Bible-believing ministries.  It is jarring!  

Some terrible decisions, actions, and comments have been made.  Too often, following the criticism of those decisions and actions, there was little humility.  As so many posts and articles state, many are not coming back!  Not because of Covid-19, but because of the actions, decisions, or lack of action by ministry leaders and pastors during Covid, and an absence of humbleness!

Some problems in ministry and local churches are unforced errors. What happened didn’t need to happen! It happened because the pastor failed, and sometimes woefully failed in this-or-that decision or action. The situation would have been different were it not for the decision and action of the CEO of a ministry or the Senior Pastor.

 “You blew it!
You created the situation by what you said, did, or decided!
Stop blaming others, deflection, claiming you are the one hurt or injured!”

Accepting responsibility is replaced by going to the art form of self-defense. Disingenuous, shallow, and obviously defensive excuses are made to “explain” and excuse a terrible decision, wording, or action. [1]

Regrettably, the art form is more obvious to the listeners than most ministry leaders or pastors fully grasp.  Some ministry leaders and pastors actually believe that others believe what they are selling! [2]. No, those listening get it! [3] The explanation is strained, doubtful, flimsy, implausible, and/or absurd.  The action or decision is indefensible, while trying to be defended!

No, God’s people understand what is being said, and are not buying into the “explanation!”

√ Humility is what people buy into!

That is what they admire and respect.

Being humble is what is preached from the pulpit.

. . . . 

But that also takes honesty — with yourself and with others!

1. Yes — Been there — Done it! We all have. But have we grown up and out of it to where we can speak truth in our hearts — Psalm 15:2, and to where we can own our failures!

2. One of the most obvious and oft-repeated is something like this . . . . 

“We are not going to have services today-tonight-midweek because we want to give you an opportunity to spend time as a family.”

The fact is, just turning off the TV or spending less time on social media would accomplish that goal and have other benefits as well! We all know it is merely an excuse not to have another service and may even involve the leaderships’ desire to not prepare a message for probably such a small group of people who would still be there — yes, sad.

3. Those listening get it, even if they themselves find a justification in the excuse. They may have been part of the decision, failure, mistake, action, and rather than just saying — “We were wrong as well!” — and refusing to go along with the excuse-making, find some comfort in the explanation or excuse!  But most still know it is an excuse — and wince a little when it is repeated!

Or, they themselves may recall the failure in their own lives in the past, and instead of pointing the finger at themselves for such a tragic error in judgment or action, they find some solace in the explanations.  We all like to think more highly of ourselves than is true!  We are not as good as we think we are — as husbands, dads, parents, children, or pastors!

No, we need to come to grips with those failures and mistakes and admit we should have and could have gone at it differently than we did. There is a name for that — it is the word “confession.”

We Really Need Some Afghanistanian Pastors To Start Blogging!

I’m sorry, but this is getting to be too much!  I just read a pastoral blog  — and my response was — SAD [1]. Pastors who talk about how hard it is to be in the pastoral ministry are so self-deluded — That is — those who minister in AMERICA!  And, I am speaking about AMERICAN ministry leaders and pastors!

We need some pastoral bloggers who have far more clarity about what ministering in difficult situations and countries really means!  Whatever is difficult, it isn’t anything close to the norm of American ministry life.

You may believe that such a day is coming, but that day has not yet arrived!  If it ever does, it still will be better than those in third-world countries, and/or places that persecute and kill God’s people and pastors for only their faith.  And, the people who will be affected first may well be those who work in the world, those who are outside of the sheltered walls of a ministry and a church.

Such blogs and articles that seek to excite the compassion and sympathies of God’s people for those in ministry need to be unveiled.  Like the tailors of that king’s kingdom, who tried to convince the king and others as to the beauty of the invisible garments they had designed and woven, there are writers who weave a narrative about the stresses and strains of ministry.  Those writers will “always” find a believing audience, primarily composed of many ministry leaders and pastors.

Those writers have woven a narrative that is as unreal as those invisible garments.  It is not only believed by ministry leaders and pastors who have lost perspective.  The writers (and the ministry leaders who buy into the weave) are also seeking to convince others of its reality — primarily trying to convince those who sit in the pews.  The fabric is composed of such threads as . . .

  • Your pastor works hard.
  • They have a very difficult task!
  • You need to encourage them!
  • Make sure you pray for them, above all others!

The role of the sheep and the shepherd has flipped.  Instead of the shepherd carrying the sheep or lamb on his shoulders, we now have the lambs carrying the shepherd — “It will be okay pastor!”  “We love you!”  “Don’t be discouraged, pastor!”

Everyone” works hard!
Most people have a very difficult task, D-A-I-L-Y!
God’s people need encouragement as they walk in this world!
Pray for God’s people who are out there in the real world of temptations, above all others.

Some ministry leaders and pastors need to go out and get a job in this world and . . . .

  • to understand what it means to work in this fallen world
  • to work hard — a long week, many times 6 days
  • to listen to the language and attitudes of a lost world around them
  • to feel the fears of losing one’s job if they speak up, and they really want to speak up
  • to navigate the world of strained relationships at work, because of their faith
  • to lack the financial resources needed to pay all the bills
  • to have but a few weeks off for vacation
  • to have someone controlling their day and schedule
  • to work 40-60 hours, and then work another 10-20 hours at church

Some need to stop singing . . . .

  1. Am I a soldier of the cross,
    A follow’r of the Lamb?
    And shall I fear to own His cause,
    Or blush to speak His name?
  2. Must I be carried to the skies
    On flow’ry beds of ease,
    While others fought to win the prize,
    And sailed through bloody seas?
  3. Are there no foes for me to face?
    Must I not stem the flood?
    Is this vile world a friend to grace,
    To help me on to God?
  4. Sure I must fight if I would reign;
    Increase my courage, Lord;
    I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
    Supported by Thy Word.
  5. Thy saints in all this glorious war
    Shall conquer, though they die;
    They see the triumph from afar,
    By faith’s discerning eye.

. . . . . 

1. Someone, please ask some pastors to turn in their Bibles.  Come on — turn it over!  You don’t understand what you repeatedly preach from the pulpit.  Serving Jesus satisfies.  There is about J-O-Y in serving Jesus.  So now, “Turn it over!”

This is one of the far too many examples of pastoral complaining in AMERICA!

. . . . .

Something’s Not Right! — or When Gaming Seeps Into The Leadership Of The Church

If you haven’t read “Something’s Not Right,” you might find it insightfully helpful. [1]

While it deals with far more serious situations than many experience (primarily sexual abuse), I am reminded of one of the points below . . . .

“It’s a “mega-church” thing, not really present in smaller ministries and churches.
(No, it is just more obvious in mega-larger churches.).”

I thought it might be helpful to formulate a list of “game-playing” moves & approaches of ministry leaders and pastors as they defend their own wrong-doing and/or seek to marginalize those who have called them out.

This extensive list is the result of reading a good number of insightful comments from various writers over the past months.

  • Using the pulpit ministry to address & defend one’s words and actions
  • Change the by-laws and/or constitution to fit and/or cover-up the wrong-doing, pastoral abuse, and/or dishonesty.
  • Selectively communicate information to members of the congregations so that some and not others know what is going on.
  • Selectively withhold information to members of the congregation so that some and not others don’t know what is going on.
  • Selectively communicate and without information to fellow leadership members so that it all gets so confusing.
  • Wield discretionary levers of power used to encourage some people to support them
  • One particular form of crazy-making in dysfunctional Christian orgs is to accuse you of being unforgiving of things they strenuously deny ever having done.
  • Pass the buck to others who were only doing what they believed was what the leader or pastor wanted to be done.
  • When criticized or questioned, point to something incredibly small that was done right — “Well, at least I . . . .”
  • Twist the Scriptures to defend one’s actions — “Spiritual abuse twists the Scriptures into a sword.” (i.e., Proverbs 17:9 used as an argument that their a wrong-doing should not be revealed.)
  • Off-balance the Scriptural truths or principles by avoiding what the Scriptures also teach the balance.
  • Fail to provide a safe place and safe people in which one can speak freely.
  • They darken the windows, rather than allowing or adding light into the room.
  • “Abuse is when people are willing to do harm for their own self-serving benefit. Sorrow is feigned, and confession is partial, forgiveness is exploited, restitution is an afterthought, and reconciliation is an illusion as long as truth remains unnamed.” — Wade Mullen
  • When we do not understand a leader’s capacity for deceit, we make it easy for the offender to continue.
  • Allowing error to go unchallenged is not “grace.”
  • “NDA’s” (non-disclosure agreements) are relabelled as “covenants” by ministry and church leaders.
  • Many times, getting at the truth is difficult because they fall just short of outright lies.
  • Intentional omission, ambiguous statements, clever deflections, nuanced statements, redefining words all become means of avoiding the truth and are means of propagating a lie.
  • False “apologies” — I am sorry you feel that way (or aka — I did nothing wrong.)
  • Intimidation and humiliation of revealing private information.
  • Willful ignorance as a tool of defense — could have known, should have known, but avoided knowing.
  • Counting on the silence of others to further the justification of what you said or did.
  • The shunning, and the promotion of shunning, of those who have called a leader or pastor out for wrong-doing — (when that person should have been thanked).
  • Silence and/or refusing to address an issue can be used as a defensive tool and even portrayed as a virtue.
  • Being in charge of a ministry or church, and refusing to accept the responsibility that comes with that position, is typically the standard operating mentality.
  • Empathy becomes a vice, not a virtue, since “emotions” and feelings are deemed as biblically suspect — “They are just being emotional.”
  • It’s not a “duck.”  I know that it looks like that, but it isn’t.  Trust me on this.
  • Double-speak:  “I am not saying.” while he is saying. (This allows one to say, “I said that . . . “)
  • Three painful responses when you call out wrong-doing:
    They don’t believe you
    They believe you, but won’t do anything about it.
    They believe you, but choose to actively oppose you.
  • It’s a “mega-church” thing, not present in smaller ministries and churches. (No, it is just more obvious in mega-larger churches.)
  • Consistently cite and interpret Scripture that reinforces and/or legitimizes their authority.
  • Change the meaning of biblical words and terminology to fit the unbiblical, dishonest, and/or abusive behavior of the pastor and leadership. (i.e. The words “the church” no longer means “the church.”  It now means  “the pastors and/or the leaders of the church.”)
  • Talk about “legal” / legality, not what was right and ethical.
  • Require more than one witness before something is to be believed as true.
  • It looks like the top guy in the organization doesn’t know, but the top guy in the organization does know. (If they are ignorant, then they should be removed from that position, but they won’t be.)
  • Inaction, because it is only one person who has spoken out.
  • Far too often, “relationships” make the decisions.
  • Loyalty trumps integrity all too often.
  • God’s people want to believe those in ministry and their pastors.  Talking to them about a problem/issue will probably result in you being distanced from them.
  • One tactic is to label you as “bitter.”  That label means that they need not address the issue.
  • Apathy generally hovers over most members of a ministry. (It’s not them and, therefore, not their problem.).
  • Most members of an organization do not see themselves as partakers of wrong-doing by their silence.
  • God’s people will allow some people to be dealt with harshly. (Though everyone is not treated with dignity and respect, they should be.).
  • Some Christian organizations or church members assume that someone else will do something about it and that they need not speak or act.
  • Tactical Words & Phrases To Evaluate: opinions, sowing discord, unity, submission to authority
  • You will be told that “You don’t have all the facts,” but it is actually because the facts are being suppressed by others, and/or have been under unnecessary leadership seal.
  • Most people who have tried to help will only try once if it becomes so unpleasant to step up and try to help.
  • Paying a price for helping or for exposing wrong-doing is usually one of the intended outcomes by the wrong-doers.
  • Most people do wrong for three reasons (Artistotle):  They believe they won’t be caught.  If caught, they will not pay a price.  If they pay a price, it will be less than the desired gain.
  • “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm.  The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.” — Charle M. Blow, journalist

. . . . .

“Baptists believe authority resides in individual members filled with the Holy Spirit.  That’s why ‘the base’ cannot pass the buck.  To forgo the responsibilities of autonomy while taking its privileges would multiply injustice . . . .

What we consent to, what we allow, is who we are.”
. . . . .


Note Rachael Denhollander‘s endorsement.  She has authored the book, “What Is A Girl Worth.”  That book has fueled the uncovering of pastoral abuse in SBC churches across America!

A New Description: The De-churched

I would have thought that his church would have been experiencing a great deal of political disruption,
but he said that they have been free from such controversy and division!

Located in the hear of Washington, D.C., you would think that Capitol Hill Baptist Church would find themselves torn by the political and social issues of our day, but one of the members stated . . . “Not at all!”  He indicated that Pastor Mark Dever has always kept the church’s focus where it needed to be, and that was not on politics, but on people and the Gospel.

In contrast, many churches are deeply embroiled in political and social division, where you have to be selective about who you talk to about what you talk about.  Below the surface, there is real division on so many different levels.  Add to that the “de-churched.”

“The De-churched” is a new description of those who are probably not returning to their “church of origin.”  They have been pushed away from their church by the sermons, statements, prayers, insensitivity, pastoral “could care-less-ness,” and strained conversations that have disquieted them emotionally and spiritually.  They are believers, but they have been alienated by the words, actions, and attitudes within the church — left and right and everywhere in-between.

They would say . . .

“I have not left my church; my church has left me!”

And perhaps it has, and so they have left the church as well.  They are no longer comfortable in their home church, and attending church is no longer a pleasant experience [1] — for a variety of different reasons . . . .

Rightfully – – – – – – to – – – – – Questionable – – – – – to – – – – – Bad – – – – – to – – – – – Terrible.

I would suggest that a radical shift is taking place in church attendance, ranging from “changing churches-to-leaving the church.” — from . . . . .

“re-churching- – – – – to – – – – – -dechurching.”

Politics, A Lack Of Pastoral Care or Concern, Vaccinations, Masks, Social Issues, Foolish & Ungodly Racial Comments, Party Affiliations, President Trump-Biden, Small Groups, New Calvinism, Change of Sunday Services. . . .  have all been contributing factors for those who used to attend regularly.  These past “members and friends of the church” now feel like they are walking through a minefield of issues.  They believe that they cannot speak to others without making “disclaimers” (“I know that not everyone agrees with . . . “) because they are now walking through a field of divisive landmines — of which some have already exploded! They must now be very cautious as to what they say at church, to even their brothers and sisters in Christ!

Add to that, those who were members of a church which was focused on outreach, and now there seem to be little to none.  There is no effective outreach into the community, just the language of personal evangelism and community concern!  It’s all too obvious that it is just talk.  Few, if any, have been reached for the Gospel, and it is the “elephant in the room.”  Where is the fruit of personal AND corporate evangelistic efforts by “my church?”

Worse yet, they believe that their church is alienating large swaths of people away from the Gospel by bringing these issues into church life and pulpit attention. To invite a guest is to face being embarrassed by “the pulpit.”  The pastor is going to make some partisan comment or degrading assessment of a political personality or party — or worse!  They will now have to do some “damage control” after the message!  And — No — It isn’t worth inviting someone to go through that experience a second time!

It’s not the criticism of others or the evaluations about the value and purpose of this-or-that decision, program, or policy.  Instead, they themselves have been personally disillusioned about their church’s Gospel purpose, their pastor’s love of them and others, and/or their fellow worshippers’ Christlike attitudes —  because of what they have now personally experienced!

We have moved into a new era.  The era of the De-Churched!

“I have not left my church; my church has left me!”

1. Please, do not say or take the position that attending a local church should not be a pleasant experience.  Let’s not lose all common and biblical sense!  — Psalm 133

. . . . .

“Sometimes we simply feel insulted by the de churched, and so we judge them. How dare they come to our churches, get involved and then declare themselves disinterested or unimpressed. Clearly if they were more committed, more godly or simply more pleasant, they would have stayed. And so we dismiss them.” — Brian Harris

Churched, Un-churched or De-churched

Four Practical Benefits Of Congregational Rule

There is clearly and subtle increase in the move away from congregational church governance and a move towards “Elder Rule.”

Without getting into the biblical and/or theological argument about this area of church polity — “Congregational” versus “Elder Rule”[1] — here are some simple and beneficial factors that operate in a congregational form of church governance.

#1) Congregational Governance Cuts Through Self-Severing Goals, Ambitions, And Selfish Desires. In a fallen world, composed of sinners and the best of saints, there is ALWAYS the underlying problem of selfishness. In fact, it would be simple to make the case that the essence of our sinfulness is exactly that — selfishness. “Men” do what they believe to be in their best interest over the interests of others. That is why all the commandments can be summed up in loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself!

There is a very obvious and historical reason that the political governance of nations by a single or relatively small group of individuals produces oppression and exploitation. While “democracy” is not an inherently Christian form of government, it is the most compatible form of government since it considers men’s sinfulness. As the cross-purposes of many individuals intersect each other, self-serving decisions and selfish ambition can be and are suppressed by other self-serving and selfish individuals.

The Scriptures repeatedly identify “selfish ambitions” as a real obstacle in effective ministry! We would like to believe that “selfish ambition,” ego, pride, jealousy, narcissism, unrecognized self-importance, etc., are not part of our ministry’s leader(s) or local church pastor(s). Unfortunately, the reality is that all men struggle with selfish decisions and actions — flowing between victory over and falling into self-serving decisions and actions.

That is why . . .

Baptists have consistently maintained a congregational church government. Independent, democratic congregations suffered under the domination of Roman Catholicism until the Reformation, when these same kinds of congregations suffered under the Reformers. When the modern Baptist movement began (identified by this author as the time when Baptists began to call themselves such), Baptists continued to insist on a voluntary membership of true believers who held tenaciously to the conviction that each church member had an equal voice in the governance of the church. [2]

When an organization operates under the rule of an individual or a small group of individuals, the checks and balances on the powers in operation will continually slide to what is best for “them,” not “the others.”

Throughout the book of Acts and in the epistles, the apostles, elders, brethren, leaders, and church members had to check their self-interest “at the door.” [3]. Just like the human body, it was unity, but midst diversity. Like the human body, they were all parts of the whole — “if the whole body were an eye.” “The church”[4] is no one individual or small group of individuals.

“Lone Rangers” need to be challenged. When the smell of that “Lone Ranger” spirit is detected by other believers, when a self-seeking, rather than a church-seeking, decision or action is being proposed, it needs to be graciously questioned as to what is best for all the members affected and involved.

Good congregational governance tends to counter and/or expose selfish directions, actions, and decisions by its joint participation. And it is important to counter or expose self-serving proposals or decisions before such become embedded and accepted as “Well, this is how we have always operated.”

The best of men are still men at best!

. . . . . 

#2) Congregational Governance Promotes A Healthy Disagreement.

√ Yes, there are unhealthy disagreements.  That does preclude healthy, honest, fair-minded, and needed disagreements.

√ Yes, some snares come with healthy disagreement, and that is another reality. Just pan the book of Acts, and you will notice that there were real pitfalls that surrounded the needed and necessary times of disagreement — Acts 6:1; 15:2; 18; 28. Nevertheless, they were able to navigate around those pitfalls and come to a healthy outcome.

Nonetheless, there are healthy disagreements that lead to “better, best, and good” decisions, actions, and policies.

Who hasn’t been part of a limited discussion, only to hear an idea suggested from outside of that discussion and revised or even changed course? That happens all the time. A thought that wasn’t considered in a limited setting is interjected by someone in an expanded setting results in a fundamental and crucial change of thinking and direction.

There is a very practical reason that there were a number of apostles, that the apostles came from very different backgrounds, and that decisions were made after the input of both apostles and non-apostles. No one man, or small group of men, has a corner on what is the best way to proceed forward.

There is a very practical reason for the differing of gifts within the body called the church.  Because each of those gifts “motivates” differently, they cause people to respond from different motives which are naturally connected to this-or-that gift. Those gifts produce differences — a healthy diversity of viewpoints, with unity of purpose.

It is okay that a fellow believer, who you appreciate and respect, disagrees with you or me. It is healthy to hear ideas that are not your own, never entertained before [5], and/or even radically cut across your won thinking.  Humility of mind requires that we hear and take into account the ideas and thinking of others — as is the need within a family. That “clash of ideas” produces a far healthier church than a top-down model that announced decisions, not to mention decisions that never considered a critical idea or thought that was so obvious to others.

The fact is, disagreements will arise in ministries and local churches — “It’s Not If – It’s Just When.” Learn to deal with differences in a healthy way early on in ministry, and that willingness and openness to addressing differences will serve you well for years!

As a leader or pastor, you may learn that you were wrong, short-sighted, or incomplete in your thinking! You may even realize more clearly that this was your personal agenda! You may even have to admit to being wrong in your thinking by radically changing course!

There is a term for this interplay of ideas — “Healthy Relationships.”

Healthy churches allow for healthy disagreement!

. . . . . 

#3) Congregational Governance Promotes “Buy-In.” “It seemed good” [6] is an interesting biblical phrase. There are other ways to make a declaration about a conclusion in a more authoritative way.

The use of the biblical phrase, “It seemed good to us,” implies that there was a “buying in” to what was being proposed by another.

Acts 15: Even where that specific phrase is not used, such as in Acts 15, the purpose of the church council was to make sure all understood what was happening in God’s plan of inclusion of the Gentiles. The apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

James then summarized where he was after Paul, Barnabas, and Peter had spoken and then sought agreement — “Wherefore, my sentence is. . . ” or — “Are we all on the same page?”

Then the apostles, elders, and the church came to an agreement, wrote it down, and delivered it to the local churches — and “signed it” as from the apostles, elders, and the brethren.

Those in attendance were making sure that they were all on the same page. And they were seeking to have the Gentiles “accept” or “buy-in” to their conclusion when they state in that letter — “It seemed good to us.” And the church did “buy-in” . . .

they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together (not just the leadership), they delivered the epistle: Which when they (the multitude )had read, they rejoiced for the exhortation.”

Even more interesting are the words in Acts 15:28. It is not that the Holy Spirit spoke or said, but “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us,” the idea is that the Holy Spirit gave no indication that it should be otherwise.”

Having others help you towards a goal helps leaders and pastors reach that goal. Surely, “delegating” involves more than calling on someone to perform a task. Undeniability, calling on individuals who want to contribute and understand the role their contribution(s) plays to the outcome is what makes it productive and effective delegation!

When you find yourself doing it all, and few others are joining in to help, it may be because others have not bought into your vision, just asked to contribute!

There are examples of “persuasion” through the Scriptures — seeking to get another to “buy-in” to the idea or program, rather than commanding it! [7]. Persuasion Is Superior To Commandment. The most well-known example is Romans 12:1-2. That same principle operates in the family — “Listen, my son.”

Persuasion Is Superior To Commandment [8]

. . . . . 

#4) Congregational Governance Develops Patience. As most all who have worked with a large group, it is often not very efficient. Primarily because of the time it takes to work with and through a group of individuals, “individual individuals,” and “baptist individual individuals.”

Typically, it is a slower process.

I might add that some of the slowness is because a proposal, decision, policy, plan, idea, project has not been well thought through, and there has been little input from others. Springing an idea on a congregation does not speed up the process if you sincerely want them to be involved and committed to it.

But yes, still slower!

However, the trade-offs are often immense. . . .

  • joint understanding
  • shared responsibility
  • clarity of aim, plan, intent
  • less 20/20 hindsight criticism
  • less second-guessing / “I told you so.”
  • belonging & individual ownership
  • joint support — service and financial
  • learning patience by all members of the body.

I would suggest that the human body, acting together with all of its members, is slower than it would be were the different members not saying — “Whoa – Whoa — That is going to burn me if you are not careful. Think this through again!”

. . . . . 

1. It should be noted that not all “congregational rule” churches are that. Some are CRINO’s — Congregational Rule In Name Only! While the church constitution delineated the church as congregationally ruled, the pastor, or a small group of pastors/deacons, actually make the decisions. The members-only “raise their hands” and “write the checks” — as asked.


3. From the above article:

“There are numerous Scriptural passages that argue for congregational government in the local church. Matthew 23:8 introduces the idea of a single level of church membership— all are brothers. Jesus’ teaching in Luke 22:25–27 indicates that the leaders of the coming church are actually to be servants. The congregation elected the deacons in Acts 6:3–5 and elders in Acts 14:23;1 the entire church sent out Paul and Barnabas in Acts 11:22 (and compare Acts 13:1–3 with Acts 14:27, when they returned to the church as a whole to give a report) and Paul and Titus, according to 2 Corinthians 8:19. The congregation then received Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:2715:4). The entire church was involved in the decisions concerning circumcision (Acts 15:22–25). Discipline was carried out by the entire church (Matt. 18:15–171 Cor. 5:122 Cor. 2:672 Thess. 3:14). All the members are responsible for correct doctrine by testing the spirits (1 John 4:1), which they are able to do since they have the anointing of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20). . . .
1. The word “appointed” is particularly interesting; it means to “choose; elect by raising hands.” BAGD”

. . . . . 

Also, one must address I Timothy 3, where Paul writes to Timothy about the church’s operation and goes from the singular to plural, from the “bishop” to the “deacons.” What did Paul have in mind when he wrote to Timothy about the local church? Why would he not say “bishops” if that was the typical structure of local church leadership?

. . . .

4. “The church” is exactly that! — The Church –Matthew 18;  Acts 11:22;13:1-3; 15:4; Col. 4:16;  The body of believers who have covenanted together for worship, fellowship, and service.

If you want to use the words “the church” to mean anything other than
that body of believers, you will have to come up with a different term.
The meaning of that term —  “the church” — has already been taken!

. . . .

5. Sometimes, you can hear different perspectives, before you “go on record” or take a position, if you seek out different perspectives from outside of the “leadership bubble” in which you operate. Hearing a different opinion/vantage before it comes up in a more public context is better for both parties!”

6. Acts 15:25, 28; Luke 1:3

7. For example, Paul uses the word “beseech.” The whole book of Philemon is an attempt to have Philemon “buy into” what he is saying, rather than commanding such. Jonathan seeks to persuade David to “buy into” his plan concerning his father’s (Saul) intent. Mordecai seeks to persuade, not command Esther.

8. Persuasion is superior to commandment, but when commandment is made, it matters not whether one is persuaded — Romans 12:1

Something Is Terribly Broken When Pastors Begin Cautioning 

It is absolutely amazing to me, that pastors are cautioning God’s people about empathy!  Since “empathy” is a far more demanding behavior than compassion, care, concern, sympathy, beneficence, sensitivity, et al., those lesser behaviors are also thrown into question.

What has “the church” evolved devolved into that we,
of all people, can talk about the hazards of ministry care and concern!

Is that really the problem of ministries and local churches? — showing too much empathy! [1]

It has been the lack of care, compassion, concern, sympathy, beneficence, sensitivity, and empathy that has too often damaged relationships in the ministries and local churches, no less marked this COVID and political year.

If you are unfamiliar with this discussion, check out Daniel Kleven’s posts.  Daniel has recently resigned his position with BC&S (Bethlehem Baptist College & Seminary, all associated with John Piper notoriety), as well as four other pastors of Bethlehem Baptist Church in the past four months.


Something Is Terribly Broken When Pastors Begin Cautioning God’s People About
Justifying Their Failing To Personally Exhibit Empathy!

Romans 12:15
“weep with them that weep.”

#Daniel Kleven

1. I would suggest that you ask those who were marginalized, no less discriminated against for decades, and even today by pastors and local churches, whether there is any substantive reason for caution!

See the following

This is how twisted it gets!  Rigney has to redefine empathy to some twisted definition, a definition that would appear nowhere.  Why? — to explain an absurd position.

Others respond and reveal they understand this disingenuous game Rigney is playing.

The Same Reality, Yet Seeing So Differently!

Servant Leadership "Serve your boss, not your employees ...

John 9 provides a fascinating account of the blind man who was healed by Jesus, and the interaction of diverse individuals within the account — the Pharisees, the disciples, the “neighbors,” the blind man’s parents, the Jews, the blind man — and then Jesus again after all the events had played out.

As Barton states in her book on leadership, “Everyone in this story saw the same man healed,” but the responses were so different!  Why?  They all were affected by another kind of blindness, and a diversified condition of blindness.

. . . . 

John 9 records the account of a group of very religious people who were unable to recognize the work of God in their midst and thus missed the opportunity to be a part of what God was doing. In fact, the religious leaders were most guilty of thwarting and eventually dismissing the work of God taking place among them. In this particular story the bulk of the attention is given to the varying levels of spiritual blindness among those who witnessed the healing of a blind man. Everyone in this story saw the same man healed (or saw evidence of it), but all of them had difficulty recognizing and naming it as the work of God. What should have been a day of uproarious celebration for the healed man deteriorated into a day of controversy, debate, fear and expulsion. What prevented his family, friends and neighbors from recognizing and responding to the presence and activity of God in their midst is not all that different from what prevents us from seeing God’s work today. [1]

. . . . 

The Disciples:

The disciples’ blindness to the work of God in their midst is sobering because it demonstrates that even those who are closest to Jesus and on a serious spiritual journey can still miss things-especially if we are living and breathing the same cultural influences together. [1]

The Neighbors:

The neighbors were afflicted, as we all are, with cognitive filters that helped them categorize and make sense of reality. The problem of course is that these unconscious filters, developed over years of interacting with the situation in the same way, prevented them from seeing anything new or allowing any new data into their consciousness. They found ways to talk themselves out of this new possibility by questioning whether the healed man was their neighbor, even though the man himself was right there saying, “Hey, it’s me!” If the situation wasn’t so sad, it would be comical.

The neighbors’ predicament points out another difficulty we have with seeing: we only see what we are ready to see, expect to see and even desire to see. And we’re even more stuck when we are with others who share the same paradigms. How desperately we need practices, experiences and questions that help us get outside our paradigms so that we can see old realities in new ways! [1]

The Pharisees:

The religious system also afforded them an easy, straight-forward way of evaluating themselves and others-by the externals of laws and rituals, religious beliefs and loyalty to the powers that be. Their strict adherence to this way of evaluating people made them judgmental and uncaring in the way they wielded the power of their position. The Pharisees did not hesitate to use their power to intimidate, exploit and exclude those who didn’t toe the line wherever they chose to draw it. So on this most amazing day not one of them jumped up and gave the blind man a high five. Not one of them said, “How exciting for you!” No one was the least bit curious about what it was like to be able to see for the first time ever. No one asked to hear the details. Instead, they fought, and they fought hard, to preserve the system and to dismiss anything that threatened the system the way they understood it.

Getting caught up in preserving the system gave them a convenient way to avoid dealing with who Jesus was, the miracle he had performed and the fresh wind of the Spirit of God that was blowing among them. [1]

The Parents:

The healed man’s parents were common folk, the defenseless poor who were simply trying to survive in a religious system that was oppressive, punishing and at times even exploitive. When the Pharisees called them to testify about what had taken place, they were afraid, and rightly so. They had seen and they knew what was real, but they were afraid to answer truthfully for fear of punishment and expulsion from the spiritual community that was their very lifeblood. [1]

The Jews:

I might add that “the Jews” also had a different reaction . . . .”But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.”  The knew the truth of the situation when they were faced with the reality.

Nevertheless, it was also the Jews “had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”  They saw but buckled under the pressure of the synagogue leaders.

. . . . 

The power to “drive someone out”– to dismiss, to denigrate and undermine what a person brings, in one way or another – is a power that we as leaders have. We can use that power irresponsibly when we are faced with truth that is unpleasant, inconvenient or challenges us in some way. Because of our place in the system, we can shut someone down or drive a person out without even being conscious of what we are doing or why we are doing it.

Even if we are conscious of what we are doing, we can come up with ways to rationalize it -which the Pharisees probably did. We can even surround ourselves with those who are blind in the same ways we are, so we get caught up in the power of groupthink and cannot see things differently. When groupthink takes over in a leadership setting, we all miss the work of God. But since we have done it together, we have no idea that we missed it and might even congratulate ourselves on our excellent leadership! [1]

This is the punch line of the whole story: those who admit their blindness see. Those who are convinced that they see and stubbornly refuse to admit their need for healing will not be able to see anything new. They will not progress on the spiritual journey. This story shows us that true discernment has very humble beginnings. It starts with the admission that we are not all that good at seeing. It begins with acknowledging the fact that we are as blind as bats sometimes, and there are many obstacles we need to overcome. Discernment begins when we acknowledge the fact that we lack the wisdom we need and that without divine intervention, the best we can do is stumble around in the dark. Discernment begins when we are in touch with our blindness and are willing to cry out from that place [1]

. . . . 

1. Pursuing God’s Will Together, by Barton

4 Flags That Scripture Is Being Used As A Weapon?

Over the past months, I have had some interesting and valuable discussions with my son, Matthew.  I have read some of his Facebook & Twitter posts, read some of the books he has read or recommended, and read portions of his soon-to-be-published book by Crossways (temporarily titled, “Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal.”).


. . . . 

. . . . .

Midst all that reading and talking, I have been sadly reminded about the abusive use of Scripture to justify ungodly policy, laws, and actions by churches, Christian leaders, and pastors — both historically and within my lifetime.  Reading about this abuse and misuse of Scripture is frankly appalling and shameful.

As Matthew would say, “That’s how churches justified slavery. — ‘See, right there it says in Philemon that . . . .  Don’t you believe the Scripture’?’ ”

That shameful behavior by ministries and local churches of our day has not ended.  Ministry and local church leaders still use their pulpit and the Scriptures to beat down critics and criticism — legitimate and illegitimate criticism. [1]

Obviously, the Scripture is the standard for godly and righteous behavior.  Citing verses of the bible, and/or preaching through a particular passage are part and parcel of exhorting others to engage in or avoid the right or wrong behavior that reflects our Lord.  This-or-that passage does teach that it is right or wrong to engage in that behavior.  Bible verses and passages do call on God’s people to adopt or avoid this-or-that attitude towards situations or people.

. . . . 

It is possible to warp Scripture and to turn it into a weapon to quiet or attack people.  There are at least four warning flags that indicate that the Scriptures are being used, not to correct, but as a weapon to self-defend.

. . . . 

#1) “This Passage” Is Cited, But “That Passage” Has Been Knowingly Ignored:

At times, a verse or passage of Scripture is called into play, while other obvious balancing truths are ignored or dismissed because it doesn’t further the desired argument or narrative that is being made.

Many (if not most) Scriptural truths require a balancing against each other.

  • Speak the truth, but do it in love.
  • Be kind, but turn over the money-changers tables when justified.
  • Entertain strangers and show hospitality, but have no fellowship with the workers of darkness.
  • Come as you are to Jesus, but “go and sin no more.”

“G. K. Chesterton — “The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other, and are wandering alone.”  Compassion and honesty are virtues, but separate them from each other and they become vices and do more harm than good.  Dysfunctional churches have gone mad.” — Keith Ford

Some would like to merely cite . . . .

  • the fruit of the Spirit
  •  the Beatitudes
  • the words of Jesus, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
  • James 3 on the use and abuse of the tongue

. . . . and press them upon a situation or a person to make their argument and to weaponize Scripture.  Truths work together and situations (and the facts situations) between offenders and the offended are more complicated than some would like to personally acknowledge.

. . . . 

#2) Fogging Biblical Concepts:

There is no lack of examples of “fogging up” the meaning of Scriptual words & concepts.

“Love” is one of those words/concepts which most all acknowledge is blurred — “That wasn’t loving.”  It may well have been loving, but the heart’s attitude determines that.

“Loyalty” is a virtue, but not at the expense of integrity.  Being loyal to “friends” does not mean that we do not wound — “Faith are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy.”  Some do not know who their real friends are!

“Peace” is another one of those words and what is often meant is not the peace that comes through reconciliation and engagement, but a peace that is only the absence of conflict.

“Peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.
” — MLK (Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, March 18, 1956)

I am reminded of . . . .

Stephen Bryce’s comment . . . .

Love isn’t letting other people have their way with you.  Grace” isn’t ignoring the hurts caused or weeping them under the rug. Anyone who says that, or defends those who say it, is setting people up to be abused.

or Raymond Chang’s words . . . .

“A call for unity that doesn’t address the sources of disunity is not a call for true unity.  True unity emerges from addressing the things that created the divisions in the first place.”

Likewise, as I have often said . . . .

Forgiveness is not something done in isolation, without any confession or admittance of wrong-doing — “I just forgiave them.” 

That may fall under “loving” according to I Corinthians 13 [to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things], but it is not biblical forgiveness.  No conversation or confession of wrong, there can be no biblical forgiveness since, without a conversation, you don’t even know if any wrong-doing took place.  That is why Matthew 5:23-24 says go to them!  That is why confession is the basis of divine forgiveness.

. . . . 

#3) Me, But Not Thee: 

When Scripture is used as a weapon, you will find that the biblical words and truths regarding “unity,” “love,” “kindness,” gossip, and/or the use of the tongue is only applicable in regards to the so-deemed wrong-doer.  Surprisingly, whether the actions or words of others, which preceded any criticism, were kind, loving, promoted unity, were gossip, or “a fire” isstrangely not part of the discussion.

Those Christian virtues and words apply to “them,” but not “me.”  Regardless of what was done or said, “THEY” are not being gracious, kind, forgiving, or forbearing, or unifying–  [Again — “A call for unity that doesn’t address the sources of disunity is not a call for true unity.  True unity emerges from addressing the things that created the divisions in the first place.”].

. . . . 

#4) The Inconsistent Application Of Biblical Truths:

It is a clear and prominent red flag when a biblical truth is cited and applied in regards to situation A, but not situation B. No surprise, the inconsistent application of biblical truths creates disharmony and discord in ministries and churches.

  • This-or-that passage applies now, but not then.
  • It applies to “THEM,” but not “YOU.”
  • It is good and right to expect such compliance from the offender, but not from the so-deemed offended.
  • The reproof is for those in the pew, not the one in the pulpit.

The same passages that teach us godliness, can be and are used in ungodly ways to quiet and cover the wrong-doing of those who then weaponized those very passages.

Those inconsistencies happen because it is now touching relationships, alliances, friendships, associations, connections, family members, appearances, and even one’s personal persona.

. . . . 

. . . . 

1. “Illegitimate” may only be determined upon a conversation or confrontation about this-or-that issue.  What makes a criticism illegitimate?  Upon discussion and examination, it may be seen or deemed an unworthy criticism.  But it may also be seen and deemed as indeed a legitimate concern.  That is why Matthew 5:23-24 is so important!


Because of the pandemic, the word “contactless” has taken on a new meaning, or maybe a singular meaning.  I don’t know if that word ever occupied a meaningful place in our daily vocabulary.  For most of us, making “contact” with people and things was just part of life — not so today.

We have even developed icons to communicate it  . . .

Many of us have heard or made the complaint . . . 

“How do I get in touch with them?”
“There is no way provided to make contact with them.”  

Some businesses would not provide a phone number or an email address in order to directly contact them.  They purposefully avoided providing the opportunity and information needed to talk with them.

“Fill out this form and we will get back to you.”

At times, you found yourself paying for a subscription or service, and you hunted and hunted for a way to contact them and cancel. 

Sometimes, it was a war of attrition on the phone; who was going to last the longest as you were placed in an unknown phone cue and/or put on hold, sometimes for hours!

More recently, you can opt to  “chat” with someone about a problem or situation, but too often they do not have the answer or can resolve the problem, and you would just like to talk to someone — to make real contact with a real person and communicate audibly!

Add to that, texting, which can be used to avoid personal vocal contact.  You can keep the interaction “short and sweet!”  It is a way to avoid conversations that may be longer than wanted and/or can branch off in different directions. 

Nevertheless, one of the foremost created differences within God’s creation is that we can engage in “propositional language” [1]. We can communicate on a level that is not found anywhere else in the created world.  Books, magazines, newspapers, libraries, talking heads, speeches, music, art, sermons, lectures, classroom teaching, blogs, and podcasts all illustrate that foundational reality. 

Engaged in verbal and non-verbal communication is how we spend our day. 

“Solitary confinement” is a punishment.

Speaking to others personally is how we have been created as social beings.  The choice of words, vocal intonations, body language, visual clues, gestures, et al. are all part of what makes personal and/or direct CONTACT important.

Nevertheless, as we all know, some purposefully avoid contact. 

  • Sometimes, it is because they believe that they lack the social skills needed. They are introverted because they have not been very effective or successful at interacting.
  • Some, because they are just impolite, others were “never taught by mom and dad” how to properly engage.  Some are ill-manner and disrespectful by a lack of “education.”  They do not return calls.  They do not let you know that they received your text or email until it suits them or even never.  They do not give any update as to where they-we are in the process.
  • At times, guilt produces avoidance and silence.  They do not want to make contact because they know that they have been rude in not responding sooner, or that they have been wrong and do not want to deal with that wrong-doing.
  • Some find it a useful strategy.  It is a way to not deal with a problem or a difficult situation. “Hunker down” and ride it out with the hope that it will all fade away.
  • Add to that, selfishness.  Life is about them and revolves around them.  Contacting others happens when a need arises in their life, and they now need to contact to get the help or materials needed.  We all know how that works, a request for help from someone who hasn’t contacted us until they needed help.

Contact is part and parcel of a biblical faith, whether it be in evangelism, healthy church relationships, regular weekly fellowship, or shepherding the sheep.

While there has been an “acceptable” & significant shift away from personal and meaningful contact [2], the difference between contact and contactlessness has not been lost by all who have been created in His image.

We all know that . . . .

  • a handwritten note matters,
  • a meaningful response speaks a positive message,
  • a piece of mail with a handwritten address will more likely be opened,
  • allowing time to engage personally when a relationship has been injured makes a difference in the end response,
  • a promptly returned phone call / email / message conveys care and concern
  • having a “face to face” (even with Facetime) conversation is invaluable,
  • hearing a voice is important,
  • receiving a personal call speaks loudly, and
  • part of the grief at a funeral is the lost interaction and contact.

To do less is what we have been called out of as God’s people.  Personal, direct, meaningful conversation is what can and should make us different.  “Contactlessness” may be needed in a pandemic, but it is not Jesus! [3] [4]


1. A great read is the book by Mortimer J. Adler — “The Difference of Man, And The Difference It Makes.” 

2. There are various examples of that present-day shift.

  • Wedding Invitations via email
  • RSVP by text/email
  • Fewer handwritten letters
  • “Thank You Notes” with just a signature
  • Voice mail / Texting / DM
  • Social media

3. See: What Should One Rightfully Expect As A Response?

4. While there are biblical grounds for personal separation, not engaging with those who deny the faith, not responding to a fool (answer — but not like a fool, but as a wise man) in his folly, trying to maintain peace by not speaking your whole mind, such can become cloaks to hide behind, and disingenuously cited to support sinful attitudes and decisions.  Game playing is not a Christian virtue, no matter what the purported biblical explanation.