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!

The 3 Hopes Of Wrong-Doers


There has been much discussion about the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church and its adjacent ministries, all connected with Pastor John Piper.  Add to that the other stories revolving around men such as Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ravi Zacharias, SBC plagiarism, David Platt, John Ortberg, Jon Courson, et al . . . . 

In recent days, Julie Roys compassionately announced that Max Lucado was facing surgery for a heart aneurysm.  As I saw the posting, I thought if I were Max Lucado, I would ask that it not be announced on the Roy’s Report for fear that merely having my picture show up on the “Post Office’s Most Wanted Poster” would create a buzz. 

The “Jimmy Bakker” scandal has glaringly paled in light of what is happening today.  However, not only the “rich and the famous” are involved in ministerial wrong-doing these days.  Be assured, it is happening with far lesser luminaries.  It might easily be argued that the “using-misusing-abusing” of God’s people is happening even more frequently in smaller ministries and local churches because they lack the attention and scrutiny usually needed to uncover such behavior.

Aristotle said this about wrong-doers . . . .

Wrongdoers are hoping that . . . .

They won’t be caught.

If caught, they won’t pay a price.

If they pay a price, it is less than the benefit gained.

Likewise, wrong-doers in ministry and local churches have some “hoping that-s.” 

They are counting on at least three situational factors. 

#1) That no one in the ministry or church has the courage to speak up.
#2) That others, outside of the ministry or church, will not speak out.
#3) That the fellow leaders will stay “loyal.”


#1) That no one in the ministry or church has the courage to speak up:

Wrong-doers are counting on the members and friends of the ministry or local church to remain quiet.  At least quiet enough not to be heard in any meaningful way.  A little murmuring will be tolerated, but nothing loud enough to bring that issue to the attention of the many others.  Wrong-doers are counting on “the quietness of pastoral respect,” the natural reluctance of speaking out publicly, and the intimidating possibilities of speaking out.

Wrong-doers are counting on their employees and members to remain relatively quiet, lest someone “raising their hand and asks a question,” causing others to become emboldened because they had the same question! There is only so much water a ship can take on before being unable to bilge it fast enough!

#2) That others, outside of the ministry or church, will not speak out.

A recent example of that is Kevin Bauder’s article on “a church that will not be named.”  As men like Dr. Bauder speak out and address the actions and attitudes of ministries and churches, change takes place.  When those who are highly regarded address issues, others are heartened to challenge what is happening.  John Piper is counting on the quietness of those outside of his various ministries. When respected men and women remain silent, the changes needed in seminary training, mentorships, internships, or missionary oversight are not effectively addressed. Articles need to be written by men like Bauder, which tackle what is happening because the mishandling of people not only plays out in ministries and churches like BC&S.  

Wrong-doers are counting on the reluctance of those outside of the ministry or local churches to speak out on the issues — directly or even conceptually!  Wrong-doers know that when articles and posts are written, which effectively and persuasively address their actions, that more and more questions begin to be asked.  Reasonable questions can only be batted down, unanswered, or deflected so long before it becomes obvious that “here is something wrong in River City.”!


#3) That the fellow leaders will stay “loyal.”

I put “loyal” in quotation marks because it is not loyalty.  It is a twisted and misguided form of biblical loyalty.  It is not Jonathan and David; it is Absalom & Ahitophel.  That is what happens when loyalty trumps integrity!  Why?  For a sad variety of reasons, including — shared benefit, job security, personally flattered by the relationship, pride in position, intimidation, and even biblical ignorance.

Wrong-doers are counting on the loyalty of any and all on the ministry or church staff, of those in leadership.  If they speak up, it could be the beginning of the end!  Wrong-doers know that when leaders speak up, their voices are double the volume of most others! The volume can only get so loud before others are hearing it!

. . . . 

Remember. . . .
Some are counting on you to help them along 
in their decisions, actions, and handling of people.  

Please let them down!

Kevin Bauder: They Are Counting On You!

Kevin Bauder | Central Baptist Theological Seminary

After reading Dr. Kevin Bauder’s (of Central Seminary) blog title “It’s Not News,”[1] I was reminded of the protection ministries receive from those who won’t or don’t call out wrong-doing.

Had this blog been written in the first days of the “NEWS,” it is understandable to say that “It’s Not News.”  But to say that “It’s Not News” after so many pastors have resigned (four pastors in four months) and after so much has been written and uncovered is exactly what wrong-doers hope to persuade others to think.

Dr. Kevin Bauder . . . . .

#1) Is Slightly Disingenious:

Dr. Kevin Bauder blogged in response to the criticism leveled against “a church that shall not be named” — which is actually well-known and named.  He repeated attempts to make the point that he will not name the church . . . .

“I do not know what is going on at the church-that-shall-not-be-named. I have no intention of trying to find out what is going on at the church-that-shall-not-be-named. The inner workings of the church-that-shall-not-be-named are none of my business.”

. . .  while knowing at the same time that the church and ministry are well known, and if not by any particular reader of his blog, it will be easily “Googled.”

#2) Does Have An Opinion, A Distorted Opinion: 

Even though Dr. Bauder says, “I don’t have an opinion.”, he offers his opinion!

“A church member can take no worse action than to carry complaints and disputes beyond the congregation itself. To bring other members into civil litigation is evil. It is inexcusable. To carry complaints to the press—whether secular or religious, whether print or electronic—is worse. It is contemptible. To involve the media in the attempt to sway the internal decisions of a church is worst of all. It is argumentum ad odio, an appeal to bigotry, and it is a shameful thing for a supposed Christian to do.”

Apparently, there are no exceptions or situations regarding wrong-doing or abuse that ought to be called out publicly by those involved — “It’s contemptible.”  RZIM would appreciate that viewpoint!

#3) Fails To Understand BC&S Is Us:

“For me to intrude into them would be to violate the sovereign autonomy of that congregation as a church of Jesus Christ. I have no right to be informed. Because I have no right to be informed, I have no right to an opinion.”

Dr. Bauder fails to give proper weight to the fact that what is happening at BC&S involves all of us, and not in an insignificant way!  — “Charlei Hebdo Is Us” — BC&S Is Us.  This affects all of us who name the name of Christ and work in ministry.  It went public because speaking to people personally and directly leaves people used, misused, and abused!

AND . . . .Any so-called “sovereign autonomy” was forfeited when a church establishes a college and seminary, and a ministry has wide influence. It has purposefully and powerfully exerted that influence through books, seminars, conferences, and writings.

#4) Weaponizes the Scriptures:

“The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

Again, Ravi used that same kind of argument against his accusers! Now, some can just quote Dr. Bauder! Dr. Bauder has given a weapon to those who would like to beat down the ones they have abused!

Why can’t that same kind of weaponized Scripture be used against those who seek to expose ministerial wrong-doing?  Could not that passage, and many others, be used to silence and intimidate those trying to “right the ship of state?”  You cannot quote such passages without some applicational principle that distinguishes between sinful self-serving criticism, and legitimate, righteous, and necessary criticism.

That passage (and others) cannot be rightfully applied to those who rightfully seek to correct, reprove, expose, and/or warn others.  If it does apply to all “verbal fires,” then Elijah is “the troubler of Israel,” as Ahab claimed!

Such a use of Scripture is a tactic employed by those in ministries and local churches, to quiet and control.  Such a use of Scripture is why men like Ravi, Mark Driscoll, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. survive for decades.

. . . . . 

“It Is News,” and covering it up, at this point in time, is exactly what wrong-doers hope to accomplish! That allows them to stay in power and make changes only around the edges, around the optics!

The leadership at BC&S is counting on you, Dr. Bauder, to write exactly what you wrote!

Sadly, Dr. Bauder’s opinion falls far short of being balanced or reasoned, and only provides a larger defensive shield to those who use and abuse people in ministries and local churches.   Dr. Bauder’s critical article (which he has little trouble publicly posting against those who call out wrong-doing) doesn’t come close to a fair-minded or even-handed critique!  It only further silences the voices of those who are already reluctant to speak up!

Johnathon Bowers & Daniel Kleven’s courage is to be commended!
Few stand as tall when facing the cost incurred regarding relationships, employment, and/or their families.
It was and is time to speak up and speak out!  They, and others, DID!

1. “Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. 

It’s Not News

P.S. Can someone link me to Dr. Bauder’s critique on RZIM / Ravi Zacharias. I did find Ravi Zacharias’s book promoted on Dr. Bauder’s blog site, but no critique.

The 3 “Go To’s” Of Pastoral Defense

Because of my background and education in classical rhetorical theory, I follow and read many articles and publications involving the topic of “argumentation.”  One of the individuals I follow is Douglas Walton, who is a prolific writer in the area of legal argument. [1]

As I read one of the most recent posts that came across my inbox, I was reminded that “pastoral argument” also deserves examination and scrutiny.  There are at least three primary tactics that show up over and over when you read the accounts of the “misuse and abuse” of people by pastors and/or their leadership, whether it be that of Mark Driscoll, Rav Zacharias, or the most recent example, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There are ministries, large AND small, that use, misuse, and abuse God’s people.  That was true in both Old and New Testament days — shepherds and churches which operated in self-serving ways, operated for their own personal and institutional advantage and not for the advantage and health of the sheep.

Over time, as you read these accounts, there are at least three prevalent patterns that repeatedly stand out . . . .

#1) Flip The Script
#2) Disguised Intimidation
#3) Weaponize Scripture

#1) Flip The Script:  The same passages that teach us godliness can be and are used in ungodly ways to quiet the wrong and wrong-doing of those who weaponize those very passages.

After failing to show such graces as “love,” “kindness,” “showing grace,” “seeking peace,” “humility,” “patience,” “fairness,” or “long-suffering,” they are now all enlisted into the dispute.  They are now virtues that are used to marginalize the words of the critics, though sorely absent in the handling of God’s people.

“The script is flipped,” and NOW the argument being made is that those who are offering legitimate criticism about the actions and attitudes of leadership are being unkind, unloving, ungracious.

Now, that might be accurate.  It might be absolutely true!  But the leaders and/or pastors who exhibited that same failure are NOT the ones who ought to be heard!  Their voices ought not be the ones that influence the fairminded and/or frame the argument.  “No, No!  You lack the same credibility that you claim regarding others.”

I said “might be” accurate or true, because criticism, or calling out wrong-doing, real or imagined, is not automatically a failure to exhibit those Christian virtues.  That is exactly what those who use, misuse, and abuse God’s people would like the listeners to believe.

Those who use, misuse, and abuse others in ministries or local churches “turn everything on their head” and point the finger at those who call out wrong-doing, after having they themselves have done exactly what they claim is being done by those who call them out! They “flip the script.”

#2) Disguised Intimidation:  The goal of intimidation is to make others feel uneasy about speaking up.  While we see that in bold print today with the cancel culture, it is merely a means of quieting voices in almost any setting.  

  • The typical and obvious example is seen by the use of the pulpit to “preach” against such “unbiblical” criticism —  “The message today is from the book of Self-Preservation.”  Woven throughout the sermon are illusions to those who have or are challenging the leadership’s decisions, actions, or attitudes.
  • At other times, a message on love and unity precedes the quarterly business meeting.
  • Another and more direct approach is seen when the deacon’s meeting begins with a brief devotional of pastoral authority.
  • Of course, there is always the far less disguised personal intimidation.  Those who support the decisions or actions of this-or-that ministry leader or pastor, sincerely or naively, personally challenge the questioner or critic about speaking out — “I don’t think it is appropriate to say that publicly!”  “You should (or should have) speak to them personally and privately, not in such a public manner.”  

Intimidation is the argumentative tactic being deployed to quiet the voice of any who might speak up.  As wrong-doers well know, allowing people to speak up has a consequential impact — it makes others aware that they are not the only ones who have misgivings about what has or is happening.  Once someone stands up, others who are equally intimidated realize that they are not alone!

#3) Weaponise Scripture: The same passages that teach us godliness, can be and are used in ungodly ways to quiet the wrong and wrong-doing of those who weaponize those very passages.  Legitimate criticism is characterized as “gossip,” “sowing discord,” [2] “slander,” and/or “backbiting.”   

People are not allowed to talk to other people about their concerns — legitimate or illegitimate, without it being called “gossip” or “sowing discord.  Now, don’t be confused; the leadership is allowed to talk about you and others. 

We all know that we talk about decisions, actions, policies, etc., because we seek to get our footing, clarity in thinking, and/or a perspective on what takes place.  We talk to our spouse, a close friend, a co-worker, a deacon, and even the pastor.  Why?  Because we are trying to understand and even change or modify the decision or action.

When someone asks me, “Have you talked to others about this?”  My answer is . . . 

“Of course I did.  I am not foolish enough to think that my thinking is right and that of others is wrong.  In the counsel of many, there is wisdom!”

. . . . AND so did the ministry or church leaders!  Unless they are foolish enough to believe that they alone have the right thinking about this-or-that decision, action, or policy.

Nevertheless, when you talk to others, it is characterized as “gossip” or worse, because . . . .

  • this is not about working together for the best policies and practices within the ministry.  This is about control.
  • this is not about working towards a more effective ministry.  This is about control.
  • this is not about working through differences among a variety of gifted people.  This is about control!

There is legitimate and illegitimate criticism.  Even illegitimate criticism needs to be discussed to determine its illegitimacy.  Yes, there is illegitimate criticism that is proffered for the sole purpose of discrediting or damaging another. That will become more and more obvious to most all involved when a fair-minded discussion takes place, not when it is suppressed.  

It will also become progressively obvious that it is legitimate when there are attempts to wrongfully control that discussion by flipping the script, intimidating people, and weaponizing Scripture.

1. i.e. — Argument from Expert Opinion asLegal Evidence: Critical Questions and Admissibility Criteria of Expert Testimony in the American Legal System

2. When leadership becomes patently inconsistent in dealing with problems, issues, legitimate concerns within a ministry, institution, agency, or local church, it is the leaders who are the ones who are sowing discord!
A Ministry Killer: IOnconsistency — LINK

They Have No Idea As To What Is Ahead!

Many blogs are addressing the changes that have and are taking place regarding the local church.  Some ministry leaders and pastors may view these highlighted changes as short-term — “This too will pass.”

However, it might be wiser to see what is taking place as more permanent than as passing.  In fact, there may actually be unforeseeable long-term changes ahead, and what is being seen are merely the signs of what is down the road — Proverbs 22:3; 27:12.

More cars are showing up on the left and right of you.  The traffic is beginning to become more dense.  More red brake lights are appearing ahead.  The right lane is now quickly slowing down.  Now, the middle lane.  Now, the fast lane is bunching up.  Yep! — Maybe it’s best to take this exit because it looks like there is a “car parking lot” ahead.  Maybe not?  Too late . . . passed that exit!

And it turns into just that, a “car parking lot!”  

It is like the ones you have seen on the other side of the highway in times past.  As you cruised down your side of the uncongested highway, you came to the place where the traffic on the other side was still flowing.  You may have thought to yourself  . . . .”They have no idea as to what is ahead!” 

Now, that is you!

Welcome to the ministry — 2021.

Don’t fail to plan for what may actually be ahead, because what we are seeing may be the fuzzy outlines of more permanent and radical changes in the local church traffic patterns.

Imagine those seminary graduates who have just begun to assume the pastoral ministry!  They have no grasp of what is ahead!


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.

Maybe the Christians in Afghanistan can author a post that will be more helpful.

The excluded middle, the strawman argument, asserting causation from correlation, ad hominem, digression, diversion, anecdotal examples, and many more [1] are all typical and fallacious ways to duck legitimate criticism.

As I listened to a pastor defend himself from the puplit on Sunday, I was reminded of how easy it is to make an argument that seems so persuasive yet so disingenuous.

Some say the music is too traditional, and others say it needs to be more lively.  Some say we are too narrow, and others think we are too loose.  Some want us to be less political, and others believe we should address the issues of the day more than we do.  Some like small groups, and others do not.  Some. . . . Others . . .

You have probably heard this argument being made by those who are side-stepping criticism and/ or addressing any questions about the decisions or actions they have taken. 

Behind it is the subtle point that there are people who agree and disagree, and therefore no one is right or wrong.  The point being defensively asserted is that there are no decisions that can be made without being criticized, so all criticism must be disregarded.  The “pastoral defense” is that there will always be criticism, but the criticism is merely a difference of opinions.  Therefore there are no grounds for legitimate criticism since there will always be two sides that disagree.

The argument is called “False Dichotomy” or “Faulty Dilemma.”  The leader or pastor is facing two choices, facing a dilemma — What is a pastor do to? [2]

Therefore, any legitimate criticisms which are being made are moot. There really are no answers, and therefore, no need for any questions.  Let’s move on!

As you read more and more accounts of ministry and pastoral misuse and abuse [3], the craftiness of men in ministry, and disingenuous attempts to divert attention away from legitimate criticism about what has obviously taken place, are on full display.

Here is another recent example . . . .

For church leaders in particular, this is a discouraging season.

When I talk to pastors of any sized church, in their candid moments, despite being open in person for months or longer now,  they tell me:

      • In person attendance is still running at 40-50% of what it used to be.
      • Online attendance has dropped.
      • People they’ve known and trusted for years have left the church.
      • Volunteers don’t want to serve like they used to and many have bailed.
      • They get criticized for being too political, not political enough, pro-mask, anti-mask, saying too much about vaccines or too little, or being too left, too right, too..whatever.

And they wake up tomorrow and face the same thing all over again.

Sure, there are a few glimmers of hope: new people are coming. There are stories of life change. Not everyone left.

But when you’re facing unprecedented loss after leading for 18 months in perpetual crisis, it’s no wonder people are quitting and leaving. [4]

Obviously, there must be no position that a pastor or ministry leader can take without criticism, so there is nothing they can do.  The pastors — well, they are just stuck — you understand — don’t you.  They only have one option — to stay the course they have chosen and ignore those who question and criticize.

Apparently, there are no — good, better, best, wise, unwise, informed or uninformed, selfless or self-serving, poor, bad, or terrible — decisions or actions. It is only — “this or that” — “either-or”!

I might suggest that the season, the “discouraging season” that some pastors and ministries are facing are due to terrible decisions and actions, and too often a lack of genuine care and concern by the shepherd of the flock.

I’m not surprised — at all — by this article’s assessment on attendance!

I do disagree with the cause of any pastoral discouragement, and who are the ones who should be discouraged — not the shepherds in America, but the sheep! [5]




2. “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

3. 5 Takeaways From A Ministry Leader Who Decided To Do One Of The Hardest Things! 4


5. It is well past time to provide some candid and guileless evaluations of what has been and is happening since March of 2020.  Maybe the Christians in Afghanistan can author a post that will be more helpful!

5 Takeaways From A Ministry Leader Who Decided To Do One Of The Hardest Things!

. . . . .

The fourth pastor has resigned from Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper’s long-time ministry of note). 

A total of four pastors have resigned from BBC in the last four months

While others also have had the integrity to resign, Daniel Kleven is the only one who spoke up and spoke loudly about what was actually happening.

It was one of the hardest things to do because, as Daniel Kleven states . . .

“I am anticipating a wide variety of responses and questions: some people will be very upset with me for speaking with her; some will feel betrayed; some will be deeply grateful that I spoke with her; others will be confused; others may genuinely want to understand.”

Here is the link to his “Open Letter” published about his resignation in the context of an interview by Julie Roys.

After reading the extensive interview, there are at least 5 takeaways that are worth highlighting.

#1) Credible Because of Commitment:  Daniel Kleven was a meaningful and substantial part of the ministries of BBC, and local church over the years, no less the Director of Admissions at the college and seminary.  He speaks from a position of service, commitment, and support.  When such individuals speak out, there ought to be a fair assumption that what is said is legitimate and credible.  Individuals who have shown that level of commitment ought to be given at least the benefit of any doubt.  They ought to be given an audience and a substantial opportunity to explain their perspective!

#2) You Will Find It A Hard Call: Kleven clearly and repeatedly shared his reluctance to speak out on the issues.  However, as he states, “I didn’t want to do it, it felt easier not to speak. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling: I don’t want to speak with her; but should I? . . . . It isn’t always crystal clear, it feels like a judgment call that requires wisdom. Some people, like me, have spoken or will speak; others will remain silent.” [1]. More often than not, it will be a hard call. 

“There is only deception and truth. People who choose to remain neutral are giving safe passage to lies. Elie Wiesel powerfully said, ‘I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.’”

#3) Put Your Name On It: Kleven refused to take the road of commenting “off the record,” and he also refused to be complicit in covering up the facts of the situation with those who asked.  It has been well stated that error is halfway around the world before the truth has its boots on.

Have you shared this information with anyone else? — Yes. Along the way I have repeatedly said “I am happy to follow up with anyone about any these things, and nothing I share needs to be confidential. Put my name on it, and send people to me if they want to follow up. I am not hiding anything.”

#4) Telling The Truth Is What’s Accomplished:  Who hasn’t heard the words, “Nothing is going to change!  There is nothing to be accomplished by speaking out?”

When Kleven is asked what he hopes to accomplish by speaking out publicly and personally, he states . . .

I’m not hoping to “accomplish” anything, other than telling the truth, and defending it if I have the opportunity. I’m not a member of this church anymore, and have thus given up my right to advocate for specific outcomes. Whatever those remaining at BBC and BCS will choose to do as more and more comes to light is up to them.

#5) Be A Voice For Others:  Anyone who has belonged to a toxic ministry or church, or has talked to those who have been deeply hurt by the words and behavior of ministry leaders and pastors, understands how consequential those words, actions, responses, attitudes, and decisions are.

“Again, while I did not consider my own story something worth sharing publicly, I do believe that I have been a bystander, a witness to things that others have experienced, and this was what tipped the scales for me in the direction of sharing publicly.. . . .

In fact, I believe that sometimes not speaking does more dishonor to the name of Christ than speaking would do. I do not believe that Christ is honored by secrecy, by hiding, or by deceit. He is not honored when people hurt others in his name. And he is not honored when other people remain silent in the face of those actions.


1. “Here are a few of the quotes that influenced me [Daniel Kleven]:

“Abuse is not someone else’s personal and private matter that we can ignore out of a concern for minding our own business, nor is it a matter to be only attended to by a select few in leadership positions. Abuse is a community concern. Therefore, the question must be asked of each of us: In what ways am I perpetuating an abusive culture through my silence or tacit endorsement of those who are in the wrong?” (178).

“What can we expect, beyond words, that can assure us of the sincerity of the community’s newfound resolve to end abuse? One action might surpass them all. And it is this: to open all the windows of the darkened house until every nook and cranny is covered in light so that all the damage can be seen. It is to surrender to that light, even if it means there will be no possibility of retaining or regaining legitimacy” (179).

“People often defend their silence by saying, “I don’t want to take sides.” More often than not, that is simply an excuse for not pursuing truth. Who do we usually hear that from? The leadership attempting to maintain order. And even after the truth has been established, those who chose not to pursue the truth often want to remain neutral. But there is no remaining neutral. Bystanders must take sides, either to be arrive supporters of the wounded or to actively turn their backs. There is only deception and truth. People who choose to remain neutral are giving safe passage to lies. Elie Wiesel powerfully said, ‘I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.’” (180).

“A safe community gives people the freedom to say, “Something’s not right.” A safe community searches for understanding until what doesn’t seem right is clearly identified, named, and described. A safe community addresses what isn’t right, even if it means putting their own reputation on the line. And if the system itself isn’t right, then a safe community will consider whether its presence is part of the problem. A safe community gives no room for the language of abuse to spread, because it keeps the lights on. In that light, truth moves freely. People do not keep their stories to themselves for fear of how others will respond” (184).

. . . . .

Link to another article on the situation

written by Daniel Kleven — director of admissions at Bethlehem College & Seminary.