“Accountability Partners!” — How’s That Working Out?

Had a great response to the various postings on the RZIM scandal and how it relates to ministry and the local church.
Here was one of the most recent questions and interchange . . . . 
Bob: Great Articles about Leadership and Accountability.  You don’t need to answer this – How do you protect yourself, and do you have accountability partners?

Me: Great question…. I do want to address that question. . . . . and will say more. . . . but if I need an accountability partner, then I as a pastor should be in another position…when the doctor can’t take care of his own health, he’s not a doctor, he’s called a patient.

Bob: I understand — But most of the Pastors in America have fallen due to lack of accountability.  I have been in Christian leadership and was held accountable by friends, elders, deacons, and my wife – perhaps the most critical of me going in the wrong direction of falling / sin.

Me: . . .

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#1) I was going to say in my initial brief response to your comment that we all have an accountability partner if we are married.  If anyone knows us and what we are saying and doing, it is probably her.

However, that makes my point!  Not even Ravi’s wife knew what was taking place or, if she had suspicions, addressed in it real enough terms.  Therefore, what is the hope of someone less involved in our lives?

#2) If a person wants to engage in immoral behavior, they will.  There are plenty of workarounds to arrive at a place where you want to arrive.  No accountability partner will resolve an internal issue from an external position.  Ravi’s wife and adu9lt children proved that!

#3) As you state, there are people — friends on various levels, which may also be elders, and deacons as well — who we listen to and open up to in life and living.  That small circle of people we have come to trust and value have always been in that “relationship place” in our lives to listen and influence us.  They have been given “relational freedom” to speak to us.  They are “natural,” not formal partners in life and living.  I have, as do you, a small number of close friends, as well as my wife and children, who can caution and correct my thinking when I talk openly — as I do them.

#4) If the head doctor is sick and has no idea as to how to get back to health, he has no right to be in the emergency room for others.  Ravi should have resigned himself knowing what he knew.  He is (and was) a patient in need of serious moral and spiritual help.

#5) I, along with many others I suspect, have been asked to cover up the immoral behavior of others in the church and of those who are still in the church’s membership and/or who are still ministering — asked by other pastors.  That is how sick evangelicalism, mission board, and its pastors are.  They can’t even do what needs to be done and face such issues straight on.  Mission boards cover for missionaries, and pastors cover and even continue to support other men in ministry who have been engaged in immoral behavior.  Tell me how  “accountability partners” are supposed to work again!

#6) How did Ravi get away with such behavior, such egregious behavior, so long?  One of the answers is “plausible deniability.”  We have heard that term in the political world, and it describes what happens in the church.  There are plausible explanations that Ravi gave, and they were believed.  What is one of the solutions to that not happening?  Intense push back that does not allow shallow responses or claims of unfairness.  Intense enough to cause the one being questioned to even complain, but to accept such scrutiny because they know they are either innocent, or their “so-claimed proper behavior” has caused such legitimate intensity!

That is the problem with leadership and pastors in the local church setting.  They shield themselves from fair scrutiny by a variety of means — one of them being relationships, as well as the argument of past practice (“We have always . . . what is this change about now?), silencing of members by threats of disfavor or dismissal, purposefully structured business meeting times,  sermons designed to promote a protective spirit prior to that business meeting, calling out of discordant members from the pulpit, and even dismissal.  These are all designed to prevent or lessen legitimate and fair “push back.”  Ravi, and other ministry leaders and pastors, know how this all works, all too well.

#7) Those who irresponsibly allow and/or cover are not even held accountable.  Even co-leaders and members of “the board” who were responsible for oversight ought to be held accountable and asked to resign.   One would have hope they would have resigned themselves, as should have RZ.  Apparently, they do not think so!  How again do accountability partners work?

External accountability partners will never be more viable or potent than personal internal accountability.  If RZ couldn’t bring himself to resign and seek help, then it is only the process of shameful unveiling that has the probability and potency to speak spiritually sensibility into the mind and heart.  That unveiling took place after his death because “no one” had the strength to intensely push back, and/or those who did were marginalized and demonized (per the second article on how it was covered up by the leadership).

As I have often said in ministry . . . .

“I don’t know who I am talking to this morning but “STOP IT” — get off this road now and take this message and warning as the last time that the Lord will speak to you about it!”

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The #1 Reason to Leave The Church — PDF Link

Referenced RZIM Material

The Roy’s Report


RZIM Report:

The #1 Reason To Address The RZIM Scandal!

speak upAfter talking to several people about RZIM and the monumental scandal (and it is a horrific scandal on different levels that will not dissipate for years!), which has rippled across the sacred and secular headlines, I would like to suggest that it needs to be addressed. [1]

While Bible teachers and preachers can say that we have been reminded once again that we should only look to Jesus, such is neither the reality nor what the Bible teaches.  By divine original design, people are influenced by others and by their leaders. . . . .

Genesis 3 — “and he did eat”

Numbers 20:12 — And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Proverbs 13:20; 28:7 — Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is companion of riotous men shameth his father.

Joshua 3:7 — And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

Numbers 32:7 — And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?

I Corinthians 11:1 — Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Leadership matters —  and that is why there are qualifications for pastor and deacon. That is why moral failure is a biblical reason for being removed from leadership and the ministry.

The lesson is more than . . . . “Only keep your eyes on Jesus.”  That is not only unrealistic, but unbiblical. 

The purpose of leadership is to lead.  That leadership in a ministry or a local church requires walking on a high road because people follow — family members, friends, lost loved ones, the church, insiders, outsiders, near and distant, and even fellow pastors.  PArt of the reason people listen and follow is because of who is speaking, and who is speaking matters to the Lord because of that biblical reality.

Those who have supported, listened to, read their books, and/or been personally helped by a ministry leader such as RZ are struggling, and will continue to struggle with what has happened.  Critical decisions in life were made, helpful advice was followed, biblical truths were understood, confidence in the teachings of the Scriptures was strengthened, et al. under years of his ministry.  The question floating around the mind and hearts of many is – — Can I now trust those decisions, truths, explanation, and even the Scriptures as taught by him?

To leave it unaddressed is to risk losing members and friends of your ministry and local church! 

Midst all that is happening across America, this fuels the fire.  It pours gas on the thinking that “the church” is so broken that it is best to just go it alone!

  • Who knows who or what is next, even in the professing Christian ministry!
  • Yea, I guess so — young people leaving the church!
  • Had enough of this hypocrisy in the local church — say and not do!
  • Can’t even trust those who are there to watch the gates!
  • You think you know, but maybe you are also being deceived by the leaders.
  • It’s broken!
  • Yea, I’m cynical, but who isn’t or shouldn’t be when these things happen!

REMINDER: Don’t risk your ministry leadership by “covering” for those who have already proven themselves unworthy of your trust!
The RZ scandal is also a reminder to ministry leaders and pastors to get serious about addressing moral and sexual failure — by fellow pastors, missionaries, school administrators and staff, and church ministry leaders.  To cover for other pastors, ministry leaders, or missionaries — as a leader, or a mission board, or a ministry president, or a parachurch ministry —  is to risk your own position, influence, and ministry for those who have already proven immoral and/or dishonest.

1. Addressed:  I would not address it on a Sunday Morning, but perhaps during the Bible Study hour or mid-week service, or even as a separate podcast/stream for the members and friends of your ministry.

RZIM — You May Not Want To Face It But — It’s Over!

closed. . . . . 

√ You have nothing to export!
√ You are offering “junk bonds,” and most everyone knows that!
√ Your stock has crashed to new and unrecoverable lows!
√ It’s time to turn the lights off and close shop!

RZIM has nothing to sell, surely not credibility!  Its apology rings hollow when you realize that they were unable and/or unwilling to detect the stench.  It is time to close down the business, and that is what it now about.  There is no longer any reason to maintain the storefront. No one cares to read his books, support his organization, quote or cite his words, or use his name as a source.  It is time to box it all up, haul it away, and turn off the lights as you walk out.

The very person whose ministry was about making the argument that Christianity is credible “(apologetics”) has proven his words incredibility uncredible!  He has perhaps done more damage to the name of Christ and Christianity than the decades of ministry, which were at one time accounted as good.  If my ministry used the word “apologist” to describe its work, I would change the name and avoid such a descriptive promotional appellation.

As I have repeatedly written, the “church’s” model for accountability is broken, AND that was known and proved long before this story broke.  It didn’t take this example of moral failure to establish that conclusion.

This has been known and felt by church members across America who have experienced the same leadership complicity in covering for the directional, oversight, and moral breakdown of its leaders, administrators, missionaries, and pastors.

As I stated, the RZIM example is not proof of leadership’s failure to hold men accountable when an organization gets too large. That reality has been already and continues to be, proven by example after example.  Check out Dave Ramsey as the most recent example of that template!

If this stench could be left unaddressed for years . . .
then there is no stench that can escape being ignored!

Instead, RZIM is proof that any ministry, even the least of these, is well able to ignore the smells of abusive behavior by the very leadership which is there to prevent such unbiblical and unrighteous behavior.  If this pervasive rancid stench could be ignored by those given the position of oversight, . . . If this stench could be left unaddressed for years . . . then no stench can escape being ignored!

No matter how small the organization, ministry, or local church, the fact is that ungodly, unbiblical, abusive, sinful, or immoral words and actions can be ignored or dismissed by those who ought to be the last protectors of God’s people.  That too has been proved over and over.  Those who have been put in place to hold leadership accountable can become ignorantly or knowingly complicit in allowing the bodies to be hidden and the odors to be ignored.

It is time for the least of these — the smallest of ministries, missionary boards, and local churches — to clean up its approach in addressing the wrongdoing of its presidents, leaders, board members, deacons, missionaries, administrators, and pastors! The stench is just as real and noxious when it wafts across the room of a few staff members & employees, or the pews of a small congregation, or the membership assembled for its church business meeting. And yes, the stench is just as ignorable and coverable by any and all who have been given the responsibility of being “watchmen,” there to protect the city, not the ministry elite.

It is over,
even if they continue to open the front door,
turn on the lights,
and excitedly welcome the few straggling customers who wander in,
not knowing what has really happened!

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How do you even continue to
get these words out of your mouth!


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Just more proof that they are tone deaf!!!

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♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦  

It’s time to turn the lights off and close shop!


And let’s face the truth . . .
you should be closed!


You have lost any platform!


“Why would I leave the church?”

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Check Out . . . .Rachael Denhollander’s blog and books!

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The Proof Is In, The Model Is Unworkable

The report was just posted yesterday.

An external audit of RZIM has issued a report on the allegations against Ravi Zacharias, and it is shocking beyond words!  That is not hyperbole; it is shocking beyond words.  When a report includes the word “rape,” it is mind-boggling!

One conclusion is clear, as has been demonstrated over and over (on even lesser scales, accountability can not be and must not be governed by those who are part of the institutional, corporate culture.   Those in leadership positions at RZIM have utterly failed at . . . .

  • detecting the deception of Ravi Zacharias
  • asking the right questions
  • seeking appropriate outside help to assess the situation
  • investigating the complaints and charges which were made
  • show sufficient concern for those who were abused by the ministry
  • genuinely giving those used and abused a fair hearing
  • addressing the complaints and charges (until forced to by public and private pressure)
  • accepting responsibility

As previously stated, the “church’s model of leadership accountability” is “unworkable!”

Over and over, we see the same pattern . . .
The Inability Of Church Leaders To Hold Other Leaders Accountable.

That has been established time and time again.   The ministry and local church model for dealing with misconduct is proven once again as inoperable — by the starkest example.  “Too many patients have died on the table” to allow boards, fellow ministry leaders, deacons, or church elders to be part of the “diagnosis and operation.”

There are two primary reasons for the ministry and local church model’s failure.

#1) Relationships (and this is #1):

Relationships interfere with clear-mindedness and judgment.

Once someone gains power in a broken system, then, they enter an elite subgroup within that system. Their fellow power-holders will do everything in their power to protect them.” [1]

As stated, the power holders finally speak out when it eventually or ultimately becomes perfectly safe to do so, when this-or-that leader makes a terrible decision or engages in an inexcusable action, which makes him radioactive then impossible to help or save.

“A broken system contains almost no provisions for reining in wrongdoers or removing them from power — because then all of these power-holders’ positions would land on the chopping block. None of the leaders in these systems really deserve to be there, and most of them behave in ways that would get them instantly removed from power in more functional systems. Not so, in broken systems.” [1]

#2)  The Arrogance Of Those With Power & Position:  Those who are in positions of power and who could and should have detected and addressed it were AWOL!  Those who are in oversight positions of power, just like the leaders they oversee, are far too often arrogant!  The ministry directors, chief administrators,  school presidents, and pastors are convinced that they will not be found out and/or that they can talk their way around and out of their wrong-doing.  Like them, those overseeing the organization are also self-convinced that they have the facts and the story right!

The proof?  No one of them has stepped down from their position of “corporate oversight!”  Apparently, they feel no need to immediately step down from their positions!  They should.  They failed, and if they failed to detect one of the most egregious violations of morality, they lack the ability and/or the desire to detect anything.  They failed even to detect the “smell!”  They should all resign!

It was not that they were unable to detect such a smell, which many outside of the organization thought worth a serious investigation.  But it seems obvious that they were unwilling to even pick up the scent until enough pressure was applied.  They were not unable; they were resistant —  which goes back to point #1.

This starkest example argues for the brokenness of the model to even detect wrong-doing and wrong-doers who are engaged in far lesser abuses of power!  If leadership “couldn’t” detect this odor, then what has to “die” before the scent is picked up!

How many more people [– co-workers, church members, new believers, loyal opposition, ministry volunteers, givers, trusting servants, church whistleblowers, dismissed members –] need to “die on the table” before it is admitted that the internal leadership of a parachurch ministry or a local church, cannot and/or will not address the wrongdoing of its top leaders!

The natural tendency is for leaders and leadership to cover-up,
not to address wrong-doing, and wrong-doers!

We, of all people, should know that!
II Samuel 11!

5 Reasons You Need A “Loyal Opposition!”

push back words

Loyal Opposition“:

“Loyal opposition is one of democracy’s grandest terms. Once used to shield the party out of power from accusations of treason, it now describes the institutionalization of opposition, most famously Great Britain’s elevation of the minority party leadership to a shadow cabinet. Termed the “greatest contribution of the nineteenth century to the art of government stand-in for some of the best practices in democracy: making space for dissent, knitting outsiders into democracy’s fabric, attending to the institutional dimensions of integration. It perfectly captures one of the basic aims of democracy: maintaining an opposition that is loyal.”

. . . .

. . . . . . . 

In the church, “The “Loyal Opposition” are those who have given their time, talents, and treasure to the ministry for years and have genuinely sought to support the leadership, but now must put “integrity” over any such loyalty.

Most all of us avoid conflict.  I realize that some must like it.  Nevertheless, I well imagine that anyone involved in a disagreement would rather avoid it — especially after it is over – ugh!

Nevertheless, there are times when strong and needed disagreement needs to be voiced to leadership.  There is such a thing as “loyal opposition.”

Loyalty” and “opposition” are not opposites.

A person can be loyal and still be “hurtfully critical” of what has been said or done.  If that were not true, Proverbs 27:6 (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”) would not use the word “wounds.” The word is not “pokes,” “nudges,” or “elbows.”  Their words and actions leave bruises.

Their words not only offer no support but actually hurt.

They are not only against an action or decision but publicly vote against what is being suggested.

By the way, it is the “kisses” that are pernicious and sinful.  We have heard it said —  “They are kissing up to them!”  That is exactly what is happening when people dissemble to one’s face, but behind closed doors, say and seek that same person’s downfall.

Loyalty must never outweigh integrity!

At times, maintaining integrity requires stated and/or public opposition.

Also, it should be said that it is “integrity” that generates loyalty! It is because of a person’s integrity, there is an accompanying loyalty.  When a person’s integrity is fractured or worse, so is one’s loyalty to that person.

There are some clear and poignant reasons ministry leaders and pastors need the loyal opposition.

#1 — Varying Intelligence: “Loyal Opposition” is needed because no one [1] is smart enough to . . . .

    • think of all the options
    • see all the opportunities
    • grasp all the intricacies
    • address the variety of situations
    • know and understand the various specialties
    • realize all of the implications
    • think of a better, or the best

You probably are not the smartest man in the room.  You may be in charge, but that is not an indication of your intelligence.  The proof of that is seen repeatedly at all levels of society.  There are those in authority who lack even common sense.

An intellectual arrogance fuels a disregard of, and even disdain towards, “opposition.”  “We all” think that we are smarter than we are.  That is part of our sinfulness.  If anyone ought to seek out a different vantage, it is God’s people, who understand that truth.

“Every man is right in his own eyes.” However, when “his neighbor searches him out, “that a decision, action, or situation is seen in its full light.

#2 — Varied Perceptions:  “Loyal Opposition” is needed because there is more than one vantage or viewpoint on almost all life issues.  We all realize that there is “more than one way to skin a cat.”  There are different ways to accomplish the same end.  Allowing those who see things differently to feel the freedom of input generates different ideas about “cat skinning.”

#3 — Self-Serving Thinking:  “Loyal Opposition” is needed because there is an all too natural tendency to make self-serving decisions.  Those decisions do not benefit God’s people, the church, or the kingdom work.  They were brought to the table and introduced because it advantaged the one making the decision, recommendation, or policy change.

There are those who serve in leadership positions and even serve as pastors, who suggest and/or implement changes that benefit their family, children, finances, workload, and/or benefits.  The potential examples are all too numerous [2].

#4 — The Church’s Giftedness:  “Loyal Opposition” is needed because the church was designed to involve people with a variety of different gifts.  Those different gifts motivate the way we think and respond to events in life.  The person with the gift of “mercy” responds to a situation differently than the one who is gifted with “administration.”  One of the reasons God’s people think and act differently is that their gift pushes them in a different direction.

#5 — A Mutual Respect:  “Loyal Opposition” is needed because leaders and pastors need to develop respect for those who disagree.  There is a “cancel culture” that has long been part of far too many ministries and local churches.  Long before that term was created to describe what is taking place in society and culture, it was part of church culture.  Disagree, criticize, and/or speak up, and you are charged with “sowing discord.” [3]  You are now marginalized — you are now “Marjorie Taylor Green-ed.”  You will not sit on any “committees.” You may be villainized, or threatened, or even dismissed from membership — with the same lack of process we see and deplore in our society!

There is an appalling lack of respect for those who disagree, disagree, stand in opposition, and/or criticize [4] bad and even sinful decisions and actions.  Some may not grasp how difficult it is to stand up to wrong-doing and wrong-doers in a church setting.  There is a strong desire to allow a lot of leeway to the pastoral leadership in the church’s operation.  As I would often say to my children who were attending our Christian school — “If a teacher comes to me about your behavior, it has to be bad because I know how difficult it must be for them to speak to me as the pastor!”

It is no surprise that the world is unimpressed by the church, which lacks the ability to navigate disagreements and loyal opposition because they are often disrespected as well.  Dealing with disagreement, criticism, and opposition in the church is a good place to learn respect for those who differ!

Jesus and the woman at the well demonstrate the respect due to all men, no less the household of God.  He never “canceled culture” and dismissed those who disagreed! Rather, He died for all men — for both thieves!

Had some of those involved in contemporary ministry scandals had some board members, yoke-fellows, friends, or their wives who were willing to speak up and stop the madness taking place, the story might have ended a different way!  The end of the story was sad and damaging because no one spoke up, or spoke up in a way that was strong enough to hurt — to “wound.”

. . . . . . . 

1.  Please do not disregard the fact that there are degrees of intelligence.  There are highly intelligent people who have a lot of experience and knowledge under their belt.  There are those who are very ignorant!  If you don’t recognize that fact, you will listen to all and everyone with equal weight.  There are the “simple (naive), the wise, the perverse, and the alert, as seen in the book of Proverbs.

2. Here are just a few I have seen (and even tempted by as a pastor) . . .

  • Administrators and pastors who make changes of policy that benefit their children attending their Christian school
  • Changing the insurance plan, now that they have faced or are facing a substantial deductible.
  •  Revamping the staff salary schedule when their son or daughter is now working in the church ministry.
  • A new policy that now allows nepotism.
  • Seeking constitutional changes that give greater freedom for leadership to make decisions without seeking congregational approval.
  • Setting up a church business meeting situation so that few can or will attend, or so that there is little-to-no genuine opportunity for input or discussion.

3. There is a parallel “cancel culture” spirit, which can be found in too many churches.  Disagree, and you are charged with “disunity.”  That has been part of the church culture for years in far too many churches.  “Sowing Discord” is the church’s cancel culture mantra used to squelch needed, candid, and truthful criticism.  There is little-to-no place for the loyal-opposition* to challenge the self-serving decisions and actions of those in power and influence positions.

Sometimes, the ones “sowing discord” are those in position and power.  Their decisions, policies, pronouncements, actions, or words caused a problem that must now be addressed by those who are part of the membership.  While those who now disagree and stand up against what has been done are labeled as “sowers of discord,” the truth is that it is the reverse!  Who are the “sowers of discord” when James MacDonald’s words and actions became so abusive that he was rebuked?  The members were vocally critical of his actions.   Ultimately they voted him out of his leadership position — (sound like “publicly disagreeing” to me)!  He claimed that they were sowing discord.  Hardly!

4. Yes, there it is wise to seek to and/or address an issue first with those who are/were involved in making that statement, decision, or policy.  That may not always be possible due to the unwillingness of those in leadership to make their actions or decisions known before announcing them and/or presenting them in a business meeting.  There are even those who will so arrange a general meeting to avoid any genuine or fair discussion.

Like you, I “hate” going down that road, but it is only because those addressing wrong-doing and wrong-doers should not be canceled or silenced!

“I Will Never Forget It!”

elephant never forgetIn and around 1977, we were traveling from Tennessee Temple College to Paterson, New Jersey.   Gas was 30 cents a gallon, and we were driving a “Buick” Opel.  Yes, even back then, 30 cents a gallon was enough reason to buy a small gas-saving vehicle.  Add to that, we were living on a professors’ salary of $9.700.  We bought the Opel used, and I worked on it now and again as needed.

Over some weeks, I began hearing a noise in the “rear-driveshaft-pinion-gear-wheel-bearing” area????

I removed the driveshaft, along with the pinion gears and the two axles.  I checked it all out, and everything seemed good!  I reassembled and filled up the differential with new lubricant.

What I didn’t know was that after you worked on the differential, you had to “stake” the “threaded rod” holding the differential gears in place.  “Stake”? — In essence, deform the metal on the very end of the threaded shaft to prevent the nut from working its way off the threaded rod over time, since a lock-washer was not a possible method for a spinning drive-shaft.

I didn’t do that!

As we were traveling up to Jersey, I again began hearing sounds in the rear end.  I thought — maybe I still didn’t solve the problem, and I will have to pull the axles off again — AND I had all the tools in the trunk to pull off both axles (my trunk was a tool and parts store most of the time)!

“That is what must be the problem.  I should have just replaced them in Chattanooga!”

So I pulled off the exit (Bristol, Virginia), looked for an auto parts shop that might have the bearings, and if they did, I planned to have them press on new bearings, install the axles myself in the parking lot, and then back on my way!

It was just 12 noon on a Saturday.

As the Lord has it, there was an auto parts store right at the exit.  I mean, a real auto parts store that has everything and does everything — including pressing on bearings!

But they had no bearings for an Opel.  It was made by Buick, but it was still a German-made car!

“There is a Buick dealer in town!”


“Yea, they are open till 2 on Saturday!”

So, I drive off to the dealer, but it is getting close to closing time on a Saturday afternoon!

We’re about to close.  We can work on it Monday!”

“Okay . . . . Is there a motel in town?”

Yes, right down the road — a Holiday Inn.”

“Can someone drop us off at the Holiday Inn?”


We get a hitch from the Buick dealer to Holiday Inn.
$12.00 a night!  — Ugh — UGH — That is 46 gallons of gas!  More than 6 fill-ups!

We check-in and plan on being there Saturday and Sunday night — at least two nights — but may more?

“Let’s see what churches there are in town — for Sunday services tomorrow.”

We find one with all the markers for being a Bible-believing church — AWANA, Sunday night services, Mid-week services, etc.  So I call up the number listed in the Yellow Pages.

Yes– the Yellow Pages!

The pastor answers and introduces himself.

I introduced myself.

I indicated that I am a teacher at Tennessee Temple.
(I thought that might help as well in getting a ride to the church.)

And I asked him for the times of the Sunday services.

“Can someone pick us up at the Holiday Inn tomorrow morning?  Our car is in the Buick dealer’s parking lot for repairs.”

What happened?”

Yada-yada-yada . . . .

“Look, check-out of the Holiday Inn.  See if they will refund your money and stay at our house — whether it is only till Monday or all week — whatever it takes!”

Holiday Inn agreed!
That was a surprise!

We stayed at the Pastor’s house till the car was repaired.
Surprisedly, it was finished on that Monday, and we left as soon as it was finished. [1]

It was at a church in Bristol, Virginia/Bristol, Tennessee!  Never forgot that experience!

I found out what it feels like for someone to take the time and show care and concern for a “poor” and broken down TTC professor!

Never forgot that — nor the feelings I felt when the pastor showed that love and personal sacrifice to help us out!

Never forgot it– even now, over 40 years later, those feelings come back!


NOW . . . .Zoom forward to the later 1990s.

I am now pastoring in Trenton, New Jersey.

Our family home phone was the parsonage church line and number— the kind with the dial that was fairly stationary – – lol.

It is 2 o’clock in the morning, and the telephone rings next to me.

I pick up the phone, pause a moment after clearing my head, and say — “Pastor Martens here — how can I help you!”

“My name is Jimmy Harrison.  I am a student at Tennessee, Temple University, and I broke down on 95 at exit 61 (that’s our exit — we are but a few miles off that exit).

 “I looked up your church in the Yellow Pages and got the church number.  I wasn’t sure I would get anyone this time in the morning.  Is there someone who can help me out?”

What do you think I said – – – –

Like I said — I never forgot how good it felt for someone in Bristol, Virginia to care about me — to step in and step up to help!

When you are at the receiving end of the kindnesses of others — whether it be help, a lift, a card, a call, a hand, a place to stay, some extra bucks, an opportunity, a job, or just demonstrating that someone cares — It really FEELS GOOD! 

You can either absorb those feelings and kindness — maybe even thinking you are entitled or deserving of such kindness — or you can “never forget it.”

You can either consume it or be reminded again how caring feels when you are on the other side of need.

“Never forgetting” means that it feels so good that I imagine others would also feel like I felt on that Saturday afternoon.  Therefore, I am going to let that experience change the way I respond to people in need — whether it be a phone call — a card — a visit — a helping hand — some money — a job — unloading a moving van, proving an opportunity — making a referral — et.al.

You can either absorb the kindnesses of others, OR you can let it so affect you that you put yourself in their place and think — “I bet that they would never forget it as well —  if someone showed that they cared — in whatever form that takes in their sickness, sorrow, crisis, financial strains, or time of need.  I would wager that they are just like me!”

I think there is a Bible verse that teaches that principle — may be more than one!

II Corinthians 1:4 — Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Philippians 2:4 — Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Maybe it is just the God-intended and inherent design of the Golden Rule — “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

P. S.: Now, let me tell you the times I have failed at this as well!  I know one thing, not remembering Bristol, Virginia, will only cause more such failures!

P.S.  That principle works in reverse as well.  You know how lousy it feels when ______ . Well, that is also how someone else feels when you do that to them!

1. For the mechanically interested, the noise was not the wheel bearings — The pinion gears were loose and sloppily gyrating in the housing.

If A Tree Falls In The Woods and NO ONE In The Congregation . . . .

tree falls in a woods

Who hasn’t heard and thought about the question . . .

If a tree falls in a forest and
no one is around to hear it,
does it make a sound?

That is a philosophical question involving the definition of “a sound.”  If “a sound” is the movement of air molecules (compression waves), then the answer is yes.  If “a sound” requires that those air vibrations reach and vibrate an eardrum (compression waves + an eardrum, AND brain signal), then the answer is no. However, there are a lot of animals in a forest who still would have heard that “sound.”

Nevertheless, being less philosophical or technical, there are some very real and practical implications of that question regarding speaking and preaching.  If you preach, and no one is actually listening to what you are saying, have you preached a sermon?

“Not Listening” can be the result of at least three factors (others may flow from these three) . . . .

  • Distractions — Created by the audio/video team (all too common), other people ( who walk down the middle aisle and across the front, to a seat on the far side), one’ children, and/or personal concerns (which are not even close to being addressed nor any hopes of it being addressed.). The environment before and midst the sermon affects what is heard.
    . . . . . . . 
  • Poor Preaching — While some would like to call up the ministry of the Holy Spirit to justify “mediocre-to-poor-to-terrible-to boring” preaching, such a hope is fiction.  The Holy Spirit’s work does not include the miracle of taking the boring and turning it into the absorbing.  Even those preachers who take such a flawed position have “listened to” and attest to the fact that preachers can be “mediocre-to-terrible.”  “Apt to teach” means that there are those who are “not apt to teach.”
    . . . . . . . 
  •  Walking Your Talk — Yes, there are no “perfect” pastors or churches. Those kinds of statements are “straw-man” arguments.  Of course, there is no perfect anything (except our Lord).  Nevertheless, some speakers and preachers lack credibility and therefore turn off the ears of those listening.  We see that all the time in our culture and society today.  Whether it be hypocrisy, obvious inconsistency, known self-serving actions, decisions, or personal failure as a husband-father, all muffle and deaden any words from being heard.  That is why there are qualifications for being in ministry, and we all know that!

Far beyond the “environment,” the lives, actions, decisions, ministry practices, and lifestyle choices can render the preacher-speaker’s words as dead as the sound of a tree falling in the woods.

If while preaching, no one is around who is listening,
does it mean you have actually preached a sermon? 

The Story Of — “It Is Well With My Soul,” as told by their daughter Bertha Spafford

“Bertha Spafford Vester ” was born to Anna Spafford on March 24, 1878, after the loss of her daughters in 1873.

She Authored A Book Titled — “Our Jerusalem.”

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

The original manuscript has only four verses, but Spafford’s daughter, Bertha Spafford Vester, who was born after the tragedy, said an additional verse was later added and the last line of the original song was modified. The music, written by Philip Bliss, was named after the ship on which Spafford’s daughters died, Ville du Havre.”

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

PDF Link to Her Book.

Beginning on page 30 — the story behind the hymn is shared, as told to her by her mother,

Also the  Link To  video presentation of that story.

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The Difference Between “Mush” & Sic’Em”

Musher- sled dogs

. . . 

The difference between saying . . . .

Mush & “Sic’Em”

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Why is church life becoming more and more difficult?

It is — and you probably already know that.

I should say early on, some of that is self-inflicted!

I will venture out and say . . . .

Church life will never be the same after 2020.  In fact, 2020 is flowing into 2021 BECAUSE  2020 has changed life and living.  2020 is flowing in 2021 because a “sea-change” has taken place.  We are not going to b returning back to the regular order of “2019.”

When I read what I thought were reasonable and disarming comments of a well-respected and effective pastor who worked alongside me for six years, I settled into this opinion.  Even those prudent, equitable (Can I use that word anymore?), balanced, wholesome, and wise comments quickly came under assault.

Pastors and church leaders are discovering that the influence they had — or believed they had — in affecting the lives of God’s people in good and right directions, is fading and perhaps, in some cases, is gone.  Disagree with God’s people — socially or politically — and you may well find yourself absent some members and church friends on the next Sunday morning.

In fact, even disagree medically  — “mask or no mask” — in areas in which neither side has any expertise and about which the “scientific opinions” differ widely — and “you are looking for a fight” — or a different church!

There are those pastors who have chosen to wade into the polarized waters of political discussion.  To them, I say, “You did it to yourself!”  It is a lose-lose decision to speak to a broad spectrum of people from “the pulpit.” — the pulpit of the church sanctuary, or Facebook, Twitter, et al.

If you don’t believe that the church congregation reflects a wide spectrum of viewpoints, opinions, thinking, then you are not in the pulpit, [1] you are in the pew.  That is a part of what makes pastoring complicated.  By design, the composition of the church congregation reflects a wide spectrum of individuals.

However, I have seen some of the sanest attempts of pastors to take a reasonable biblical-church-theological position crash and burn as they have simply argued for carefulness and restraint.  As pastors have suggested that the church needs to keep its focus on its calling, even “careful,” “balanced,” “prudent,” and/or “proportional” words have resulted in — “sic’em” — by those who do not like any such words of restraint.

The culture has caught up to the church.  The culture has long infected the church, and it has only been revealed in all of its brassy bold print.  Discussion with people who see things differently, even as to “carefulness,” may quickly devolve from a rational conversation into ad hominem and dismissive comments — “You are just stupid to think that!”  / “That’s just ignorant!”

We don’t like to have discussions with people we disagree with, and the proof is becoming more and more manifest.[2]  The previous proof was the many different churches that keep popping up.  The new present-day evidence is (and will continue to be) . . . .

  • people looking for another church
  • many staying with online watching,
  • a percentage dropping out of church life altogether
  • more and more church hopping
  • pastors switching ministries [3]
  • less effective evangelism
  • front and back door membership [4]
  • unstable church staffing, and/or
  • unsettled finances because of some who no longer financially this-or-that ministry.

More and more, the word “Mush” seems to sound like “Sic’Em.”

If the church doesn’t offer something different from what has been happening in culture, the Gospel will no longer be what we are fighting for.  Rather, we are “witnesses” to the reality that we cannot even tolerate each other’s differing vantage, no less those who do not even share our hope and faith in Christ. [5]

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1. Talking to others who well-agree with your vantages is far different from talking with those who hold meaningful differences.  And, while others might say to those on the other side of an issue, in some form or another —  “Pastor agrees with me.” —   that is far different from you personally disagreeing with those individuals.  There is a lot of “pastoral grace” is given by the members and friends of a congregation, but not after an in-person disagreement.

2. Most all of us avoid conflict.  I realize that some must like it.  Nevertheless, I well imagine that anyone involved in a disagreement would rather avoid it — especially after it is over – ugh!   Yes, there are times when strong and needed disagreement needs to be voiced to leadership, but as loyal opposition, because loyalty must never outweigh integrity!  It is “integrity” that calls up loyalty!  And, like you, I “hate” going down that road, but it is only because addressing wrong-doing, and wrong-doers cannot be silenced!

3. Some pastors have already said too much.  Who wants a pastor who is “so stupid.”  We don’t like people who are so wrong in their viewpoints.

“Relevance”:  I know that there is a tendency to claim that preaching and churches need to be “relevant” and address these socio-political issues.  A better time to address the issues of the day might be later than sooner.  A better time for such an endeavor might be after the water has receded, and a better perspective can be had. Perhaps, even what the truth is has been so muddled that it is unwise to socio-medically-politically pontificate.  Let’s ask the great Apostle Paul — I Corinthians 6:12; 9:22.

4. New members found a place where they are more comfortable until the pastor or even others say something that stirs the socio-political waters.

5. There is a parallel “cancel culture” spirit, which can be found in too many churches.  Disagree, and you are charged with “disunity.”  That has been part of the church culture for years in far too many churches.  “Sowing Discord” is the church’s cancel culture mantra used to squelch needed, candid, and truthful criticism.  There is little-to-no place for the loyal-opposition* to challenge the self-serving decisions and actions of those in power and influence positions.

* “Loyal Opposition“:  Those who have given their time, talents, and treasure to the ministry for years and have genuinely sought to support the leadership but now have put “integrity” over any such loyalty.