“It’s A Slow Fade…”

I often have friends call or email me once they find out that their beloved pastor/bishop/apostle/elder/evangelist is becoming (or has become) a full-fledged pulpit pimp. “They were so biblically sound when they started” or “They used to preach against pimps, now they’ve become one!”, they say. Then the next question rolls off their lips – as expected: “What happened to pastor/bishop/apostle/elder/evangelist?”

My reply is always the same: “It’s a slow fade.”

I was happy to learn that Casting Crowns (one of my newest favorite CCM bands from Atlanta) penned a song of the same name from their current album “The Altar and the Door”. The lyrics of that song really speak to the essence of pimpistry (and other malfeasance) in the Body of Christ – from the pulpit to the pews:

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The lyrics of this song really minister to me (along with most of CC’s stuff) – particularly because they immediately bring Galatians 5:7-8 to mind:

Galatians 5:7-10 (New American Standard Bible)

7You were (A)running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

 8This persuasion did not come from (B)Him who calls you.

 9(C)A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

 10(D)I have confidence in you in the Lord that you (E)will adopt no other view; but the one who is (F)disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

The reality is that many pastors start off with good intentions, then they easily adapt to the world’s standards – primarily because of the measure of power and respect that they command within the walls of their churches. And it’s not just the pastors – many Christians start off “on fire” for the Lord. But things change when we get “comfortable” in God.

I saw it with my own eyes. My former pimp used to be the most approachable person you’d ever want to meet. He actually used to read the bible (in context) and preach the Word. If he misspoke, he would come back the next week and immediately admit it publicly – AND take  us back to the Word to show it’s true context. Then, he started buying expensive jewelry and cars with his “love offering” – and developing an entourage (and bodyguards). Then, you know the rest of the story.

As the song says above – “people never crumble in a day”…it’s a slow yet consistently methodical process. Just as we grow in Christ by ingesting His Word and praying daily (i.e being “built up”), we can also slowly deteriorate because of our lust of our sins, the world, and anything else that God hates.

Before you know it – the real you is disappearing, and only a shadow of your former self remains.

My earnest prayer is that the Body of Christ remove the leaven that is poisoning us. May the Lord grant us the grace and mercy to repent of our love of man, the world, and stuff – and we run back to His Word and His way.

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15 Responses to ““It’s A Slow Fade…””


  1. 1 Kyle September 1, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Matthew 4:8-9

    Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

    And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

    What Christ rejected these men and women gladly accept.

    Kyle

  2. 2 Pastor Jim September 1, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Speaking,
    Wow, it is so true! And I see/hear/feel the temptations to fade in my sin-sick heart EVERY DAY! They temptations are myriad! And I’m not even that ‘successful’ as a pastor…

    Its hard to be sympathetic with the notion that pastors are human too (since so many try to hide it) and that Satan (may he rot in hell) has his sights set on everyone in leadership in Christ’s church.

    Oh, but the temptations are SO many in a culture and a church (white or black or Hispanic, pentecostal or traditional) that WORSHIPS success. It’s not JUST the pastors, its all of us who are so caught up in Americanism that we don’t see the sickness of our culture.

    It seems to me that the biblical defense against the slow fade is the radical humility that only belief in the gospel provides.

    Too many of us Christians and pastors think our sins are minimal (a lie from the pit of hell) so we brush off the message of the cross that says, ‘You are really SO bad, you needed God’s son to die in your place.’ THAT is humbling. It breaks you, if God has mercy on you and reveals it to you. Most of the Church in America believes a false gospel, which really is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-9; 3:1-5).

    Lord have mercy!

    Then there is the other problem that you haven’t commented on yet. One of the most heart-wrenching regular experiences of being a pastor is seeing men with whom you have battled fall for moral reasons. In my experience, too few churches actually have the disciplinary system (or the balls) to take someone out of ministry when they need to be disciplined unto repentance.

    Other than leaving in protest and starting blogs to point out the sin, what other strategies do you think are biblical and available to attack this problem?

    Look forward to your insight.
    Humbled and graced by God’s mercy,
    A Broken Pastor

  3. 3 beckrl September 1, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Another great post from IST
    The song gives a picture of todays leaders and those that follow.
    Kyle you said it! and that is sad. So what can we do, but stand up and speak the truth. I also would like to link to this post and add it to my blog.

    Thank you my brother in Christ.

  4. 4 speaking truth September 1, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    beckrl – like I said in the post, this song ministers to me in so many ways. As a father I’m constantly reminded of my role as the prophet, priest, and king of my house – and the influence that my decisions have on my family. It’s a sobering reminder for us all.

    Pastor Jim, if by “successful” you mean driving a big fancy car, surrounding yourself with “armor bearers/security”, and avoiding individual congregants as though they have the plague – then may the Lord NEVER grant you success!

    I agree with you 100% – most of the church in America today has subscribed to “another gospel”, which (as Paul said) really isn’t a gospel at all. Church, Inc. is a business model that sells the idea of success (sow into “God’s system” and you’ll get a return), man-centered theology (“God is waiting at our beck and call”), etc. Sadly, many “Christians” don’t remember words like my grandmother used to use – words like “tarry”, “sacrifice”, “Lord willing”, etc.

    Other than leaving in protest and starting blogs to point out the sin, what other strategies do you think are biblical and available to attack this problem?

    Excellent question, Pastor. We should take the biblical approach (Matthew 18:15-17, specifically). If the truth is rejected, then we are even more compelled to speak it (no, shout it from the rooftops) so that others avoid the brother (or sister) who revels in their error.

    Believe it or not, I went to my former pimp when I made the decision to flee (as many other leaders before me had done). I specifically detailed his errors and how they don’t line up with the clear Word of God (as the others had done). He listened politely, and said “thank you, God bless you” – and that was the end of our meeting.

    We must continue to speak the truth whether it’s rejected or not.

  5. 5 Brian Foulks September 2, 2008 at 9:25 am

    ST,
    You know the sad thing is that they do not even see that they are going down the wrong path. I see it with such intensity where I live. I am so glad to have frineds around me that keep me grounded. That becomes an alluming picture when pastors have yes men around then just so they can get a peice of the pie.

  6. 6 ready4change September 3, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    ST,

    I know it seems like I’ve been gone for a while, but I’ve been
    following from a distance!!!! (LOL!!!) Anyways, I was observing
    this riveting discussion and wondered if you would be so kind sir as to allow me to briefly throw my hat into the fray?

    First, I completely concur with the response you gave to Pastor
    Jim on his question. I would also add that most pastors tend to
    forget about Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:4-5:

    “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;
    reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
    For the time is coming when people will not endure sound
    teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (ESV)

    Now, at the risk of a bit of sloppy exegesis, it would seem to me
    that verses 3 and 4 occur not only IN SPITE OF but also DUE TO THE
    LACK OF verse 2. So yes, I would conclude that the best remedy is to
    proclaim the gospel to every creature. This is the only way to spur on growth and spiritual maturity, but unfortunately pastors have allowed the culture to redefine what church growth is. Pastors Jim and Brian have already spoken on the lure of success, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Next, I think another issue to consider is how many leaders have
    traded the heavy garment of biblical truth for the silky vestment of
    “relevance”. We’ve got to see what you like, what you don’t like, what offends you, what doesn’t offend you, what about church gets on your nerves, what would you like to see in church, what are the bad experiences you’ve had, how can we make sure we don’t do that and on and on and on…

    In a quest to make church more “user friendly”, we have
    sacriciced much in the way of scriptural illiteracy, poor knowledge of real discipleship, cultlike leadership influence, dysfunctional families dissillusioned children and spiritual immaturity all at the comprimising altar of “relevance”. Why don’t we just preach the gospel? Oh, I forgot, we’ve got to make certain that we don’t offend someone who may be seeking. To be sure, Jesus and the apostles always presented the gospel message in a manner that was simple, plain and understandable. But NEVER did they water it down. Our inability to percieve the times in which we live in robs us of the truth of these words expressed by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul:

    “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,
    but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
    (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)

    And…

    “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming
    to you the testimony[b] of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
    For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ
    and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV)

    I could say much more, but God has blessed other men to speak
    much more eloquently and extensively on this subject, so why
    reinvent the wheel? Here is an excellent resource (be sure to
    read all four parts).

    http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/Articles/read_articles.asp?ID=50

    Oh, and lest you get the impression that the major issue is
    due to men uneducated and unknowledgable in the scriptures
    gracing the pulpits, I would say quite the contrary. There
    is a growing problem even with fresh graduates from seminary straying from the truth, not always due to pimpistry, but for many
    other reasons as well. Much of it comes from the deficit
    of realizing that the carrying of the gospel to God’s people
    comes with a joyfulness yet a heavy weight of responsibility
    and accountability. As I was thinking about the post, I was
    reminded of an amazing article I read some time ago entitled
    “The Almost Inevitable Ruin of Every Minister” by Don Whitney.
    Trust me, this will certainly put some things in perspective.

    http://biblicalspirituality.org/ruin.html

    Finally, I would submit the fact that many of the pastors (especially
    some of the more famous ones) are not well-suited to even be in leadership. Let me explain what I mean. I came across something one day that stopped me in my tracks and was both eye-opening and humbling. Now, before I mention this, I realize that some of you may not completely agree with some of the views expressed theologically in this document. Notwithstanding, I think it still drives the
    point home. I’ve said this before on another blog, and I’ll make the same suggestion here. The next time you leave a church that is steeped in unbiblical practice and you’re on the lookout for a biblically centered fellowship, I want you to follow these instructions. Casually walk into the pastor’s office, politely introduce yourself and ask him if he will kindly complete the following exam within 5 days WITHOUT using his bible:

    http://www.ondoctrine.com/pastorqz.htm

    Upon recieving this, he will either:

    a) Gladly and humbly accept the challenge, honestly, with integrity
    and without the use of the bible answer the questions to the best
    of his ability, and return the test to you promptly and within the alloted timeframe.

    b) Gladly and humbly accept the challenge, dishonestly and without
    integrity answer the questions with the assistance of the bible (he’ll probably get someone to do this for him), and return the test to you promptly and within the allotted timeframe.

    c) He will decline taking the test, and give you some lame excuse like: “My prophetic ministry and calling is from that of the hole spidit young man, and I need not that any manmade test validate it” or “I have been the pastor of this church for (you fill in the blank)
    years young man, and I refuse for anybody, especially someone who doesn’t even know me and what I’ve done in this community and for these people, or the work that I’ve accomplished here, to place any type of demand on me with some test. With my gawd given applestolic authority, in the name of Jezuz, be gone with that mess!” or “See that’s the problem with the church today, nobody wants to LINE UP AND SUBMIT TO LEADERSHIP, always trying to make the people of God and the man ‘o’ gawd look bad with some type of foolishness”. Or, you may even get a much calmer response, like: “I can understand your desire to worship in a setting that feels more comfortable for you. Unfortunately, due to the massive growth we’ve experienced within the last few years or so, I’m really not afforded the time that it takes to do justice to the test. I mean, with a mockery—errr,,uhhh,,,ministry of our proportions, I get so busy with the business and needs of the club—errrr,uhhh—church that I’m going to have to respectfully decline. Could I recommend some other churches in the area that may better fit your needs?”

    Now, if the results resemble a, then you may just have a prospect on your hands. If it more closely resembles b, then no sweat, play it cool. Don’t join the church, but continue to visit frequently and be very observant of the practices. As soon as you see signs and hints of pimp activity, smoothly retrieve your test, briskly walk back to the office and call him on it. And if your results resemble answer c, then, well, I think you know what to do. As is a common phrase used in one of the previous posts, KEEP IT MOVIN! (LOL!!!)

    I know this may seem a little extreme to some, but I would encourage you to at least give it a shot just to see what type of reaction you would recieve. If you do decide to do this, PLEASE make sure you let me know how it went, because I haven’t tried it yet!!!! (LOL!!!!)

    Lastly, (and I know you’re gonna kill me for using up so much space ST, but I will humbly and lovingly accept your rebuke later), I had a similar experience to ST’s when I left my former church. Honestly,
    this pastor was not a pimp nor a moneyhound. Far from it. However, the church was in serious doctrinal error, and the preaching was not expositional at all, but could be better described as “mystical” (if that makes any sense). Well, when I approached the pastor with my concerns of the error from scripture, his response was this:
    “I understand and agree with much of what you’re saying. I have no problem with you leaving, because I realize that every man has to be persuaded in his own mind. But I’m not going to change what I’m doing.”

    Continue to contend bro’…

    Solus Christus,

    R4C

    (P.S. Speaking Truth: You, Kyle, Pastor Jim and Pastor Brian only get 3 days to complete the test….(smile)…) 🙂

  7. 7 Brian Foulks September 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Man that test looks like one of my old History of Christianity test.Man most pastor would stop after the first 10 questions.

  8. 8 Kyle September 4, 2008 at 12:35 am

    R4C,

    I choose D. I looked at the quiz and decided I would be honest and say there are many things I could not answer without my Bible. LOL! Hey! I’m being honest.

    But seriously though. The main issue is not memorization. I’m sure Arminius could quote chapter and verse yet deny the truth. Heck! there are even Muslims that know the Bible from cover to cover and can twist scripture.

    On the flip side this is a good example that we must continue to read the Bible and yes memorization is very important. If for the very least when we are challenged than we can flip right to it rather than scramble until we land on it.

    Kyle

  9. 9 ready4change September 4, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Kyle,

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your first statement:

    “…I looked at the quiz and decided I would be HONEST and say there are many things that I could not answer without my bible.” (Emphasis mine)

    The key word there is honesty. The point of the post was not so much concerning memorization, but rather an understanding from a true servant of God’s people that realizes that he doesn’t know it all. Trust me, I’m very similar to you in my ability to answer many of those questions without the scriptures handily available. My premise was to get God’s people to THINK about who they are aligning themselves with. You know how over at pp.org it’s the continual cry of “judge not, judge not, judge not, judge not”? Well, since many have failed to determine the difference between righteous and unrighteous judgement (John 7:24), they believe everything they hear and make themselves susceptible to the very thing we cry out against in the blogosphere—pimpistry. True discernment and righteous judgement would cause them to see that the Lord’s servant approaches the text with all humility, earnestness, prayer, thoughtfulness and an awareness of his inability without Christ, ever considering himself and those whom he is called to serve. I didn’t throw this in there (because I was going for shock value), but I’d have been perfectly fine with a pastor saying something like: “I’d love to do this brother…It’s just been a long time since I explored some of these subjects, and our church has just been studying and examining one specific segment of scripture for now. Is it okay if you give me more time to tackle this?” Or, something similar to what you stated: “Brother, I’m gonna be honest with you. There are many things in this test that I’m not really familiar with. I wouldn’t really be able to answer a lot of this without my bible, that’s for sure. Look, I know that you want to fellowship with a church that is sound biblically, and I can assure you that we endeavor with all the grace God gives us to do just that. Would you at least do us the justice of checking us out and giving a fair, balanced assessment after you’ve been around us for some time? By the way, why don’t we pray that God not only increases our wisdom and understanding in His word, but that He would strengthen true pastors everywhere who seek to faithfully lead His people and do His will.” Or even something like this: “I’ll tell you what brother, I haven’t been to seminary or anything, and I’m not very familiar with much of this, but I can see that it has a great level of importance, especially in the pastoral sphere of things. Thanks for the information. I’ll hold onto this and seek God for a way that myself and the congregation can delve into these topics and be serious students of scripture. Have your experiences or studies given you any ideas of how we can be more effective in that?”

    The true aim and goal of deep scriptural study is to better know our Savior and King, Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20), to mature in Him and in ministry to one another (Ephesians 4:11-16). It’s important to note that through the means of watering us in scripture, the heart of the pastor should be for Christ to be formed in us (Galatians 4:19). I don’t want anyone to get the impression that much study without prayer, meditation, worship, thanksgiving and most importantly the Holy Spirit’s guidance will accomplish anything. All of these things work in concert together so that we may be able to fulfill the will of the Lord in our lives. Brothers and sisters, I’m convinced that the sad state we find ourselves in today is due to the absence of true servant-leaders who will faithfully work in the vineyard. This was the essence of the post, and I hope it didn’t throw anyone off.

    Finally, yes Kyle I agree that it is not so much about memorization. However, we are encouraged to hide the word in our hearts (Psalms 119:11), and Jesus tells us that His words are so important that they are necessary for spiritual vitality and life itself (John 6:63). Besides, with the way our times have become, and with the disdain that this world seems to have of the Holy Writ and everything in it, I wouldn’t be surprised if memorization became a great deal more important…The word in our hearts and minds may be the only scripture we have available…

    Solus Christus,

    R4C

  10. 10 speaking truth September 4, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    R4C – I had to go to my bible as well as my textbooks from Old & New Testament Survey, Apologetics, Doctrine, and more (you’re not alone Brian)!

    Seriously, this is a great resource for thoughtful and sincere pastors – those who only want to present the TRUE Gospel and not popular fluff.

    Man R4C, you need to comment on a more regular basis because the longer you stay away, the deeper your subsequent comments are 😀

    BTW Kyleexcellent article over at Pulpit Pimps. I should’ve beat Melvin to the punch and published it as soon as you emailed me.

    Next time, my friend, next time…

  11. 11 Pastor Jim September 4, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Well R4C, you take the cake! Great idea. Folks REALLY need to find pastors in churches that preach (and live out) the truth! I feel what you all are saying.

    But I have a different answer than any that have been suggested. I would love y’all’s comments. Here goes my reply…

    Wow, you know I am thrilled to see that you want to learn from a man of God who knows the Scriptures, theology, church history and has pastoral wisdom.

    But I’m not going to take your test.

    Here’s why. I already submitted myself to a very similar test several years ago before I could become a pastor. Now I grew up in a church that ordained anybody who asked to be ordained. I was ordained by a church without any exam. When I wanted to start a church, I did not trust myself to stay faithful without accountability. So I went searching for a denomination that was a better fit.

    When I joined this very biblical denomination, I knew they were going to take my calling very seriously. I knew it wasn’t a perfect group of people, but it was the one the Lord led me to – because it is biblical and very serious about evangelism and discipleship and church planting.

    So before I could pastor this or any church in the denom, I was examined by 6-7 elders in a written version of this test and had an extensive oral exam over all of these subjects plus some this ‘quiz’ leaves out – our church polity, sacraments, exegesis of a Greek and Hebrew text. I had to preach at a meeting of the whole organization and field questions from any of the 80 or so elders present. It was sort of like the Bar Exam for lawyers. It was hard work and I passed 4 sections out of 5 the first time and ultimately got the 5th section. (so I’m not an ‘A’ student). And for those who want to start a church, there is a 5 day intensive assessment with my wife where they put you under pressure, observe you in challenging tasks, ask every question about character, experience and calling.

    Also about two years ago a very zealous young man came to our church for a few months and then went on a phone campaign to have me ousted because he thought I was not orthodox in my beliefs. His accusation meant that I had to be re-examined by another group of 5 elders – even though he was not a member of our church or denomination. They take this sort of thing seriously.

    So if you want to see if I am credentialed, you may ask the elders who examined me. I was glad to know that I am still orthodox and the charges were dropped.

    And if you join this church, you will know that if at anytime I steer away from the gospel, there is an organization of about 70 elders right here in ATL that will nail me and hold me accountable.

    Two last things:
    1 – the other thing you need to know is that I am far from perfect and that I am a sinner. I really NEED JESUS! You may be a better Christian that I am, even though I know the answers to these questions. I need the gospel everyday, all day.

    2 – I would love to keep a copy of that test and quiz you in a few years to see if you are ready to be an elder in our church. How’s that?

    So, Kyle, R4C, ST, what do you think?

    Now gut check. Would it make a difference if I was a different race than you?

    I look forward to learning from you all. I need Jesus’ people to teach me too.

  12. 12 Brian Foulks September 5, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Pastor Jim,

    I do not think the test was meant from the standpoint of pastors that have the heart of the people in mind. Truth be told I do not think that pastors that are “real” would not be presented with a method of this sort. the problem that arises stems on the fact that some pastors are just plain phony or uninformed.

    I also believe that the way that the pastor handles the situation woulddisplay alot about his character, as r4c said. if they use the I am in charge appraoc thne i would be out. But if they explained themselves then I would understand.

    It amazes me who pastors can say they are for thepeopl but never have anytime to talk with them. Whether we believe it or not many people like to hust sit and talk with the pastor just for reassurance.

    From what I have seen on your page and points you have made on other blogs I think that you are a pastor with the true intentions of fulfilling the role of a pastor.

  13. 13 ready4change September 5, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Pastor Jim,

    Thanks for your response!!! I can see EXACTLY where you’re coming from, and I agree with some things that were presented in your post. I sense that there may be a bit of misunderstanding as to what my intentions were when I posted that test, so I will be glad to clear it up. I’ll try to respond to each of your remarks as best I can, and then perhaps it will better clarify where I’m coming from. Expect another post sometime this evening, as I now need to hit the gym and grab a bite to eat. For now, reread the two previous posts that I put up, because I think the general motive is stated in those. By the way, I visited your blog, and I percieve you to be one who does not seek to lord over God’s heritage, so I hope you didn’t take what I was saying personally. Anyways, I appreciate the feedback and expect to hear from me soon…

    Solus Christus,

    R4C

  14. 14 speaking truth September 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Pastor Jim,

    I don’t question your credentials at all. I already sensed your spirit during out first private exchange, your credentials merely confirm what I already sensed about your serious walk with Christ.

    All of the things you listed above point back to one thing: accountability.

    Accountability is SORELY needed in the church today because many of these churches operate with no oversite (the pastor is the King) and have no outward desire to be transparent before the Lord – or their congregations.

    This test should be given to every believer to aid and measure their growth in the knowledge of the Word – not just pastors. BTW – if someone is considering me for an eldership in any church in the future, then start expecting it to rain locust 😆

    Seriously, your race doesn’t matter one bit. Just because I’m black and you’re white only means that the Blood of Jesus ties us both together. I’m just as wretched as anybody else apart from God’s grace, and I’m reminded of shortfalls every single day.

    R4C, Brian, Kyle, et al – you have all correctly discerned the heart of Pastor Jim. He is a “broken pastor” desperately chasing God. I don’t like to give the details of private emails I get via this blog, but I will say that Pastor Jim reached out to me after reading a few articles – inquiring about my well-being and whether or not I needed a listening ear. No death threats, no condemnation of hellfire for “putting my mouth on men’d of gawd” – just a concerned pastor’s heart.

    He’s the real deal – sorely needed in these parts.

    We all defend the Gospel having come from different backgrounds, after seeing different things – but thanks God through Jesus Christ that He joined us together during these times to wave the Blood-stained banner!

  15. 15 ready4change September 5, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Pastor Jim,

    ST and Brian have already covered some of the things that I was going to say, but I can address a couple more…

    “So before I could pastor this or any church in the denom, I was examined by 6-7 elders in a written version of this test and had an extensive oral exam over all of these subjects plus some this ‘quiz’ leaves out – OUR CHURCH POLITY, sacraments, exegesis of a Greek and Hebrew text. I had to preach at a meeting of the whole ORGANIZATION and field questions from any of the 80 or so elders present. It was sort of like the Bar Exam for lawyers. It was hard work and I passed 4 sections out of 5 the first time and ultimately got the 5th section. (so I’m not an ‘A’ student). And for those who want to start a church, there is a 5 day intensive assessment with my wife where they put you under pressure, observe you in challenging tasks, ask every question about character, experience and calling.”
    (Emphasis mine)

    Concerning this quote Pastor J, I would assume you may be speaking of the PCA perhaps? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard that there is a rigorous ordination process for many reformed denominations. This is the reason why I have church polity and organization highlighted in the above quote. Remember, I stated that many may not agree with some of the doctrinal stances in the test, but that only made up about 5 percent of it. The rest were things that were strictly from biblical knowledge and understanding of how things that are expressed in theological terms affect us today (especially the heresies). Regardless of what denomination one is in, I just think it is particularly important that the pastor is well-versed in scripture. This is really all that I was seeking to convey. IMHO, the real approval doesn’t come from a panel of elders or a “practical crucible” of sorts. It comes from God, and it is affirmed among believers who have been able to observe the person’s life, character and walk with the Lord on a relational level. This is why I am sincerely an advocate of an elder being raised up from among the body, as there is no doubt how he has carried himself among the saints. The qualities and attributes should really already be present, because most times an individual is already working within what God has decreed for his life well before we give them a “title”. I’m praying, studying and meditating upon what the real meaning of ecclesiology is, so please bear with me. I do know this, I’m convinced that much of what we see today (within orthodoxy and outside of it) is not what Jesus had in mind. I’ve often wondered why brothers who come off as really doctrinally sound from the pulpit turn out to be cold and standoffish when you meet them personally. Maybe we can discuss that another time…

    “And if you join this church, you will know that if at anytime I steer away from the gospel, there is an organization of about 70 elders right here in ATL that will nail me and hold me accountable.”

    Here again, I believe that it is the believers within the congregation that should hold the leader accountable. The only measuring stick for this is the scriptures. But how will the congregation be able to do this if they are not adept in the studying of the scriptures? The idea of the test was simply one way to guage whether a pastor is sincere about humbly and with tears (as the apostle Paul did) warn, feed, nurture, rejoice with, weep with, confess to, recieve confession, request forgiveness from, give forgiveness to, rebuke, correct, recieve correction, recieve rebuke, teach, be taught, instruct, recieve instruction, sing with, worship with, pray with, eat with, visit with, share in christening, share in baptism, share in the Lord’s supper, suffer with and LOVE and BE LOVED. As Brian has suggested, the WAY in which the request is responded to makes all the difference in the world…

    “2 – I would love to keep a copy of that test and quiz you in a few years to see if you are ready to be an elder in our church. How’s that?”

    YESSSS!!! This, dear pastor, is precisely the goal!!! As ST has stated EVERY believer should be able to (or at least be working towards) increasing their knowledge and understanding of God’s word. And if in a few years under good, sound, biblical teaching the member is not at least familiar with the terms, I would say there is a huge problem. I’m in no way trying to give the impression that one has to know all of these things in order to effectively minister to the body, but I will give an example. Pastor Jim, do you know that there are people who are not only calling themselves ministers, but bishops, apostles and any other title they can get their hands on, and many of them would not even be able to tell you all of the books that are in the bible? I’m talking about people in my own family!!!! Pastor Jim, they are LEADING PEOPLE. They have influence in individuals lives. They claim to be teaching them from SCRIPTURE, yet they do not know scripture. This is the dilemma to which I refer. Perhaps I did not give enough kudos to faithful pastors such as yourself, whose complete aim is for the advancement of the sheep, not for vainglory. I long for the day where I can sit amongst some family and friends and have a real, honest, fruitful and fulfilling discussion about the scriptures without there being things taken out of context, doctrine built out of pieces of scripture, sensationalism and pomp and circumstance. This is my prayer not only for my family, but for the body as a whole…

    “Now gut check. Would it make a difference if I was a different race than you?”

    Not at all sir…I attend a church in which my family and I are one of only three African American families within the gathering (and it’s not a small gathering). Let me make myself crystal clear. I’m first a bible-believing, blood bought (as my grandmother used to say, LOL!!!) redeemed sinner saved by God’s grace. I am secondly a Black man. Though I appreciate sites like RBA (I’m sure you’re familiar with X and his site) and how they seek to bring a reformation from within the black church, I disagree with much of what is espoused there, because I believe my identity in Christ always trumps race. Period.

    Now Pastor Jim, if I could give a a small testimony of God’s sovereignty and matchless grace showed to me from the other side…

    I was an elder in a church which was a part of a fast growing denomination whose doctrine is a hybrid of oneness theology, word of faith, new age philosophy and man worship. Extremely charasmatic folks we were, and those of us who were “elders” capitalized on it every chance we could get. Casting stuff out of folks, telling people they were comin’ out and God had their payday, giving prophecy, collecting offerings, preaching a “life impacting word”, the whole nine. I was on track to being very similar to what you observe when you tune into the “Empowerment Temple” with Jamal Bryant. This was until God stopped me in my tracks, broke my heart with the gospel, brought me to repentance and completely changed my perspective. Now I’m happy to be a floor sweeper and a toilet cleaner, as long as that’s what gives Him glory…Love you pastor, and I’ll be following your blog as we learn, grow and share Christ until His return…

    Solus Christus,

    R4C


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