On Shaming Your Neighbor

Late Thursday night last week as I was about to fall asleep, my wife showed me a post that my friend Pastor Courtney Lewis had on Facebook.  We could tell from what was said that he had posted engagement pictures from a young couple, and had chastised them for holding hands in their pictures.  Pastor Lewis led off his commentary on the picture with a quote from I Corinthians 7:1-2, which says,

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

By the time my wife showed me the post, Pastor Lewis had taken the pictures down, but left the post up.  My wife began reading some of the more than 500 comments on the post. Suffice it to say, we were horrified, both by the comments that were being made and by the use of a couple’s engagement pictures to make a point about purity.

When I had a few moments on Friday morning, I took a look at the post for myself.  By this time, the post had more than 650 comments, many of which I would characterize as flaming.  I scrolled through the comments to get a feel for what people were saying, and then I started typing a message to Pastor Lewis to ask him to remove the post altogether.  As I was typing the message, I saw that he in fact had removed the post and replaced it with another.  You can read the replacement post here.

In the second post, Pastor Lewis doubled down on the couple he used as an example, naming both the young man and his brother and expressing his disagreement with the engagement pictures each young man had published.  In particular, Pastor Lewis pointed out that the older brother had posted similar pictures, and that since nobody opposed him for it, now the younger brothers thought it was okay.  Pastor Lewis also took to task larger churches with more influence who could speak out on this.  He didn’t name the larger churches he had in mind.  I can only think of one larger church that he might be thinking of, but I won’t speculate about whether he thought they should have been the one to shame these couples. 

I absolutely agree with the standard Pastor Lewis holds.  My wife and I did not so much as hold hands until we met at the altar on our wedding day.  We have taught this same standard in our church and to our children, and we would not approve if they went against it.  Because many of the vitriolic comments Pastor Lewis received focused on the standard itself, I made the choice to support him on the standard, and to publicly express my concern for the way many had responded.

Later that afternoon, I received a call from a pastor friend who had read my comment and wanted to know if I also supported the tactic Pastor Lewis used to make his point.  He made it abundantly clear to me that he agrees with the standard – several of his children have married, and they followed that standard as well.  But he was concerned about the tactic of publicly shaming a young couple, using their engagement pictures.  After hem-hawing around for a minute, I had to agree.  The tactic was wrong.  I was disgusted by it from the moment my wife brought it to my attention.  My pastor-friend (who mainly knows Pastor Lewis through Facebook), pointed out that my comment left it unclear where I stood on the tactic.  I agreed with him.

Later that evening, I typed a second comment, in which I expressed my agreement with the standard and my disagreement with the tactic.  I commented that, if one of my own children were to publish engagement pictures that went against our standards, I would hope that the first response would be to pray for them, and the second to contact me to see if there is a problem and what can be done to help.  I would hope that the first response would not be to publicly shame them.  Far too often, when a young person does something wrong, we trample them under foot rather than address the problem Scripturally. 

I sent Pastor Lewis a message prior to posting my comment, and I offered to discuss any disagreement with him.  He replied fairly quickly with a simple “No” to my offer for a discussion.  I posted my comment, went to bed, and the next morning, I had a message from Pastor Lewis that assured me of his friendship despite our disagreement.  I didn’t think much of the reassurance until another friend contacted me to ask why I took my comment down.  Since I didn’t take it down, I asked Pastor Lewis if he did.  He told me, “Yes.  Feel free to post it on your account.”  Thus, this rather lengthy post.

Before I wade into the issue here, let me make a few preliminary points. 

Continue reading “On Shaming Your Neighbor”

Money Mistakes Pastors Make

As a pastor, I have learned firsthand the kind of quality men God has called to the ministry – some of the finest men in the world. I mean that – no tongue in cheek here. The world may think of pastors as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things, but I know too many good men, men who have committed their life to the gospel and the good of their fellowman to give any credence to that kind of thinking. From across America and around the world, I am blessed by the many pastors and assistant pastors, missionaries, church planters, and Christian school teachers who have committed their life to God’s work.  They love what they do. They don’t consider it a sacrifice. If they could live their lives over again, the men I know would choose the ministry over any other vocational calling.  I think if they had nine lifetimes and could choose any vocation to fill those lifetimes, they would choose the ministry.  The “burdens” are a small price to pay for the joy of serving God and His people full time.  Truly we can say of them that “the world was not worthy.”

One thing I have observed about nearly every pastor or missionary I know: they know what it means to give themselves.  I hope you will keep that in mind as I discuss money mistakes pastors make. Most of their mistakes are made on the side of self-sacrifice and a desire to maximize the Lord’s money.

What I intend to address here is not intended to promote greed or cause anyone to stumble into the love of money.  Too many pastors come to the end of their ministry and have little to fall back on.  After giving themselves to God and their people, they find that they are not in a position where they can retire comfortably and still provide for their wife.  And while I realize that many pastors have an aversion to the “R” word (retire), I also think that much of the discussion on that subject is unrealistic. 

Continue reading “Money Mistakes Pastors Make”

Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3

Now that our racial hostilities have come to a fast boil – some might argue a volcanic eruption – I believe it is time we admit that our approach to the issue has been ineffective.  I would describe my approach to racial tension throughout much of my life in terms of ignorance and apathy.  I didn’t know, and I really didn’t care.

A little more than 20 years ago, God used a visiting evangelist to expose the racism in my own heart.  It came through a discussion we were having after a chapel service in our Academy.  I was an assistant pastor at the time.  My evangelist friend had just preached a message to our teens about courtship and marriage.  Our pastor had one objection, and he addressed it after the students were dismissed.  His objection? “You didn’t say anything about interracial dating.”

Before I relate our evangelist’s answer, I should remind you that a traveling evangelist depends for his livelihood on the relationships he has with pastors and churches.  It would be easy enough for an evangelist to be a little bit craven out of fear of losing meetings.  Our evangelist friend was not.  His answer stunned me, like an open-handed slap to my face.  He did not hesitate: “I don’t have a problem with interracial dating or marriage.” He explained: “You can’t tell me that a black girl and a white boy who grow up in the same church and live a few miles apart shouldn’t marry because of the color of their skin.  They were raised in the same environment, they have the same cultural experiences, there can be no Scriptural reason to forbid it.”

I interjected. “God separated the races at the tower of Babel.  Interracial marriage blurs the lines between those races.” He looked at me and shook his head: first, nothing in the Bible commands that we maintain “racial integrity” through marriage standards.  The idea that “God set the bounds of their habitations” came from Bob Jones, and (as my evangelist friend said it), “everyone knows that the old man was a racist.” Second, nobody could give a Scriptural breakdown of what constituted a different race, or which races were forbidden to marry one another.  He pointed out that some pastors say there are three races, some say there are more – some as many as seventeen.

I respected this man for his answer, but at the time, I strongly disagreed with him.  Since then, God has changed my heart.  First, my friend was right – God has not put a restriction on marriages based on skin color.  When Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for his Ethiopian wife, God gave no credence to their criticism at all, though He did punish Aaron and Miriam for opposing Moses’ leadership.  Second, God reversed Babel on the day of Pentecost, when the gospel was heard in the heart languages of – you guessed it – seventeen nationalities (Acts 2:8-11).  Third, God has made of one blood all nations of men (Acts 17:26).  And while it is true (as Bob Jones argued) that God has determined the bounds of their habitation, He has never restricted a nation to that boundary.  Fourth, and I think most importantly, God has made us all of one blood.  There can be no Scriptural grounds for forbidding marriage between blacks and whites.

In the twenty years Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3”

The Turning of the Tide

The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

This past Sunday marked the end of a rollercoaster week for us, and I would like to take a few moments to praise the Lord for His goodness to us.

Like every other pastor in America, I have spent many sleepless nights over the past two months.  We have been navigating uncharted waters, and it has seemed to me that every week has required a fresh decision about what we should be doing.

Before I tell our story, let me just say how much I respect my fellow pastors.  I have known that God has filled His pulpits with men of conviction and quality, but this crisis has made it even more clear to me that we have some truly outstanding pastors around our county.  Many decisions have had to be made, and the opinions and positions that have been taken seem to cover every extreme of the compass.  Yet, in discussions with dozens of pastors, I have observed one certain truth – that every one of them has acted on what they believed to be right and have sought to bring God the honor that He deserves.  I count myself blessed to serve as a contemporary with these men.

Our church decided early on that we should follow the health guidelines that were issued by our state.  Though our Governor has been great in the fact that he has not used a heavy hand to control us, yet we believed that we should exercise caution in this thing.  We added services in order to accommodate our people and give them the opportunity to be part of a service every week, and the majority of the church has had to suffer through online services for nearly two months now.

Continue reading “The Turning of the Tide”

A Worship Style Primer, Part 2

This is the second offering on worship style, in answer to the claim made by Contemporary Independent Baptists like Josh Teis (see this link also) and Robert Bakss that worship style is merely a matter of preference and personal taste.  If you have not yet read the first in the series, please kindly follow this link before reading this post.

In the first post in this short series, I sought to distinguish between the subjective and the objective in order to establish a foundation of objective beauty.  As style is an element of beauty, it is necessary that we understand that beauty is not divorced from truth or goodness, and that none of the three are purely subjective.  Christians have historically believed in objective truth, objective goodness, and objective beauty.  The ultimate objective standard of truth, goodness, and beauty is God Himself, Who is truth, is holy, and is altogether lovely.  Because we are commanded to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, our worship style must reveal that beauty, must show what the beauty of holiness looks like.

In this post, I want to Continue reading “A Worship Style Primer, Part 2”

A Worship Style Primer: Rudiments

Before We Begin…

In this particular series of posts, I am dealing with worship style, not worship music – though worship music is a part of the overall style.  I want to be clear on that point because some Facebook readers did not seem to understand that, especially some who read my article on Tom Brennan’s Facebook page (at https://www.facebook.com/tom.brennan.58/posts/10214908523539365).  I intend to deal with worship music eventually, but first, I want to establish a foundation for style in general, and for worship style in particular.  In previous articles, especially my article called “Gothpel Style,” I was attempting to show from Scripture that God cares about style, that style is not merely a matter of preference, a neutral vehicle for conveying a somehow disconnected message.  The Scripture passages I used were not intended to speak specifically to the subject of music, though I do believe they establish a certain kind of style that should be used in worship.

That said, I hope to advance the discussion here in order to outline a Scriptural worldview regarding worship style.  Please note that this series of posts deals with the big picture first, and from there will seek to offer some specific principles.

Rudiments of Style

Style rightly belongs with beauty, the third of what has been called the “transcendentals” of truth, goodness, and beauty.  As I have pointed out, Contemporary Independent Baptists like Josh Teis and Robert Bakss argue Continue reading “A Worship Style Primer: Rudiments”

Gothpel Style

Contemporary Independent Baptists like Josh Teis and Robert Bakss insist that style is a matter of preference, that God says nothing about style. You prefer traditional hymns; we prefer contemporary. You prefer a suit and tie; we prefer casual. You want the lights bright; we like them dim. You use a pulpit; we prefer an open stage. Potayto; potahto.

But not so fast. These men make some major leaps based on assumption.  They do not attempt to prove their major premise.  They beg the question; they assume what they should prove; they rely on “special pleading” to make their case.

Their major premise, that style is merely a matter of preference, exposes a serious worldview flaw.  It does not faithfully represent Scripture. Ultimately, their principle of musical style undermines the worship being offered to a holy God. In response, I offer three points to consider.

First, Style is not Neutral

The idea that style is neutral, that style choices are merely preference choices, reveals a deep worldview flaw that cannot be ignored. To argue that style is a matter of preference is to say that there are areas in this world over which God makes no claim, over which Jesus Christ is not Lord. If in fact, the Lordship of Jesus Christ does not extend to our style choices, then anything goes. Why not host a Pajama Sunday?  After all, how else will we reach late-night WalMart shoppers?  Better yet, Continue reading “Gothpel Style”