I am glad that Bro. Ouellette has published this, because it is a critical issue that needs to be aired among Independent Baptists.
Ouellette has been pastor of First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, Michigan, since 1975.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
June 2, 2011
I heard someone quote an old preacher who said regarding this text, ‘I believe in chasing buzzards off. I don’t believe in chasing buzzards.’ It seems to me that this text and the thought given by that man of God now in Heaven are especially significant to us today. It is an important part of our ministry to stand against evil (Isaiah 58:1 - ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.’). It is, however, not the only part of our ministry. We are also to ‘feed the flock of God.’ We are to ‘preach the Gospel to every creature.’ We are to ‘comfort the afflicted.’ We are to ‘weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice.’ We are to ‘exhort one another.’ We are to ‘comfort one another.’ We are to ‘bear one another’s burdens.’ When we focus on the buzzards, we run the risk of becoming unbalanced and even unscriptural in our ministry. ... I’ll never forget the shock I felt as a young man, realizing that I had been named negatively in a national magazine. It seems to me that this kind of ‘gotcha’ approach is part of what drives some young men away from independent, fundamental Baptist leaders. This blog is part one of some thoughts on this phenomenon.
1. It’s Necessary
Chasing buzzards off is necessary. When the buzzard of New Evangelicalism tries to steal from the altar the lives of young men who have sacrificed themselves to the cause of Christ, I’m going to try to chase it off. When the buzzard of the Contemporary Church tries to tell young people that rock n’ roll is right and the King James Version is wrong, I’m going to try to chase it off. When the buzzard of Calvinism comes along with its almost universal effect of weakening our zeal for souls, deadening our evangelism and squelching our support of missionaries, I intend to chase it away as rapidly as possible. We are to ‘look well to the state of our flock.’
2. It's dangerous
Chasing buzzards is dangerous. Please note the distinction between ‘chasing buzzards off” and ‘chasing buzzards.’ In the first instance, I’m trying to remove them from my sacrifice. In the second, I’m trying to hunt them down. ... Chasing buzzards makes us feel important. After all, we can tell the rest of the world what we have discovered that is wrong with someone. We are now investigative reporters, ‘Pastor Police,’ and in some cases, we may even perceive ourselves as the Inspector General of fundamentalism.
3. It's Exposing
Chasing buzzards leaves the sacrifice unprotected. Abraham’s goal was to give an offering to God. The buzzards interfered with his giving the offering. He therefore chased them way. If, however, like some people, he had devoted himself to chasing the buzzards, the offering would be vulnerable to the attack of any other enemy. I wonder how many souls we fail to win while we’re writing scathing letters of rebuke against our brethren? I wonder how many sermons we’re not preparing while we are “doing research” to learn everything wrong that we possibly can about someone we have determined to be a danger to the cause of Christ? I wonder how often we have invested ourselves emotionally in a particular issue and allowed our concern to be one of personality rather than of principle?
4. It’s Secondary
Chasing buzzards is not our main responsibility. I want to take a stand. I want to be clear in my opposition to wrong Bible translations, liberal and compromising tendencies, ungodly philosophies and sin of every kind. However, my ultimate responsibility is to ‘preach the Gospel to every creature.’ It is to make disciples of men and women and boys and girls and train them to live for the Lord Jesus Christ. If I could chase every buzzard down, blow its head off with my spiritual shotgun and hang its bloody carcass on a post someplace for all to see, I would not have fulfilled the Great Commission. I’m against the buzzards when they come around. I intend to chase them away. But I plan to spend most of my time making the sacrifice. Just some thoughts...
End of “Chasing Buzzard” by R.B. Ouellette
REPLY FROM BROTHER CLOUD
1. I fervently agree that dealing with sin and error is an important part of the ministry. The apostle Paul spent a lot of time chasing buzzards away from the early churches. In his last meeting with the pastors at Ephesus at Miletus he reminded them forcefully and at some length of this obligation (Acts 20:27-32). Paul’s epistles are filled with “buzzard chasing,” and we must remember that we only have a few of his epistles preserved in the New Testament. We know that he wrote many others. This was a major part of Paul’s ministry. In the Pastoral Epistles, he named the names of heretics and compromisers several times (Hymenaeus and Alexander, Phygellus and Hermogenes, Hymenaeus and Philetus, Alexander the Coppersmith, Demas). You say, “But there were private epistles.” Actually, they were the premier church planting manuals to train preachers from that day to this, so Paul’s warnings about specific men were a matter of public record throughout the churches, which is how it must be. How is it reasonable to allow false teachers and compromisers to influence people without publicly reproving them? Private reproof doesn’t help those being influenced by them.
We are to follow Paul’s example (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17). When I was first saved, I didn’t know which way to turn as far as church affiliation. I was led to Christ by an old-line Pentecostal, but I knew that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, the sole authority for faith and practice. I had that nailed down from the beginning, by God’s grace, and I took the Bible as my guide and light when I began to visit churches and listen to radio preachers and read Christian books and attend Bible School. I wanted to follow Paul and to use the Bible to test every preacher today, and I have never given up on that principle. I thank the Lord for many things that I learned at Tennessee Temple in the 1970s and from many different Independent Baptist preachers through the decades. I want to “hold fast that which is good,” but my authority and guide is the Bible, not some influential Baptist leader. If Paul spent a lot of time “chasing buzzards” so to speak, then it cannot be wrong for a preacher to follow that pattern today, and I reject any voice to the contrary. And we must remember that Paul warned that the end of the church age would witness a dramatic increase in error and compromise, so it is reasonable to assume that faithful preachers living in these days must spend even more time “chasing away buzzards” than Paul did in his day.
2. I agree wholeheartedly that warning about error is not the only part of the ministry. If fact, I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that and I don’t know anyone who spends all of his time “chasing away buzzards.” Who is this full-time buzzard chaser? I suspect that he is mythical straw man. I guess I am one of the most highly visible “buzzard chasers” among Independent Baptists, but I certainly don’t spend all of my time with this to the neglect of other important aspects of the ministry. I have spent 20 years in church planting in one of the darkest, most-difficult mission fields on earth, and by God’s grace it has been effective. We had the privilege of planting the first Baptist church in Nepal with our co-workers, and many hundreds of people have come to Christ out of Hinduism through that church and the churches that have been planted since then. This year we have baptized 30 adults, I believe, in our newest church plant. Even when it comes to literature, most of my time is not spent chasing buzzards. Most of my time is spent producing Bible teaching materials to disciple God’s people and to provide such materials to pastors who don’t have the time to produce them. Helping pastors is one of my passions. God is my witness. To create the “Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity,” and the 400-page “Things Hard to Be Understood: A Handbook of Biblical Difficulties,” and the 20 volumes of the “Advanced Bible Studies Series” totaling over 5,000 pages, and the 225-page “One-Year Discipleship Course,” and the 500-page “Keeping the Kids” (about the family and child training), and the new 300-page apologetics course, required making this a major emphasis in my life and ministry.
3. As for chasing buzzards being dangerous, I can’t figure this one out. It sounds like Pastor Ouellette knows a lot about this, because he claims that it somehow generates pride and makes one so conceited that one thinks of himself as “the Inspector General of fundamentalism.” Either Bro. Ouellette has been a big-time buzzard chaser in his own life and has therefore been tempted to become this General, or somehow he knows the secret motives and temptations of other unnamed men. Actually, there is danger in anything in the Christian life and ministry, because it is being lived out by deeply flawed sinners. There is obviously great danger in being a prominent Independent Baptist pastor, because we have witnessed so frightfully many of them crash and burn through pride, covetousness, and immorality.
4. As for chasing buzzards being secondary, I reject that on the authority of God’s Word. This was answered by Pastor Steve Rogers of Grace Baptist Church, Oxford, Pennsylvania, in the following remarks he left at Bro. Ouellette blog:
“I think it is extremely dangerous to equate or at least intimate that the ‘Great Commission’ is evangelism only as you did above in the last point, IE ‘it's secondary.’ Secondary in chronology, but not priority! In fact, Jesus said to teach them to observe ALL THINGS. Evangelism is only 1/3 of the Great Commission, at least the one Jesus gave. Surely you would agree that all things includes separation from false teachers AND compromising brothers who are not walking according to any part of the revealed truth of the NT. If Jesus commanded it, we have not the authority to deem it secondary, but rather absolutely necessary. Was Paul neglecting winning souls (primary) when he spent time writing 14 books of the NT dealing mainly with ‘chasing buzzards’ of separation or worldliness or compromise or confronting Peter on his hypocrisy? We seem to forget that proportionally, MOST of the NT deals not with evangelism, but with discipleship and doctrinal purity of the churches, IE practicing separation. Perhaps, we should return to preaching and practicing things in the same proportion to the actual revealed Word of God, than we do. Separation is not the enemy of evangelism, but the catalyst for it! I thank God for men who don't relegate chasing buzzards as secondary to the Great Commission, but who instead understand it it actually part of completing the Great Commission. It's not an EITHER/OR practice, but BOTH/AND practice. The ‘non-essentials’ mindset that is so prevalent among IFBs today is unBiblical. God didn't use filler in His Word. If it's there, it's essential! BTW, have any of these ‘young fundamentalists’ you are so concerned about and who are turned off by militant separation ever ended up fellowshipping with people that you approve of? or do almost all of them end up joining the buzzards? Seems to me that they all leave and then play the victim, while they zip up in their buzzard suit. Maybe, just maybe, there were some pastors who allowed the buzzards to build their nests right above the sacrifice, and the buzzards became seen as pets to play with instead of dangerous hunters to be chased off?” (Steve Rogers).
5. As for chasing buzzards being exposing, so that it leaves the offering unprotected and other important matters undone, I guess this point deals with the issue of “balance.” Pastor Ouellette says, “I wonder how many souls we fail to win while we’re writing scathing letters of rebuke against our brethren? I wonder how many sermons we’re not preparing while we are ‘doing research’ to learn everything wrong that we possibly can about someone we have determined to be a danger to the cause of Christ?”
But if it is God’s will to write a letter of rebuke (such as when Ouellette himself wrote a sharp public criticism of Pastor Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, a criticism that Schaap would probably describe as “scathing”), who is to say it is wrong? And if it is God’s will to do research on an issue so that you know what you are talking about as opposed to just shooting from the hip, who is to say that it is wrong? Shouldn’t some Independent Baptist preachers do some serious research on the issues that we face, or should we all remain ignorant?
Balance can mean different things at different times and for different people. Balance is not the same for an evangelist as for a pastor or a missionary. Balance is not the same for a married man as for a single man. Balance is not the same for a young father as for a grandfather.
Balance is not the same when buzzards are circling far away as it is when they are flocking on the offering. Today the buzzard of the emerging church philosophy in all its varied aspects is devouring many Independent Baptist churches, plucking out their eyes, tearing away pieces of their flesh. At such a time it is not wrong to give a LOT of attention to chasing away buzzards! Anything less would demonstrate a gross lack of love for Christ and His truth and His churches.
Balance is not the same for a soldier in peace time as it is for a soldier in the thick of battle. It would have been foolish to have criticized the soldiers who assaulted the beachhead in France on D-Day for being so totally consumed with fighting day after day, yea, month after month! “Where’s the balance, soldier boys! Don’t you also need to read your training manuals and salute your officers and look after the chow menu and shine your shoes? All you do is fight, fight, fight.”
Oftentimes it is the action of the enemy that determines what balance looks like in a particular situation; and for those who haven’t noticed, let me say that the enemy is VERY active! Compared to when I was saved nearly 40 years ago, countless buzzards are settling into the Independent Baptist movement today.
And too often the buzzards are not being driven away because those who should be going after them in no uncertain terms, and those who have the most prominent voices and the ears of the most people, spend more time maligning the few buzzard chasers that still exist than exercising an effective buzzard chasing ministry of their own.
My prayer is that God will give every preacher such a passion for Christ and His truth that he will not keep his mouth shut in the face of the compromise and error that is destroying so many of God’s churches. I pray that God will reprove the good old boy’s networks that keep so many men’s mouths so effectively shut and that allows godly reproof to be treated as cheap gossip.
I, for one, praise God for buzzard chasers. May their number increase mightily and may they exercise their buzzard chasing ministries with much spiritual wisdom, as unto God.
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