“There are church members here that have developed a critical mindset from various sources, including your website and subscription to your emails with Way of Life. I respectfully ask that you take members of ------ Baptist Church from ---------- off your subscription list without bashing me and by keeping out of this local New Testament issue. --------- and ----------- do not need critical influence because they are babes in Christ and their Pastor (that's me), sees spiritually fit for you to take your emails off their sending list. If you do not then I will take this further. This is not up for debate! God hates discord and that is final. Thank you for respecting the authority of this local N. T. Church.”
REPLY FROM BROTHER CLOUD
Hello, Pastor --------.
I am sorry to hear from you under these circumstances.
It would not be ethical for me to remove the names. These men subscribed of their own free will, and it is up to them to unsubscribe. To remove them on your request would be like going to the post office and demanding that a stop be placed on someone else’s mail without their knowledge and approval.
As for a critical mindset, if the church members you mentioned have a truly critical mindset and are causing carnal divisions in the church and are not showing proper respect to the pastor, they did not learn that from me and I would reprove them for such a thing. I warn about that frequently. See my reports such as “Keys to Fruitful Church Membership,” “I Am Not Your Pastor,” “A Critical Eye,” and “The Pastor’s Authority and the Church Member’s Responsibility.” All of these are freely available at the Way of Life web site.
But testing things by the Word of God is not a “critical mindset.” No preacher is above being proved by God’s Word and being reproved by God’s Word if he is found to be in error. Jack Hyles, one of the most influential independent Baptist preachers, believed that he was above such “criticism” and demanded unquestioning loyalty, and that type of thinking has spread widely among some pastors, but he was wrong and he doubtless knows that now.
As for protecting the church from error, you certainly have that responsibility, and I understand this very well.
I was a pastor in Tennessee in the 1970s, and since 1979 I have held a position similar to a pastor as a missionary church planter.
The pastor has the authority and responsibility to build up his people in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God and to protect them from error.
But the way he protects the sheep from error is not to bully them and demand unquestioning submission to his authority and to treat their challenges as carnal divisiveness. That is the way of an emperor, not a pastor (1 Peter 5:1-3). The way that a biblical pastor protects the sheep is to train them in the truth so they have good spiritual discernment. This is how the pastor “shuts the mouths” of heretics (Titus. 1:9-11).
If one of our church members starts reading Reformed theology or something else that I consider to be in error, I am not going to contact the preacher or the author and demand that he remove our church members from his mailing list or try to force him to stop publishing his material.
I am first going to make the effort to find out exactly what is being taught by reading the material or listening to the sermons for myself. I am not going to depend on second-hand information or what someone else says about that preacher or author.
Then I am going to teach that church member why I believe that particular author is wrong and why he should not follow him, and if I believe that the wrong doctrine is dangerous, I am going to urge him to stop listening to it.
The pastor has the authority and responsibility to do this.
He does not, though, have the authority to keep his people from hearing other preachers that speak the truth, even if he doesn’t appreciate who they are.
That is what Diotrophes was guilty of, and the apostle John described his sin in very strong terms (3 John 9-11). Diotrophes tried to forbid his people to hear the truth spoken by other preachers. It wasn’t a matter of protecting them from heresy; it was an issue of maintaining his authority over people’s lives.
In my long experience, most pastors that get upset at me for supposedly interfering in their “local church affairs” and for supposedly stirring up their people “to criticism” have not made the effort to carefully and prayerfully read what I had said (or to watch the music videos, etc.) and have not proven that I am actually in error. Often the problem has to do with something I have said about one of their preacher heroes like Jack Hyles or Paul Chappell or Clarence Sexton or whoever. They react knee-jerk fashion without carefully checking out what I have said and why I am concerned, and they automatically charge me with causing division.
The truth causes division, just as surely as error does. The prophets of old caused great discord and division. Jesus caused tremendous discord among the Jews, and He continues to cause discord in this sin-cursed, error-afflicted world. He said He did not come to bring peace but division (Lk. 12:51). Paul stirred up discord throughout his ministry.
God does not hate “discord” that is the product of truth.
If I have spoken the truth about the compromise of some well-known preacher, or if I have spoken the truth about the music issue or the evangelism issue or whatever issue it might be, and that truth causes division among some independent Baptists, that is not sin. It only exposes the fact that there are a lot of independent Baptist compromisers and heretics.
It would be a good thing and not a bad thing, a godly thing and not a carnal thing, for independent Baptists who are faithful to the truth of God’s Word to divide from those who are following pragmatic human thinking rather than God’s Word and who are compromising the truth by moving in a worldly, contemporary path, etc.
The real problem lies in the fact that so many independent Baptists are men followers more than Christ followers and are committed to many errors that they have learned from their misguided heroes. Instead of testing everything by God’s Word as a true Berean (Acts 17:11), they test things by their tradition (all the while giving lip service to being Biblicists).
It is frightful that so many independent Baptist preachers are so shockingly ignorant of these fundamental and basic biblical truths.
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