Church discipline

Lebron James to (gasp) Cleveland...

Everyone was sick of the drama. Now it's over and it's a real shocker. To see a man loyal to his roots despite the intense acrimony surrounding his departure four years ago makes me think better of Lebron James. 

What hurdles did he face as he considered returning to Cleveland?

His wife and mother. James told Sports Illustrated:

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough.

To paraphrase Vladimir Putin, maybe toughness is not the worst quality for a mother. But why would James's wife or mom object to returning to Cleveland?

Again, James explains:


Aimee Semple McPherson: conflicted celebrity evangelist...

Itinerant evangelists have proclaimed the good news in crusades and tent revivals, in fields and stadiums, in tabernacles and classrooms. Over the last 150 years, Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), Billy Sunday (1862-1935), Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) and Billy Graham (1918-present) have been household names in their eras. Each used different methods and had vastly different personalities, and was able to tap into deep undercurrents of American piety. My intent in this post is not to compare these four, but to consider a recent (1993) and major biography (400+ pages), Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody's Sister by Edith Blumhofer .

For much of the 1920s and 1930s, Aimee was front-page news. She was a relentless evangelist, a missionary to China, a megachurch pastor, the founder of a denomination, and a leader in helping to provide for the physical needs of those who fell on hard times during the Great Depression.

Yet her life was full of contradictions. Adored by thousands … 


Affirming stuff, part one...

Christian faith has always unapologetically been affirming of “stuff” - physical stuff. So affirming of stuff, in fact, that the entire world is scandalized by it. Some might say that one problem with our godless generation is its denigration of stuff; like a child in formation within his mother’s womb. The reason such a child may be incautiously discarded (killed) is that it is said to be nothing more than a mess of tissue - you know, it’s “just” stuff.

The word 'gnostic' is so abused of late that it can refer to nearly anything—so nebulous, it defies concreteness. This is a sad irony. But the fact remains, Christians have always scandalized the world by our unapologetic affirmation of stuff—insofar as our spirituality is divorced from stuff, some form of dualistic juju is wreaking havoc on our very humanity. It is a violent form of dualism which rages against our identity—an identity created by God which is identifiable through our bodies... 


A heads up for those who work with missionaries

Missionaries are not known for being self-critical so here is a brief attempt at such. Perhaps it will help pastors and churches and missionary agencies give better care to them. It might also help missionaries look at themselves in the mirror.

1. Lots of missionaries work with minimal supervision either from their missionary group or home church. That means the missionary is often not used to dealing with an authority structure and being brought to account. When someone confronts him, about his work or his marriage or his personal life, he is genuinely...


In the Church's womb...

Commenting on the parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50), Trench writes:

...the Lord did not contemplate His visible Church as a communion in which there should be no intermixture of evil; but as there was a Ham in the ark, and a Judas among the twelve, so there should be a Babylon even within the bosom of the spiritual Israel; Esau shall contend with Jacob even in the Church's womb... This fact does not justify self-willed departure from the fellowship of the Church, an impatient leaping over , or breaking through, the nets, as it is often called; but the Lord's separation is patiently to be waited for.... (R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables of Our Lord)

Following Trench's footnote pointing to Augustine's exposition of Psalm 126:3 (127:3), "the fruit of the womb is a reward," Augustine...


Elders who rule well...

In two weeks, we'll be holding our conference for church officers here in Bloomington. The conference is February 19 - 21 and it's not too late to register. Our title is "Elders Who Rule Well," and here's an explanation.

Sometime this past year, it struck me that this word 'rule' needs to be restored to a place of dignity among us. It is what elders are called to do, after all, and in a healthy church, most of the session's time, energy, and prayers are given to this work.

Jethro told his son-in-law, Moses, to appoint one elder for every ten people. What was their work?


Clearnote church officers conference only one month away...

One month from now, we'll be holding a conference here at Clearnote Church, Bloomington, titled "Elders Who Rule Well." We'll start on Wednesday, February 19, with a Texas-style BBQ dinner where you'll get to chow down on the world-renowned Chasteen Brothers smoked BBQ meats which regularly grace our rehearsal dinners, weddings, and other feasts. If you're a pastor, elder, deacon, or you aspire to serve the church as one of her officers, you should set aside the time and join us.

After dinner and fellowship, we'll have our first message, "You Cannot Do It Alone: Elders are a blessing." This will focus on the protection and comfort what has historically been referred to as "the plurality of the eldership" is to the pastor. Every wise pastor will take joy in having a good number of fellow elders lead the church, rather than bearing this responsibility himself. When there's a plurality of elders (we have fifteen), the pastor himself will receive counsel, support, and discipline. We cannot, we ought not, lead the church alone.

Following the message Thursday evening, we'll have some time for fellowship.

Thursday morning, we'll have our second message, "Fathers in God's House: Elders must be good fathers." This will focus on the recovery of fatherhood in the church...


Book recommendations: Baxter's Reformed Pastor and Shusaku Endo's Silence...

It seems inane to say so when so many others have said the same so often for so many centuries, but having recently led our Pastors College men through Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor, I was reminded how central to the development of my work as a minister of the Word Baxter has been. After seminary, I read The Reformed Pastor, followed quickly by Baxter's Autobiography, and it's impossible to overstate the impact both had on my pastoral conscience and commitments these past thirty years. Page after page, I see my markings and marginal notes and think to myself, "that's where I learned that" and "that's why I think that way!"

Whether you're a deacon, pastor, or elder, if you haven't read Baxter's Reformed Pastor, buy it now and read it yesterday! Then preach on Acts 20 and you're good to go! (Or to sit down and mourn and cry and beat your breast and confess your failures to the Chief Shepherd, asking for His mercy and renewed commitment to faithfully shepherd Christ's Church which He bought with His Own precious blood.)

* * *

Speaking of books, I also just finished Silence by Shusaku Endo and recommend it to our good readers. (I was up staying with my brother, David, for a couple days and pulled it from his bookshelves, so thank David for the recommendation.) Silence is said to be the masterpiece of Japan's most respected novelist and the work is a fictionalized account of the great persecution Christians suffered in Japan during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries...


Government gets it right while churches get it wrong...

Amidst a very sad set of articles on adoptions that have gone bad, and what happens to those children, came the following quote:

By 2002, Calvin Eason and a pregnant Nicole had moved to South Carolina. That March, Nicole gave birth to a boy.

Massachusetts child protection officials learned of the move and told South Carolina authorities about the Easons' history. They explained that Nicole's daughter was already in the foster care system. "The allegations," a report by South Carolina authorities recounted, "are abuse and neglect." (The couple's parental rights to the girl were subsequently terminated.)

Although the Kickery boy's death had been ruled an accident, Massachusetts authorities also brought Nicole's involvement in the matter to the attention of South Carolina officials. An incident report, dated Feb. 28, 2002 and prepared by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina, notes that a "child died in Subject's care."

About a week after Nicole's son was born, the state executed an emergency removal of the newborn from the Eason home in Summerville, South Carolina, sheriff's records show. Authorities cited the neglect investigation of the Easons in Massachusetts and the conditions in the couple's South Carolina home.

Today, few church officers are willing to do what these state officials did—call each other up and inquire concerning the past history of those souls who just left their prior church for ours...


It all starts (or stops) with Daddy...

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal highlights the savings Rhode Island has seen the past few years in its Medicaid expenditures as a result of negotiating from the Feds some small liberties to decide for themselves how to fund healthcare for their poor. At the time Rhode Island received this privilege from the Feds, one of every five of its citizens were on Medicaid, a quarter of the state's budget was going to Medicaid payments, and the state's Medicaid expenditures were growing 7.6% per year. More recently, though, from 2009-2012 Rhode Island has reduced its growth in Medicaid expenditures to 1.3% per year as the other 49 states' expenditures increased 4.6% per year.

States rights is not only an ordering principle of our nation's Constitution, but also the necessary method of protecting our solvency. Return decisions concerning spending of Medicaid funds to Rhode Island magistrates and, that very minute, accountability returns and expenditures begin to decline.

How did they do it? 

Two major reforms in particular saved money. The first reduced costly emergency room visits by Medicaid recipients for routine medical needs, and the second reduced admissions to pricey nursing homes by offering home-care subsidies and promoting assisted living arrangements, which seniors generally prefer.

Whether ecclesiastical or civil, that government is best which is most decentralized and exercises authority over the smallest group of people. In Presbyterian government, the session (for church members) and presbytery (for pastors) are the courts of original jurisdiction; and that should be the end of it in everything but the most extreme cases.

If a humdinger of a controversy arises in... {C}


Carolyn Custis James is right...

The Carolyn Custis James who's made a name for herself dissing housewives and puffing theologettes has moved on to opposing spiritual abuse. In a post titled, "The Enablers of Spiritual Abuse... or when silence isn't golden," Ms. Custis James writes:

In July, when I was in the airport and spotted an abandoned backpack, I didn’t assume it was someone else’s responsibility. I knew the drill. “If you see something, say something.” So I did.

One of the many disturbing aspects of spiritual abuse and a prime reason that it thrives unchecked in so many churches and in highly respected Christian institutions and ministries is because instead of “saying something” when signs of abuse surface, we take the path of least resistance.

“If you see or hear something, mind your own business!”

Ms. Custis James is exactly right. The most wicked spiritual abuse suffered by sheep is pastors and elders who see sin and recognize error, yet betray their calling by saying nothing to oppose it. Take feminism, for instance...


Child abuse: grandstanding or pastoral care...

(NOTE FROM TB: Earlier today, my wife and I read a statement against child abuse signed by a bunch of church leaders and their friends who are affiliated with the PCA, Biblical Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary (Philly), and an assortment of other organizations. Both of us were unimpressed. My wife said, "I'd like to ask all the people who signed it if any of them have ever taken even one man and woman from their own congregation or their own family down to the police station to confess their crimes? They all have child molesters and abusers in their own churches and families."

So I asked Mary Lee if she would do a short post on her reaction to the statement and here it is. Obviously, the statement leaves us cold. Despite their public declaration of moral indignation, we doubt more than a handful of them have done the hard work of pastoral care needed in matters of this sort. Too, if we're talking about "child abuse," why no mention of the murder of children? Which is to say, why no mention of abortion?)

(Mary Lee writes:) It is easy to point fingers at the people in the past who did not expose the abuse and wickedness in their churches and Christian organizations. It is easy to point fingers at those around us who have not done what was necessary to stop the abuse and wickedness they have been told about. It is even fairly easy to acknowledge that, surely, we too have failed in these areas.

It is not easy, when a man in your own congregation is found to have molested little children, to take that man down to the police station and help him confess his crimes. 

It is not easy to go with a woman in your congregation whose father molested her for years as she was growing up and... 


Making suits from Adamantium...

A common refrain lobbed from R2K adherents is a "lack of consistency" on the part of those holding to the historic Two Kingdoms doctrine. If you think God has called you to call sodomites and baby-killers to repentance, why not call on civil government to enforce the worship of the Trinity and punish Sabbath breakers?

At the heart of this complaint is R2Ker's notion of the "spirituality" of the church. What is the spirituality of the church?

Good question. On its face, the term lends itself to being so vague as to be nearly useless. Calvin and others following him use this term much different than R2K men. Hisorically, it wasn't a paradigm.

But R2K has co-opted the term and R2K men are all over the board as to its meaning...


Homeschooling, church discipline, and the education of our children...

[NOTE: The man who, along with his wife, does an excellent job homeschooling  as I've observed for fifteen years called and said I'm largely wrong in what I've written here, so I stand half-corrected. Still, I'm not sure how I'd rewrite this given his criticisms so I'll leave the post up with this warning. Likely much of what I write here applies as much to Christian schooling and public schooling as home schooling, and the dangers I warn of are more a product of our times than a particular form of home schooling. That being said, no matter how you school your children, please listen to my concerns and take them to heart in the education of your precious children.]

Mary Lee and I put several of our children in public schools at various times, and we also homeschooled one son for three years. Most of our children's schooling, though, was done in Christian schools and this is the educational method we believe best for most parents and children—particularly boys who are becoming men. After years of watching homeschoolers in our churches and the broader Christian (and alternative) world, starting no later than Junior High School we think most boys do much better being taught by men than women. Especially their mothers. 

Even if the local Christian school option does not have male teachers, though, one of the reasons we have come to believe in Christian schooling's superiority to homeschooling is the lack of respect for authority we've seen to be endemic within homeschooling families....


Where our churches are headed...

Early in my ministry, I warned Evangelical pastors within the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) that their failure to rebuke and discipline fornication, adultery, and unbiblical divorce within their own session and congregation rendered their campaigns against the normalization of sodomy at the presbytery and general assembly level impotent. After all, PC(USA) liberals were only asking for their immorality-of choice to be granted the immunity the immoralities of conservatives had already been granted.

Time and again, I saw and had reported to me the failure of tall-steeple Evangelical pastors to do anything about the sins of their elders, particularly unbiblical divorces and adulteries. But then these same rich and famous pastors would mount their white stallions and sally forth against homosexual ordination once a year at General Assembly, taking home the reputation of Biblical integrity and courage they deserved not one bit.

So twenty years ago, my church and I resigned from the PC(USA), transferring into a southern denomination called the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)...


Fight the good fight...

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. - 1Timothy 1:20

Edwards once said that, during his studies at Yale, he learned more from arguing than reading.

Today, argument is a dirty word, especially among Christians. To disagree requires a man to have a chest and narcissists have no chests. So they spill their FB updates agreeing with one another about everything but politics, and their political disagreements are mind-numbing with both sides parroting lines they heard from some woman teacher who wished she could get every boy in her classroom on Ritalin. "Don't be mean! That's not nice! If someone told you that you were wrong, how would that make you feel?" And so on.

On then with the arguments! Probing, parrying, thrusting expose weaknesses and strengths so men may grow.

If you want children who are able to think and stand against the narcissists persecuting the Church today, argue at your dinner table. Improve the time!


Prof. Trueman's bad questions and worse answers...

Two weeks ago Prof. Carl Trueman wrote a short piece saying he doesn't like it that some parachurch organizations are dividing over father-rule. He asks why organizations divide over sexuality if they refuse to divide over the Sacraments? After all, he says, the Sacraments are “the very doctrinal differences which made Protestant confessions necessary in the first place.”

Well of course, the only reason the Sacraments are mentioned in Protestant confessions while sex distinctions and father-rule are not is that, back in past centuries when confessions were written, no one alive questioned father-rule. So when Dr. Trueman points out that the Reformers didn't feel the need to divide with egalitarian feminists, it might be helpful to point out to Dr. Trueman there were no egalitarian feminists pushing women onto Calvin's consistory or into Geneva's pulpits. 

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit dealt with female rebellion so clearly and firmly that it took twenty centuries before it reared its head again. That's why the confessions of the Reformers written and adopted five centuries ago condemned Sacramental errors without condemning egalitarian feminism.

It's ironic that Dr. Trueman wrote this piece for his own parachurch organization which, itself, refuses to divide over the Sacraments.

Dr. Trueman has a dog in this fight. Why should he refuse to do parachurch with Christians who rebel against the plain teaching of Scripture that woman may not teach or exercise authority over man...


Lolo Jones, church weddings, and white...

Dear sister Kamilla passed on this article by feminist Carolyn Custis James responding to Olympian Lolo Jones's public confession of sexual purity. Months ago Jones told her interviewer she was a virgin, and then she said:

It's just a gift I want to give my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. There's virgins out there and I want to let them know that it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Harder than training for the Olympics. Harder than graduating from college has been to stay a virgin before marriage. I've been tempted, I've had plenty of opportunities.

It's no surprise that despicable publication that loves the blood of the unborn infants called the New York Times will try to smear Miss Jones. But Ms. Custis James claims to be a Bible- believing Christian. How does she oh-so-subtly diss Miss Jones's wonderful Christian testimony?

By talking about how women misled by our cultural values or raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo shouldn't be viewed as any less worthy of a husband than virgins like Lolo Jones. Which is to say public discussions of virginity might make women who are victims or sinners feel bad--it might hurt them.

Very true. That's why raping a woman or fornicating with a woman are evil. They rob the women God has called men to protect of the most precious gift a bride gives her bridegroom at her wedding. Isn't that what Miss Jones said?

Remember that it's the postmodern's morbid habit to sacrifice the normal on the altar of the abnormal. And if there's ever a case of normal, it's the bride being presented by her father to her beloved bridegroom as a virgin, dressed in virginal white. If our efforts are spent trying to make non-virgins think nothing of their sexual oppression or failure, what will we do with all the Biblical texts holding up the purity...


Faithful are the wounds of a brother...

If you've not read Citizens' Arrest! Citizens' Arrest!, please read it first. Then this. (TB)

Here's a true story showing how important it is for pastors and elders to challenge one another's motives. Our session (elders board) had been working with a schismatic family of our church for years when MTW TE David Wegener came home on home assigment one year.

We have a policy that David is a pastor of our church when he's here. He'd served our congregation before leaving for Zambia and we have never wanted to lose his wisdom and counsel, as well as that of his wife, Terri, when they're in town. So David favors us with his presence when we have session meetings each month and he often gets into the yoke with us on some of our thornier pastoral matters. Terri teaches our women's groups and David preaches in worship and teaches in Clearnote Pastors College as often as he and Terri are not out deputizing at their supporting churches.

So this particular evening we were again discussing the latest schismatic behavior of this family and David had just gotten back in town and was present. He knew the family well, including that they were quite wealthy...


Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!

Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. (Galatians 6:12, 13)

Sin is not what Reformed men do. Everyone knows that. It seems stupid to say it. Reformed men have enough money and class to keep their hands clean. We're scrupulous and the worst we can be accused of is not yet having attained the vocabluary necessary to be proficient at teaching doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, professors, architects and their husbands in our churches' adult discipleship programs. Maybe occasionally bad doctrine seeps in, but never bad practice and never ever bad motives which led to that bad practice. And don't you ever forget it!

It's not simply David-and-Bathsheba-pregnancy-and-murder public sins which have left the earth on UFOs. We don't even sin privately and we can't remember the last time we had to examine our hearts. All our motives are pure--that one you had better get. Don't ever make the mistake of questioning a Reformed man's motives or you'll pay for it; especially if he's an elder or pastor. "How dare you question my motives! What gives you the right? Who are you to talk? Judge not lest you be judged!"

Then his fellow presbyters chime in...