Again and again within the PCA, men sound the trumpet against the approaching enemy and immediately are shouted down by other men who say the blowing of the trumpet violated proper "process." Their claim is that sounding the alarm is not to trust the courts of the church where schismatics and heretics ought properly (and only) to be dealt with. They shush the buglers and their clear note.
This is to punish men for the very act of courageous obedience by which they serve our Lord and His Bride, and it's the same sort of punishment and condemnation Calvin, Luther, and Knox suffered. So buck up, men! You have a great patrimony! Calvin, Luther, and Knox blew their bugles, also, sounding the alarm house to house, city to city, day and night with tears.
Now to the details. When the Lord commanded Ezekiel to be faithful in his calling as a prophet, he called him a "watchman." Pastors today are watchmen, also, as indicated by... the Apostle Paul's allusion to the warnings of God found in Ezekiel 3:17; 33:1-7. On the shores of Miletus in the presence of the elders of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul commends his ministry by stating he had none of their blood on his hands because he never failed to warn them from house to house and day and night with tears (Acts 20:26-31). We are to guard the good deposit by warning day and night with tears. And the recipients of our warnings?
Our warnings should flow to those in danger, starting with our own flocks over which God has made us overseers, but never stopping there. Think of the books and pamphlets of the Reformation fathers: think of the Apostle Paul's letters; think of the Old Testament prophets: we are to sound the trumpet of warning loudly enough for all those in danger to take warning, using every means at our disposal to call them to repent and believe, to flee immorality and immodesty and unbelief and affirm every truth of Scripture. We are to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything our Lord commands. And what does He command?
He commands everything the Apostles deposited in His Word. The first Christians began their corporate life with devotion to the teaching of the Apostles.
This is not to blur the boundaries of pastoral care. Each of us have a particular flock to which we've been called that must be the focus of our labors.
Among certain men who like to think of themselves as theologians and church historians, it's in vogue to condemn faithful preachers of the Great Awakening such as Edwards and Whitfield for violating the boundaries of other pastors' parishes. (Remember how Whitefield, for instance, preached in Boston Common?) So now, these modern Charles Chauncys go public with their condemnations of Great Awakening preachers who dared to preach publicly. Get it? They shout their condemnations of Edwards and Whitefield into parishes around the world. Yet they have no call to serve in any of these parishes. How dare they push their schismatic principles and opposition to experimental Christian faith into churches and congregations where they've never been called as pastors or installed as officers! How dare they ride airwaves and wifi into homes and marriages another man serves as father and husband!
But of course I'm being facetious. Sooner or later fastidious men get snookered by their own fastidiousness, and so it is with these curmudgeonly Old Lights today.
Some things are quite simple, and one of them is that shepherds are to expose and oppose wolves wherever they find them. If they're on vacation and are sitting in a class reunion dinner where someone is denouncing the honor of the Only True God, they are not to keep their mouths shut because the restaurant is not within the boundaries of their own geographical parish or the souls there include no person from their own congregation. Truth wants to be free, and the truth of God is to be proclaimed far as the curse is found by every servant of God set aside by the laying on of hands and prayer to the work of guarding the flock and the good deposit.
The printing press was a great gift from God for this work, busting the buglers loose from the oppressive confines of the church's hierarchy, and today the air waves and the digital printing presses in our phones and computers and tablets are a great gift of God for this work, busting the buglers loose from the oppressive confines of the church's hierarchy resident in, and often controlling her courts.
This does not mean faithful shepherds are not to use the hierarchies they've promised to submit to. Of course we use those hierarchies, too, in order to warn the sheep and guard the good deposit. But when we've poured ourselves into filing charges and warning schismatics and exposing false shepherds' false doctrine in our churches and presbyteries and general assemblies, and before permanent or standing judicial committees, and then watched as the sin is winked at, tolerated, and in due time embrace, we have not yet finished our work.
The false shepherds are using the air waves and computers and smartphones and tablets and publishers and public conferences and seminars to sell their sermons and lectures filled with schism and divisive doctrine that destroys souls, and to be a dumb dog in the face of such evil is to have blood on our hands. Our Lord has appointed us the watchmen of Israel, and although there are many pastors and elders who want to avoid or keep controversy far from them, we must bark and howl and argue and document everywhere and among everyone these heretics are selling their errors.
One final fact worth mentioning: the courts of the church always consult with the assembly as they make their decisions, and this is not a failure. There are right and wrong ways to do it, but as a whole it is Biblical. Look at the record of the Council of Jerusalem: Acts 15:22 makes it clear that the congregation had their part, too, in the actions of the apostles and church officers. So another smaller part of the necessity of using air waves and publishers and reading papers to members of our theological societies and writing on the web in order to snap and bark against the schismatics is that members of sessions and presbyteries and general assemblies and standing judicial committees are listening in each of these forums. And rightfully so, what they hear may lead them to make right judgments.
Publish on, dear brothers. You are not circularizing the court or neglecting proper process. You are sounding a clear note as loud and strong as you can, which is the plain Biblical duty of every watchman. Contrary to popular belief, we cannot shrug off our pastoral obligations when we leave our parish or find ourselves among men not a part of our flock. We are elders. We are pastors. We are deacons. Surrounded by wolves, the good shepherd gives up his life in defense of Christ's Bride.