The following series of articles comes from David Cloud and gives us some helpful insight into how to really make the most of being a member of a church. I am so grateful for the church that Jesus Christ loved and gave Himself for, and I want to have a right relationship with the church, which is his body, his bride. I would not agree with every point he makes, but I think there is alot of good truth in what he writes. Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 as well.
7. THERE MUST ALWAYS BE GRACIOUSNESS IN OUR JUDGMENTS
Another crucial key to fruitful church membership is to bathe all of our judgments in love and mercy and graciousness.
“But speaking the truth IN LOVE, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort WITH ALL LONGSUFFERING and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, IN FAITH AND LOVE which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; BUT BE GENTLE UNTO ALL MEN, apt to teach, PATIENT, IN MEEKNESS instructing those that oppose themselves…” (2 Tim. 2:24,25).
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1,2).
Some of the things mentioned in the letter from the friends who “separated” from the fundamental Baptist church remind me of these verses. God tells us that we must always maintain an attitude of meekness, patience, and compassion when dealing with people about their problems.
The friends mentioned some instances in which their pastor supposedly “failed to correct error in the church.” The examples they gave made me think of the above verses. While it is crucial to stand for the truth and to rebuke sin and error, there is also such a thing as wisdom and patience and caution when dealing with people. You don’t necessarily come down hard and publicly on every problem that arises.
They mentioned the rambling testimony of a new convert. She believed a woman who had recently died went to Heaven because of the peaceful expression on the face of her corpse. That’s a weird testimony, to be sure, but I don’t think it is something the pastor should necessarily have corrected publicly. Lack of graciousness and wisdom can easily turn a slight problem into a very large one.
They mentioned a deacon who testified that “he liked to put God in impossible situations just to see what He will do,” and they seemed shocked that their pastor and the other deacons said “Amen” to this. They said this contradicts Matthew 4:5-7, in which the Lord told the Devil that we are not to tempt God. I don’t think this is the case. The deacon was probably just saying that it is a great thing to be in a situation in which God must do something special to help us, or something to that effect. I read a little ditty in the Maranatha!!! paper a few years ago that said, “When God is going to do something wonderful, He begins with difficulty; if it is going to be something very wonderful, He begins with an impossibility!” That is probably the same idea that the deacon was trying to convey. His way of saying it might have left something to be desired, but this is not a serious matter. We must judge such things in a spirit of graciousness and patience, always giving the benefit of the doubt.
They mentioned that the song leader said one night that Satan was the king of this world, and that Christ was not king. They said that since Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King, they felt the title of king is reserved for Christ. That is not so. Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, but there are kings many and lords many in this present order of things. Satan is called the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). He is not necessarily spoken of as king of the world, but I do not believe it would be wrong to call him that in light of the verses quoted. He is king in the hearts of lost people. This is a petty matter that requires more graciousness than that which was displayed by the couple who wrote to me.
A pastor has to exercise supernatural wisdom and kindness. This is one reason I have a tremendously high regard for godly, scriptural pastors. They must always walk that fine line between caution, concern, and compromise, between zeal for the truth and patience with the erring. I believe they have the most difficult job in the world. If they make mistakes and fail to do everything exactly as we think they should, we shouldn’t be surprised! We must always season our judgments with grace. Mel Rutter, retired Vice President of Maranatha Baptist Mission, once told me, “Dave, be as firm as the rock in your position for truth, but as sweet as the honey from the rock in your disposition when striving for truth.” That’s good advice, and though I have often fallen very short of practicing this, it is definitely one of the chief goals of my ministry. I want to be a gracious Christian and a gracious preacher. Anything less is unchristlike.
There is much more that could be said, but I will stop here. I must add that I am not giving a blanket recommendation of independent Baptists churches. There are MANY I would not join because of matters I count too serious to overlook. There is immorality in some. Some are New Evangelical in practice. Some use all sorts of corrupted Bibles. Some remind me more of a carnival than a church. Some appear not to know anything of old-fashioned Bible holiness and separation from the world and have very low or nonexistent standards for dress and entertainment. Some use the world’s music. Some require unquestioning loyalty to the pastor, which the Bible never demands. (The pastor’s authority is limited by the Bible, and he is to be proven in all things — 1 Thess. 5:21. Further, he is not a lord; he is a shepherd.).
Please understand, too, that I am not trying to quench anyone’s zeal for doing right. We need more zeal for truth and righteousness, not less. It certainly is not wrong to try to correct perceived problems in our churches, or to talk to the pastor about things with which we disagree. The Bible instructs us to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21) and to judge all preaching (1 Cor. 14:29). There is a ministry of correction that is taught plainly in Scripture, but I did not set out to address that subject in this article. Here, I am merely trying to balance the zeal for correction with some other things that are equally important. I want to be a blessing to the churches. The Bible makes it plain that God wants His work to be done through the church; thus it behooves us to make a supreme effort to submit ourselves to this institution except in matters of clear doctrinal error and moral corruption.
POSTSCRIPT: The people to whom I originally addressed the above information did not receive my counsel. In fact, they cut off all fellowship from me and counted me as their enemy and as a compromiser of the truth. The last I heard about them, they were moving from church to church, becoming increasingly bitter, in search of that ideal congregation. This is very sad, but I have seen almost exactly the same thing happen many other times.