Archive for March, 2013

When Silence is Consent

The tragic happenings associated with the arrest, guilty plea, and sentencing of Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond are a sad spectacle. Well before any of this blew up, I’d expressed my opposition to Schaap’s ministry and toward ministerial fellowship and cooperation with him. I’ll not rehash that here, but will note that the outcome, sadly, really isn’t shocking given the perverse way in which he handled God’s Word.

I recently read a letter from one Jack Hyles’s daughters that was painful, in many ways, to read. In it, she expresses regret for not speaking out against her father’s excesses, especially in light of the ultimate tragedy connected to her brother-in-law, Jack Schaap. You can read it for yourself here.

I don’t know Linda Murphrey, and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t agree with her on many things. What I do know, though, is that this is an incredible letter. And I know that there should be many men serving as pastors and leaders within the various Fundamentalist orbits that should be ashamed of themselves. The sins of Jack Hyles were not hidden, and I am not just referring to the ones brought forward by Robert Sumner and others. Hyles was a liar and people around him knew it. I figured it out when I was a college student because I made the mistake of believing and repeating one of his stories only to find out that it was completely false. I simply cannot believe that the people around him did not see these things. I also can’t believe that the leaders of other organizations and institutions didn’t see the problems.

Linda Murphrey’s regret about not speaking out sooner should be felt by those who didn’t speak up. And a new generation should be warned by this mess, leading to a fresh, firm resolve to not let it happen again. The “it” to which I refer is not that a pastor will fall or some abusive leader will emerge. The “it” is the silence of men who know better and should have acted. Nobody is above accountability to God’s Word. Nobody.

That men like Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap can keep their places of influence is the fault of their followers and those along side of them who refuse to do what God says. That certain segments, perhaps most, of the old Fundamentalist coalitions allowed such ungodliness to go unchallenged is one of its worst blemishes. I wish I were sure that those days are gone, but I’m not. They need to be, but they won’t unless there is a higher commitment to God and His Word than our “circles” and institutions.

God wrote Mene Mene Tekel Parsin on the walls of Jack’s office long before the piled up garbage spilled out. Braggadocios claims about numbers or pulpit bravado about being God’s man shouldn’t cause people to ignore biblical qualifications. It is well past time to put to death the false idea that apparent blessings serve as some kind of divine endorsement. It is also well past time to recognize that the ministries of men like the two Jacks have given God’s enemies cause to blaspheme, and that people who are genuinely concerned about the Faith once to the saints delivered will separate themselves from those who continue to promote and perpetuate their unbiblical beliefs and practices.

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Specks and Beams

I had the privilege of preaching in seminary chapel yesterday. One of the great blessings of my current ministry is that I get to teach seminarians each week and preach in the chapel regularly. I often try to preach from texts of Scripture that I think will help shape the ministry mindset of future pastors and missionaries. Yesterday, I chose to preach from Matthew 7:1-5 and urge the men to guard themselves against the hypocritical mindset which the Lord confronts there.

The first part of verse 1 is perhaps one of the most often quoted and misused texts of Scripture. “Do not judge” is an oft-abused trump card in debates. It seems clear that Jesus is not against judgment, but against a certain kind of judgment. The context makes that clear–just a few verses later He tells them to watch out for false prophets and that they can know them by their fruits, something which obviously requires the exercise of judgment. John 7:24 is helpful in differentiating the two kinds of judgment, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Jesus is confronting a wrong kind of judging in Matthew 7:1-5, not all judgment.

Specifically, the reason that our Lord points out the hypocrisy of the judges in Matthew 7 is because they are not genuinely concerned about sin or about helping other people. If they were concerned about sin, they would deal with their own first. The fact that the person ignores the beam in his own eye while worrying about the speck in his brother’s eye shows that. If he really cared about sin, he wouldn’t ignore his own. If he really was concerned about the other person, he would take care of his own sin so that he could see clearly to help him. By ignoring his vision-impairing beam, he makes it clear that he really isn’t trying to help the speck-afflicted brother, but thinks himself better than him.

The righteousness that Jesus expects of His followers is evidenced by a genuine concern about sin that looks first at ourselves, then outward to help others. Phony, hypocritical concern about sin doesn’t deal with our own first, it focuses on the sins of others. My charge to the future pastors and missionaries was simply to not allow that phony spirit to invade their lives or ministries. If we, as leaders, are going to be genuinely serious about sin, then that starts by looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word.

It is much easier to point out where others are falling short than to admit and address our own errors. As leaders, though, refusing to acknowledge and act to correct our failures not only reveals a flaw in our character, it undermines the credibility of our claims to be concerned about wrong. How can anybody take the claim that we want to do what is right (by dealing with other people’s problems) when it is obvious that we don’t (by not dealing with our own)?

Few things, from my vantage point, undermine the leadership of parents, pastors, or ministries more than this kind of hypocrisy. The parent who quickly and strongly rebukes a child for wrong, while ignoring his or her own failures as a parent eventually loses the trust of the child. A pastor who confronts sin in the lives of church members, but fails to confront it in himself undermines his own spiritual leadership. A ministry or organization, for example, that exists chiefly to point out the disobedience of other people and ministries, but refuses to correct its own failures as aggressively loses its credibility by demonstrating that obedience isn’t really the controlling principle which governs it.

Jesus answer for judgmentalism is not to reject proper judgment, but to exercise it first with regard to ourselves. If we really care about sin, we’ll deal with the beams before we talk about specks. We’ll start in the mirror, not in somebody else’s eye.

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