Preparing for the storm
As I predicted last post, I believe there’s an ecclesiastical storm approaching. It’s fueled by rising hot air in the primarily Southern denominations of the SBC and the PCA. Now I’d like to suggest a course of action, rain gear, if you will.
You ought to already be praying about this. If you are uncaring or neglectful about the feelings of our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ (or vice versa), you ought to be ashamed. Pray for them. Pray for the unity of the Church, your own heart, and the people of the South. Ask our Father for guidance about what to do. Seek his counsel found in his word.
Do not neglect church (Heb 10:25). There is more wisdom there. Pray, read your Bible, and go to church! Outside of these, there is no beginning point.
Begin by having a conversation.
There is no doubt that many of our African-American brothers and sisters believe that we have not loved them because we have not. Repent of that and allow your God-given love be manifest with words and deeds. Don’t fear accusations of condescension. If your love is real, really love. Don’t worry about people’s perceptions. All men have distrust for good reason. All men have deceptive hearts.
“Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.” (Jeremiah 9:5, ESV)
If the only thing you do is build a relationship with a brother who you’ve grown to love, praise God! The rest is a bonus.
Keep a watchful eye and prepare for the storm.
It’s true that most people aren’t diligent about their governing church bodies. The SBC is by nature a fairly powerless government. Baptist theology doesn’t allow for a great deal of power outside of the local church. But, they do have real power over your church. That’s why McKissic is calling for disfellowship of local churches who tolerate us rather than biblical church discipline. It’s all they have to offer.
Nonetheless, if your local body faces disfellowship because of your views on the Confederacy, the crosshairs will be squarely on you.
Prepare for discipline.
Leaving without making your case is not a biblical option.
Lots of folks leave churches for lots of reasons, never giving a reason to the people they’ve left. This is a real problem. It’s irresponsible and unbiblical. If there is an issue that has caused friction between you and the people with whom you’ve covenanted, you have a biblical duty to go to them.
Failure to do that is not peacemaking. Likewise, you are not a troublemaker if you do.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus repeats the law of God when it comes to this. We are to go to a brother when we have been offended or if we have offended them. There is no left or right of this. It is required.
If you leave a church without following Jesus in this way, you are in sin. To be honest, you have a low view of what church is and little regard for your brothers or sisters in Christ.
Go! Reconcile! Only if there can be no reconciliation can you leave.
Act like a man
Begin to have a conversation with your leadership.
Your pastor/teaching elder and board/session are busy men. They may not be informed of what’s going on. It is up to you to inform them. Don’t do this by sending articles or YouTube videos. Those are fine after you’ve began to speak with them about this matter. But, there is nothing quite like a man who looks another man in the eye when he speaks.
Be kind. Let your words be gentle. Approach these men respectfully, they carry the burden of authority over you and the flock. Submit to them when they apply God’s Word to you. Practice humility before them and they will advocate for your motives.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV)
Make your intentions clear.
Be a man of honor. Even though your conversations with people should be gentle, submissive, and humble, truth is your goal. All of those other things absent truth are worthless.
Your leadership needs to know where you stand on this issue. Do not catch them by surprise by tiptoeing around the truth. If you are truly Southern, honor is a virtue you hold dear. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Let your yes be yes, etc.
Let them know what you believe to be true about this issue and be honest about your intentions to clearly defend your beliefs. Always leave room for your own repentance on details you get wrong, but never back down from the truth!
If they know that you are a man of honor, they will take you seriously.
Know the process
Become familiar with the disciplinary process.
I’ve already mentioned Matthew 18:15-20. It’s important that you know how that works. Most folks are unfamiliar with the disciplinary process until it’s too late.
More than likely, your church’s bylaws, constitution, or in the case of the PCA, the BCO (Book of Church Order) lays out the process.
As I said, it begins with a conversation with an offended party. If the issue remains unresolved, then it progresses to bringing another brother as a witness. After that, it goes before the elders. Then, if there is no reconciliation, there is a punitive process of varying degrees, all of which have in mind repentance and reconciliation. Remember! That’s always the goal!
Know this though. If you find yourself in the middle of church discipline and you are unfamiliar with what to do, go get help. You may find help within your local body or outside of it. Most pastors/elders are familiar enough with discipline to advise you in the process and just as in court, you are always allowed a sufficient defense and representation, as well as the right to face your accusers.
The Word is your guide. Make them stick to their rules where they are biblical. There is no dishonor in defending yourself as long as you’re always open to your own repentance.
Understand that discipline requires clarity in regards to sinful behavior.
Church discipline can only be applied to sin. That sin must be specific and obvious. It also must have been witnessed by two or more people. Anything else is a kangaroo court. Don’t accept it.
If you have been accused of racism because of honoring your Confederate heritage, make them prove it! It’s an unwarranted assumption and sin in and of itself. Don’t let them by with that! If they insist to discipline you without proof, have others plead your case. They may continue, appeal them that they are breaking the 9th Commandment which forbids bearing false witness. Presbyterian? Appeal to a higher court. Are you Baptist? You’ll probably have to work within your local body.
Discipline has a double-edge.
1 Timothy 5:19-22 is probably not a passage you’ll hear preached a great deal. Why? Well, it describes the disciplinary process for elders/pastors.
You see, discipline is a double-edged sword. It works both for offended laypersons and church leaders.
If you are falsely accused and you have been disciplined without warrant, apply the same standard to your elders/board. This should be done with a great deal of care, but if they have sinned against you, it should be done.
If you are Baptist, discipline of an elder is tricky. You will need the help of other congregants and your board to assemble a court and establish witnesses. Elders guilty of unrepentant sin are dangerous people. Their job is on the line. Take care and move deliberately.
If you are PCA, you have the Presbytery. Go to them, find an advocate, and proceed with discipline.
Make your case winsomely and biblically. They will have considerably more grace for you than they will an elder who knows the process and seems as though he has it in for you. But beware of the good ole boy network. It’s alive and well in churches.
Repeat your desire for reconciliation. Show humility and tell them you want to be shown your sin, if it exists. Don’t back away from the truth though. Never surrender your honor.
Ultimately, God will judge our motives. He knows our hearts so don’t be discouraged if you are falsely accused. Our true advocate has paid for our sins and defends us against injustice. Courage comes from knowing that!
This is an odd post, I know. But, it may be helpful in the future. I fear it will come to that if pastors like McKissic continue to stoke the coals of dissension.
If you honor your Confederate ancestors, Get ready. A storms a comin’.