No one who works in a so-called "discernment ministry" likes the term, "discernment ministry." It's a term that we're stuck with, so we reluctantly use it to get the point across. In reality we all need to get our discernment by being a Berean; a student of the Bible, so that we know it well enough to be able to determine truth from sort of truth. That being said, we're also told in Scripture to be wise about what the enemy is up to, and his methods of deception.
In these days we are seeing the great falling away in the visible Church that Jesus warned about, and we unapologetically are committed to letting Christians know where those dangerous deceptions are coming from, so that we can mark and avoid those who are teaching these things. Yes, a lot of pastors are angry and offended by this. They call us Pharisees, haters, too black-and-white, unloving, void of grace, and so on. But while the majority are demanding that we stop writing and speaking in order to embrace the grey, there are a few pastors willing to stand up for the truth. Like Pastor Damon Rambo over at Christian Post, who recently took his colleagues to task in a post titled, "I am an Angry Pastor (A Statement of Purpose)"
I am an angry pastor. I am not angry with my congregation. I am not angry at the world. I am angry with my fellow pastors. I’m also a little angry with myself.
Let me explain. For the last few years I have watched pastors that I love and respect, go off the rails on the proverbial “crazy train.” I have watched with horror (a horror, I know, that many have shared), as John Piper not only embraced Rick Warren, but also joined him as a ministry partner. I have seen James MacDonald embrace a Christ denying, non-Trinitarian, pagan ‘prosperity preacher,’ as a "brother in Christ." I cried a bit, over the horrors that were revealed in the Sovereign Grace Ministries scandal.
I have watched, wringing my hands, often making excuses, and looking the other way because I just did not want to believe what I was seeing. I did not want to believe that these men, solid gospel-believing, Christ affirming men, the men whose lives I have modeled my own ministry after in some respect, could fall so hard, so fast, and so completely. I didn’t want to see what was right in front of me, because I love these men (even though I have never even met most of them), and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. Well, I was wrong. Deadly wrong…in fact, I believe that I, and the pastors and elders like myself (which are the vast majority) who have given these men a pass are neglecting a very important part of our duty; confrontation.
Let me give a recent example.
I have marveled at the antics of Mark Driscoll (over at +The Resurgence ) for some time. Now, I am no big fan of Driscoll, I need to say outright. Yet I have followed his career to some extent. A few years back, I cheered when he publicly repented of his vulgarity from the pulpit, and his association with the Emergent church movement, and vowed to move in a new direction. It was wonderful to see someone publicly acknowledge their wrongdoing, and I was quick to welcome him to the fold with proverbial “open arms.” No, I didn’t send him a greeting card, or get together with him for brunch…my attitude toward him just changed. I no longer viewed him as a dangerous heretic. When Christian friends asked, “What about this Mark Driscoll guy?” my response changed from a look of horror (combined with the sign of the cross and a liberal flinging of holy water in their direction), to “Meh. He’s alright.”
Which was a huge mistake. Driscoll is a bigger danger now, than he ever was before (Driscoll has taken a temporary leave of absence, but I do not believe it will last long). Let me ask you, dear reader, when is a wolf the most dangerous to the sheep? When he is standing outside the sheepfold growling? Or when he is inside, standing in the midst of the sheep? I have been complicit in allowing Mark Driscoll access to the very sheep that I have been charged by God with protecting. I have opened the door, and welcomed him in…
Dereliction of duty. That is the charge I am leveling against myself, and fellow elders & pastors. One of our primary duties as pastors is to protect the sheep. Defend them against heretics; protect them against those who would lead them astray. Peter tells us this:
1 Peter 5:1-2 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.
Because we have forsaken our duty as pastors, there have arisen a huge number of “discernment ministries,” aimed at calling these people to account. These “ministries” have been highly criticized by pastors, attacked from all sides, belittled, and mocked. Some of them are overzealous, crazy even, and they are rightly called out for their behavior. Many others, though, are simply trying to fill the void created by the pulpit’s silence, calling out false teachers who need to be called out! These are courageous sheep, which jump in front of the flock to defend it from the snarling wolf, while the under-shepherd who is charged with the flock’s protection sits idly by (NOT the Chief Shepherd! He is never idle). They are doing, pastors and elders, what we should be doing. Protecting the sheep.
Think of the Janet Mefferd Show / Mark Driscoll debacle that occurred recently, when Mefferd confronted Driscoll about his blatant (yes, it was blatant and intentional…let’s be honest. Pages of plagiarized material do not “accidentally” end up in your book) plagiarism. She was attacked, seemingly, by everyone for daring to confront this man. Now, I have said publicly that I thought she could have done what she did better. This is undoubtedly true. Nevertheless, I am glad that she did it.
Now, I am not trying to get into a discussion of those events here. I simply wish to say this; Mefferd should never have had to do what she did. That radio interview never should have happened. Because Driscoll should never have attained the position that he has. His book should never have been published by +Tyndale House Publishers . He never should have gained that kind of prominence. There have been countless elders and pastors, complicit in his misconduct, who allowed it to get to that point. Driscoll should have been stopped long before this…
Listen, let me close by stating this as clearly as I can. I know many pastors who get angry at the discernment folks. But it has finally dawned on me, that this is nuts. A pastor getting angry at the discernment bloggers is insane. Does the welfare recipient get mad at the working people who pay their bills? Should the fireman who sits quietly in his truck, watching as the building burns, get mad at a passing civilian for saving the children who are screaming for help inside?
Pastor, elder, friend, how are you going to get mad at someone who is doing your job for you, because you refuse to do it?
Not me. Not anymore. I will keep my anger directed where it belongs. At myself, and my fellow pastors.