DO WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO QUALIFY WHAT GOD HAS DISQUALIFIED?
I have a preacher friend who recently posted the following:
“I have a friend, not qualified to pastor, who is planting a church, and God is giving fruit. Many are quick to criticize him and point out his disqualification, but who is willing to go and do the work, or send a man out of their church to do the work?? Don't criticize the man for doing a work for the gospel, unless you're willing to do something about the shortage!”
My response follows:
I am responding to this with the desire, and in an effort, to speak the truth in love. It’s certainly not my desire or intention to question the motives, good intentions, burden, etc. that anyone has in attempting to do anything in or for the cause of Christ. But I do feel compelled to offer an alternate view to the consensus of opinion expressed here by pastors and others in support of a man, described as “not qualified to be a pastor,” who is planting a church. Comments such as these, when made by pastors especially, have the potential of influencing younger preachers and other Christians, therefore I think it needs to be noted that the consensus of opinion noted here is not one that has been historically held by pastors of New Testament churches and other Bible believers. It is a modern perspective that in the recent past, almost across the board, would not have been viewed as consistent with New Testament church doctrine.
With all due respect to my brethren in and out of the pastoral ministry, I will submit that what is (in my opinion, very carelessly) being endorsed here is representative of a very serious ongoing and escalating problem in terms of the duty of New Testament churches and pastors to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”—this of course refers, not to the “faith” involved with salvation (Eph. 2:8), but to the system of our “faith” in terms of beliefs and practices; that which the apostle Paul referred to as “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). We have no liberty, for whatever reason or under any circumstance, to “wrest” the Scriptures. We have no right to “revise” the teaching of the King James Bible any more than we have a right or the leeway to revise any of the words that are in the King James Bible. It is equally important that we be as “valiant for truth” (Jer. 9:3) in terms of the teaching of the Bible’s precepts and principles as we are “valiant for truth” in terms of having the right words in print on its pages.
The post and comments here, I think, exemplify the tendency people have in these times to (without meaning to do so) play "fast and loose" with the truth of God’s Word. This is done always improperly and sometimes impertinently, based upon the propensities of human sentiment and sympathy. I don’t think, that in most cases, this is done in a spirit of intentional disrespect for God’s Word. I think it happens because men have not thought as carefully and deeply as they should have before they align themselves with certain positions. I think it happens where the flesh is able to pervert the good tendencies, inclinations, etc. of men into the service of that which actually militates against truth and therefore can have no outcome that is either to God’s glory or to anyone’s good.
The truth concerning the qualifications for Gospel ministers and ministry are clearly set forth in the Word of God, and have been understood with universal consistency for two thousand years. This is not to say that no controversy, contention or confusion has ever arisen over these truths, but where this has happened, it has been recognized as an aberration of Bible doctrine.
There is an element of, and a spirit of apostasy, that needs to be recognized and watched out for in the context of issues such as the one being discussed here. "Apostasy" is in play wherever people who know God’s truth concerning any matter, ignore that truth or any part of it, to teach and or act in a way that is inconsistent with truth. This applies whether the truth involved has to do with the deity of Christ, eternal security or the qualifications for the Gospel ministry as they are set forth in the Bible. People are guilty of full-blown apostasy when they deliberately, conscientiously and maliciously change the truth of God into a lie. Obviously the men involved with this post are far from, and undeserving of being identified with, full blown apostasy; but people, even the best, most well-intentioned truth-loving people can be guilty of unconsciously flirting with apostasy.
And this is my concern here.
We are now living in times much like those in the days of the Judges when, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 21:25). Even those who are called of God into the Gospel ministry can fall, to some degree or another, in some area or other, under the influence of this anarchical spirit if we are not careful. Human reasoning, rationalization, sentiment, sympathy, emotion and pragmatism are very much in play and exerting pressure upon the mind when and where this occurs.
The "shortage" of churches and church planters seems to be a primary justification for disregarding disqualifications that God has recognizably put in place where the ministry is concerned. May I offer the observation and caution that there is no end to the areas that this type of rationale can be applied? For example there is a “shortage” of people in attendance in our church services. What part of God’s Word will we dispense with for the sake of this “shortage” to attract people to our services? If there is a “shortage” of money, what part, and how much of God’s word are we willing to compromise to meet our monetary needs? Would a “shortage” of pastors justify the ordaining of well-versed in the Bible, good speakers, and spiritually minded women as pastors? (Spiritually minded women would never consent to this).
Perhaps a reminder is in order that our Lord understood and understands the "shortage" problem that is possible where His harvest and church planters is concerned.. Jesus said "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37, 38). There is nothing here that suggests that a pragmatic approach to any "shortage" problem is proper as a replacement for, or even a supplement to, prayer. It's God's harvest and He will not contradict or violate His own will and Word relative to who He does what with in His harvest.
However well-intentioned we might be or however wise we might think our positions are, we must be very careful not to be complicit in having truth cast into and made "fallen in the street" (Isa. 59:14). We mustn’t allow our influence to be instrumental in this, and we must do anything but appear to be approving or applauding deviation from God’s Word in any shape, form or fashion for any reason whatsoever. This is one of the primary reasons why so many of God’s people are as confused and skeptical as they are today regarding spiritual matters.
One of our founding fathers admonished, for the sake of our well-being and survival as a Republic: "Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Perhaps we need to apply this principle to Gospel ministry; to church planting, etc. and to the sincerity, good intentions, etc. of those involved in the doing of it. Christians, and especially Christian leaders, need to "let no more be heard of confidence in man" where there is a conflict with the written revelation of God’s will. Rather, we must let ourselves be bound "down from mischief" by the Bible; by "thus saith the Lord."
Pastors and other Christians, for a long time and in different ways, have "sown the wind" where truth is concerned in America. Because of this, churches and our nation are now reaping, and will "reap the whirlwind " (Hos. 8:7). All this involves something that is inexcusable in the eyes of God and unspeakably sad.
The purpose of this article isn’t to caustically criticize or be unkind to any particular man or men. My purpose is to respectfully take exception with much of what’s been posited by many of my brethren and preacher friends here. And, for the sake of any good or helpful influence it might have, to state my conviction that (1) biblically sound and solid doctrine never in any way hinders the doing of God’s work according to His will, and that (2) no New Testament doctrine pertaining to any subject needs to be revised or retrofitted to suit these times or to satisfy or serve a perceived expediency, such as a “shortage” of churches or church planters.
I heard an old man say recently, and he admitted that he was only repeating what has been well said innumerable times through the ages: It’s never wrong to do right, and it’s never right to do wrong.” I agree, and I think all my brethren do too, and are willing to rethink any positions or portion of their positions that might possibly warrant reconsideration.