I was asked last Sunday by our elders to "find another church" if I do not "repent" of my critical attitude and "join them in fellowship."
This is wrong on so many levels, it is almost commical, were it not so deadly serious.
I was asked to meet with the elders of our church last Sunday to discuss the topic of "unity." At least they called it unity, I call it conformity. They are concerned that my questioning of the pastor's behavior and actions could be divisive. I agree! If people really knew what he was preaching and how he was behaving, they might want to do something about it!
My previous posts have detailed some of the issues I have had, so I will not go into specific details here. What I want to talk about here is the behavior of the elders, and how it mirrors that of the pastor. One of the things about unity is, it seeks the truth. Conformity, on the other hand believes that it already possesses the truth and everyone else should just fall in line with it. Bring on the brute squad!
This meeting was wrong on so many levels. First, it did not follow Biblical patterns of discipline. I was accused of saying criticizing things about the minister at our small group meeting. (Apparently I am not aware of the "no criticizing" clause in the New Testament.) I was not allowed to bring in witnesses who heard what was said, nor did they present witnesses to accuse me. No one spoke to me face to face (which would have been the first step according to Matthew 18.) They just spoke about what they had heard, and took it as gospel truth. (Yes, I see the irony of calling it "gospel truth.") The people I invited from the small group were not allowed to attend. Why weren't the accusers reprimanded for their inappropriate behavior? Why weren't they told to talk to me first, in accordance with Matthew 18? Maybe it is because unity follows the rules,conformity makes its own rules.
I was also accused of talking about the minister with another member of the congregation, which I admit I did. Two men, having dinner, discussing their faith and church. A private conversation that was not intended to go outside of that meeting. Should not people have friends with which they can discuss their victories and or frustrations? This person, however, chose to speak to the pastor about my concerns. My hope is that he did this out of love, and not out of any other desire. But the pastor apparently took this conversation to the elders, and they used this to say that I was stirring up dissention. Again, I invited the person I spoke to to attend the meeting, but the chairman of the elders said it was a closed meeting, and he was not allowed to attend. But they are in good company, Jesus was not allowed to face his accusers either.
I was told that I am a "critiquer." (I don't view that as a bad thing, although I know that they do.) I have criticisms of the pastor's sermons. I know that I have a different point of view than most others. My issue is that everytime I tried to discuss any concerns, these concerns were never addressed, I was only told things like, "stop being critical," "you are divisive," or "if you don't support the pastor's preaching, you should find another church." Yet when I ask them what about my perspective goes against the Bible, I don't get an answer. Is weighing what the pastor says wrong? Paul didn't seem to mind this, in fact, he commended the Berean Christians for studying the Scriptures to see if what he said was true. I guess if they had any problems, they just kept them to themselves. I made the mistake of actually trying to talk to the pastor about my concerns.
I was told at the meeting that the minister had addressed each of my concerns in an e-mail, and that this e-mail had been forwarded to each of the elders as well. I stated that I had not received such an e-mail, and asked if I could see a copy. They did not have one, and (of course) the minister was not at the meeting.The only thing I remembered getting was a letter saying that he would not address my concerns because he did not want to "quarrel about words," and that if we were not "confident of his preaching" we should find another place to worship. If Paul did not command such an attitude, how can they?
I suppose I could go on, and probably will at some later time to highlight some of the other frustrations I have felt during this meeting and episode of my life, believe me, there have been more. But I think for now, all I can say is, thanks for making my day. Our time at this church has been a difficult one. Although the pastor spoke of treating people with grace in the sermon that morning, I told the elders that we had experienced very little grace during our time there. Although we felt that God wanted us there for a season, there comes a time when you have to look at your options.
If the leaders are that regimented and blind toward what they are doing, if the pastor is that unconcerned and unwilling to listen, how could or would I anticipate that any persons in the congregation would understand or be drawn closer to Christ by continuing to attend there? I believe that I am right in my understandings, and have the Scriptures to back them up. But I also believe that to continue to confront at this point would be a losing proposition not only for me, but for the church. As Scripture says, the weeds will not be taken out until the harvest. To uproot them now would damage the crop. So I guess I just need to let the weeds grow. Right? Unless the Lord says otherwise, that is where I stand at this time.