Sad about being fightin’ mad

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TylerR's picture

Editor

This man just left this comment on my website in response to this article:

Sad example of a pastor...pack it in

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Rob Fall's picture

Happens quite often at Russian Evangelical Christian-Baptist Churches.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ken S's picture

I'm sorry you have to deal with this stuff. I'm sure it's tough as you have to use up time and emotional energy on such issues.

I was raised in that type of environment and my family probably would have been the ones leaving the church and making those comments. It's really sad how Christians cause so much trouble in churches while claiming they are taking a stand for truth. Sometimes the issues are so absurd. One man in the church I grew up in was upset because we had a "Dirt Devil" brand vacuum cleaner. I'm quite happy to have left that type of thinking long ago, and when I see people acting like that I have to wonder if they have any actual spiritual discernment at all.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

You lumped a lot of things together in your article which are not at all on the same level.  You might be able to make an argument for why a wedding can be held on a Sunday in place of the regular worship service, but objections to that are not the same as objecting to moving meetings to other locations or objecting to the name of the lighting company, and I don't see how treating them the same is very helpful to your church.

Also, it appears you don't in fact, even if you might in name, follow a congregational form of government in your church.  When you said "I now plan to never return that flag to the platform," it's not the idea of it being over the American flag that is bothersome (at least not to me).  However, the way you stated that makes you sound as authoritarian as some of the old-school fundamentalists you would (rightfully) decry for their excesses.  If I were a member in your church, it would be that attitude that would be concerning to me.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

I was listing remarks I received from the people who left about why they left. Some of it was about the wedding. Some of it was about other stuff, but they mentioned it in conjunction with the wedding. If the connection doesnt seem clear, then don't worry ... I feel the same!

Regarding the American flag, I don't intend to sound authoritarian, but I can't see myself taking a congregational vote on whether to have a flag on the platform. I feel secure making an executive decision.

I also don't see why we need a congregational vote or discussion on whether it's "a good idea" to hold a wedding on a Sunday. The couple lost their venue due to Covid on short notice and the date was already set. How does a wedding on a Sunday somehow a bad idea? If I had secured "approval" or agreement from our lay leadership folks, the same people would still have left. 

I may sound sinister and authoritarian in the article, but I am not. We had a church meeting just last week to discuss all this.

My point is not to parse congregational government, or the merits of holding a wedding on a Sunday. It's the sadness of the fact that Christians would fight and "take a stand!" about ... a wedding. Something beautiful and holy. Something that brings two people together, in the Lord. Something that was a testimony and witness to MANY unbelievers present, and over 400 people online. Something at which we explained the Gospel TWICE.

Yet, for "righteousness" sake, some Christians felt it was terrible. That's what's sad.

I had an unbelieving husband of a church member walk up to me after our church meeting this past Sunday, shake my hand, and tell me I was doing a good job and that this whole thing baffled them. A Christian couple who's been attending for several months did the same. The entire church has expressed similar sentiments. 

Why does this kind of thing happen? That's why it's all so sad, and that's why Latourette's comment made me reflect on it.

I can't imagine the hurt I'd cause if I told the couple, "yeah, weddings are great, but I don't wanna ruffle feathers by holding it here and labeling it a 'religious service.' People might get upset if routine is disturbed. Oh, and you'd have to submit your decoration suggestions to a committee I'd have to form for that purpose. I know you now have no venue 'cuz Covid and the date is set. It sucks. Just do it in your backyard, or something. I'll pray for you."

It's just all so sad and so unfortunate. It must grieve God to see this.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Dan Miller's picture

I myself, and I hope that you agree, Tyler, would put American-Flag-on-the-stage in the "secondary issues" category. 
So to me, it's exactly the type of thing that a church should vote on. If more people prefer it there, fine. 
I understand you would vote against it because of your preference. 
 

Nevertheless, sorry for what you're going through. It's an inevitable consequence of people believing two things:

1- Obeying God is important. 
2- Applications of Scripture are universal. 
 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I really don't care about the flag. My point is that Christian "unity" is such a chimera, sometimes. It's sad.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I myself, and I hope that you agree, Tyler, would put American-Flag-on-the-stage in the "secondary issues" category.

I am not convinced this is a secondary issue. If the church is made up of people from all tribes and tongues and people and nations, and if there is no more Jew nor Greek, Barbarian or Scythian, then it seems to be a primary issue not to single one of those people groups out. It is also tends to confuse the gospel with national loyalties. I say display all the flags of missionaries that you support around the world. Or display none of them. 

How does a wedding on a Sunday somehow a bad idea?

What if it wasn't "the wedding on Sunday" that was the issue but the replacement of a God-ordained gathering for a wedding? Some of your people might not have cared about that but I would.

At times I read problems pastors have and look back at some of my own problems and say, "This is a problem of your/my own making." It simply didn't need to be a problem until I made an unwise decision.

Why not do the wedding at 3 p.m. or 1 p.m. after the service? Or right after the service: "Since you are all here, there's a couple who wants to get married." Why was that hour necessary? There is no biblical warrant to take the God-ordained pattern of worship and exchange for something else. In fact, the whole idea of a church wedding seems to lack biblical warrant.  

I can't help but wonder if part of this is that we have elevated weddings to a place of cultural importance that perhaps they don't deserve. The couple that goes down to the courthouse is just as married as the couple with a lavish church wedding. And probably a lot more stress-free. I wonder out loud if we shouldn't reconsider the whole approach to weddings. 

Dan Miller's picture

I say display all the flags of missionaries that you support around the world. Or display none of them. 

I can agree with that. Still secondary. This is the problem. We seem to agree that the word "secondary" means something. But we obviously don't agree on what it means or how to categorize things as primary or secondary. 
Having a Biblical, logical reason for a decision does not mean that every believer must (or even should) make the same conclusion. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Larry wrote:

It is also tends to confuse the gospel with national loyalties. I say display all the flags of missionaries that you support around the world. Or display none of them. 

I agree. This is why I'm tempted to not see it as a second-order issue.

At times I read problems pastors have and look back at some of my own problems and say, "This is a problem of your/my own making." It simply didn't need to be a problem until I made an unwise decision.

This is possible. I acknowledged to the church I should have secured the backing of the lay leadership team. What tempers my hindsight is that (1) I know I would have received backing, and (2) thus little would have changed in the outcome. The wedding would have still happened.

Why not do the wedding at 3 p.m. or 1 p.m. after the service? Or right after the service: "Since you are all here, there's a couple who wants to get married." Why was that hour necessary? There is no biblical warrant to take the God-ordained pattern of worship and exchange for something else. In fact, the whole idea of a church wedding seems to lack biblical warrant.  

This is the pushback I received from some who left. The fact they left over this indicates there were deeper disagreements which they never disclosed to me. But, I still disagree that the wedding "usurped" anything. A worship service contains, at a minimum, singing praises, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel. This wedding had all three. We deliberately structured it that way. It even had a 10-minute sermon with it. It was a worship service. It just didn't take the specific shape some people are used to. There were other issues with the timing that made it impractical to have it in the afternoon, which I can't relate here.

My biggest mistake was in not getting the backing of the lay leadership team. I created this team (in part) to provide cover for this very scenario (we don't have enough qualified men to be deacons, according to the standards of our current bylaws - but that's a story I don't want to go into right now). I don't know why I didn't get cover from them beforehand. The best I can come up with is that I am very busy and it just didn't occur to me. I told the church I made a mistake, in that regard. It was a big mistake, but I don't think it would have changed anything. I know better than to make this mistake, so I'm not sure why I made it, to be honest.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

The guy's comment on your blog was mean and unthinking

Other

  • US flag. I probably wouldn't do but in my 2nd and 3rd church we had
  • Wedding during regular worship hour. You're Covid cancelation info above justifies
  • On people leaving. I've heard so many excuses. We live in weird times
  • Your church (from what I gather) has a fundy background and you are more conservative evangelical (I gather). That may be some of the tension 
dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

My biggest mistake was in not getting the backing of the lay leadership team. I created this team (in part) to provide cover for this very scenario (we don't have enough qualified men to be deacons, according to the standards of our current bylaws - but that's a story I don't want to go into right now). I don't know why I didn't get cover from them beforehand. The best I can come up with is that I am very busy and it just didn't occur to me. I told the church I made a mistake, in that regard. It was a big mistake, but I don't think it would have changed anything. I know better than to make this mistake, so I'm not sure why I made it, to be honest.

OK, I can get behind this thinking.  I'm one of my church's deacons, and just like you, we don't take every little decision to the floor for a vote.  However, we are prepared to answer questions on changes that were made, and, if there is enough pushback over a (IMHO) secondary issue, like whether a flag is on the podium or not, we are prepared to either back down or explain from scripture why we believe the change should be made.  I'm sure there would be some strong feelings from both sides of the flag issue, but since we are renting a facility, it's not really up to us to deal with anyway.  However, I don't think any issue would have a good reception from the congregation if the pastor were to answer it with "well, one of the members riled me up with his complaints, so from now on we're doing it my way."

There is provision in our constitution for a member to bring up an issue at a church meeting (with proper procedure) if we are not bringing it up, but that has not happened so far.  I'm sure we haven't always communicated to the congregation perfectly, but at least we haven't had to deal with a referendum because the congregation feels the leadership team isn't listening.  Obviously, a congregational church government doesn't mean *every* issue has to be brought to them with no executive decisions.  However, if you know it's one that is likely to inflame passions if handled poorly, and is not a primary doctrinal issue or against the church SoF or covenants, but is larger than having the sink fixed, having the congregation make the decision is usually a good way to keep them from thinking the leadership is being high-handed with them.

As to the issue of replacing the worship service with a wedding, I can see your points, but what kind of worship service to have and how to do them is far from being a totally secondary issue, and most members would consider that large a change well within their purview, so you must have been tired if you thought that wouldn't get some opposition.  That is not at all in the same league with someone not liking the lighting company having "Dragon" in its name.  You might disagree, but I'd see your service change as a large enough issue to bring to the pastor, unlike much of what you mentioned.

Dave Barnhart

Ron Bean's picture

The wedding on Sunday or the flag are not the main issue here. They just revealed the fact that "the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love" is made of pretty weak thread. Those of us who've been around are well aware that true church unity is a rare thing when differences of opinion come into play. During COVID I've seen people leave the same church because that church closed for a time, didn't close fast enough, didn't re-open fast enough, opened too fast, suggested masks but didn't order them to be worn, didn't police social distancing, recommended social distancing, etc. And, if a pastor makes a mistake, he often finds that "forgiveness" is just a word in the dictionary. Pastors make mistakes and sometimes this mistakes are like iron filings and eventually someone gets a magnet, gathers all those ion filings together and makes a sledge hammer.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Andrew K's picture

Ken S wrote:

I'm sorry you have to deal with this stuff. I'm sure it's tough as you have to use up time and emotional energy on such issues.

I was raised in that type of environment and my family probably would have been the ones leaving the church and making those comments. It's really sad how Christians cause so much trouble in churches while claiming they are taking a stand for truth. Sometimes the issues are so absurd. One man in the church I grew up in was upset because we had a "Dirt Devil" brand vacuum cleaner. I'm quite happy to have left that type of thinking long ago, and when I see people acting like that I have to wonder if they have any actual spiritual discernment at all.

What! But... that's Biblical!

"You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life." (Gen. 3:14b)

Bert Perry's picture

It's struck me for a long time that the things we Christians all too often hold most fiercely to are not theological realities, but rather cultural habits.  One thing that I remember with a groan and a smile is a mother telling her sons that they were not going to read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because it had a witch in it.  I thought of responding "but the witch is a picture of the Devil, and Scripture has witches in it, too--are you going to tell your sons not to read Scripture?"--and then I just shook my head and walked away silently.  There is just too much stupid/sinful to confront it all.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

As an elder, I would not vote to supplant the Sunday morning service with a wedding ceremony if another elder proposed this. Instead, I would recommend the church hold the ceremony in the afternoon.

That being said, I would not leave a church over that one issue. However, if this were one of a long string of unwise decisions made by church leadership, I could see this being a tipping point.

Bert Perry's picture

You've got the practical issue that a lot of young people are NOT getting good time off.  They're contractors, and their weddings are even more constrained than that of Jurgus Rudkis in The Jungle; where at least they had a reception the night before Jurgus had to go back to work.  I know a couple that did a Sunday afternoon wedding at my church for that very reason, and a few families took care that they would actually get something of a reception.

Theologically speaking, a wedding has at least a sermonette and pictures Jesus' first miracle and the coming marriage supper of the Lamb.  I can hardly think of a better picture to present before the congregation when they come together, if that's the way the happy (I hope and pray) couple wants it that way.  Let's be honest here; we have kids' ministries Sundays, a fair number of missionaries whose ministries are more practical than theological/church planting and preaching.....I can imagine this being a huge blessing.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

This wedding included:

  1. A gospel presentation to open.
  2. Four corporate songs everyone sang together.
  3. Prayer
  4. A sermon

This is why I am puzzled about why this wedding was "not a worship service."

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

Tyler,

I'm sure there is a way to justify this decision, but I'd have to ask, is the decision worth the potential fallout? Surely, you knew this decision would cause considerable angst in your church, yet you went ahead with it (and without consulting your advisory panel).

So, this decision was the tipping point for 8 people (?)  to leave your church. Now, you have an even smaller church that is demoralized because of your decision. Was it worth it?

If so, move on with your smaller congregation and stop bellyaching.

If not, acknowledge your leadership failure to your church, ask for forgiveness, and learn from your mistake.

Honestly, the fact that people place such a high value on the Sunday morning service should be encouraging to you.

Mark_Smith's picture

Do the complainers (the 8 people) know the married couple? Were you officiating the wedding when it was scheduled at the original location?

It seems to me that this was a pretty unique situation and you were trying to help a couple in a jam.

TylerR's picture

Editor

My aim with this short article was to provide some remarks about unity, prompted by Latourette's comments. I could go on to provide more and more context to satisfy inquiring minds, but that would likely not be time well spent. It would be impossible for me to fully express herein the nuances of my own particular context, or the support I've received from the lay leadership team and the church, or the individual grievances of the folks who left. 

  • I have received public and private correspondence from folks, all of them pastors with significant ministry experience, who have had kind words. I appreciate them.
  • I have also received very unkind remarks, both public and private, that I ought to have expected. These are the things that happen when you post an article at a forum populated by current and former fundamentalists = you get expressions which do all they can to live up to the more unfortunate excesses of that movement.

My burden in the article was to note that unity is ephemeral, and so difficult to get. The more caustic comments in this very comment string are proof enough of that! So, I say, good day to y'all.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

My burden in the article was to note that unity is ephemeral, and so difficult to get.

That is certainly true Tyler. This time of year I am wrapping up the Spring semester classes. Course evaluations are written and it is amazing what people take away from what you say to a class. Its like people are looking for a reason to disagree.

Stay Strong!

Dan Miller's picture

TylerR wrote:

This wedding included:

  1. A gospel presentation to open.
  2. Four corporate songs everyone sang together.
  3. Prayer
  4. A sermon

This is why I am puzzled about why this wedding was "not a worship service."

My earlier criticisms notwithstanding, these things are judgment calls. You could say, "1)No wedding on Sunday," "2)Shorter AM service followed by wedding on Sunday," or "3)Wedding as Sunday AM service." You chose the last. Fine. If you were my pastor, I would hope that the elders (or board) discussed this. But I would choose to trust you (or the elders) regardless of you choice for any of those. I might sit and think, "I would have done #whatever," but I'm not going to get upset; I'm going to be content because I appreciate having leadership and I would want to encourage them. 

I'm sorry, Tyler, but you lack that with these people. The straw breaks the camel's back because the camel already has a really big load and frankly, it was gonna break sometime. Sorry that happened, but really perhaps it's for the best (a conclusion I'm sure you've already made).

It's easy to look at Paul's affection for the Philippians ("[1:7] It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart"). And we look at the unity that held John Fawcett in his church for so many years and led him to write "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds." And sometimes we think, Well, we should sing that song and we should unify like Paul and Fawcett!

But it doesn't work that way. True unity cannot be gained by seeking unity. You can lament your horizontal relationship with the men/women in your church. But you can only fix it by working together on the vertical one with God.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

I have also received very unkind remarks, both public and private, that I ought to have expected. These are the things that happen when you post an article at a forum populated by current and former fundamentalists = you get expressions which do all they can to live up to the more unfortunate excesses of that movement.

My burden in the article was to note that unity is ephemeral, and so difficult to get. The more caustic comments in this very comment string are proof enough of that! So, I say, good day to y'all.

While it's clear that your course of action did not get 100% agreement in this thread, I fail to see anything on this thread (I'm not counting any private correspondence you may have received) that lives "up to the more unfortunate excesses" of fundamentalism.  If you think that the fairly mild disagreement you have received here (and this site is supposed to be "iron sharpening iron", i.e. "sparks will fly") is additional proof that "unity is ephemeral," I'm forced to conclude that you at least subconsciously think that such unity means agreeing with you and doing it your way, whether you have consciously thought about it in such terms or not.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

dcbii wrote:
While it's clear that your course of action did not get 100% agreement in this thread, I fail to see anything on this thread (I'm not counting any private correspondence you may have received) that lives "up to the more unfortunate excesses" of fundamentalism.  If you think that the fairly mild disagreement you have received here (and this site is supposed to be "iron sharpening iron", i.e. "sparks will fly") is additional proof that "unity is ephemeral," I'm forced to conclude that you at least subconsciously think that such unity means agreeing with you and doing it your way, whether you have consciously thought about it in such terms or not.

I would agree.

You make an arguably poor decision. Post about it. Get criticized about it. Complain about a lack of unity and congeniality because people disagree with your decision. Then exit stage left in a self-righteous huff.

Get over yourself.

Dan Miller's picture

dcbii wrote:

... I'm forced to conclude that you at least subconsciously think that such unity means agreeing with you and doing it your way, whether you have consciously thought about it in such terms or not.

I'm kinda sitting here with raised eyebrows. I mean, perhaps this is true. But really it's just human nature. I know this is often the case for me. Even professionally, I am an ophthalmologist and when I meet a medical student who tells me they don't want to do ophthalmology, I'm thinking in the back of my mind, "What is wrong with you??" 

Here at SI, over the last year, we have had members taking politcal opinions that I view as anti-christian and, frankly, asinine. Yet they are otherwise seemingly intelligent and devoted Christians. I quit SI for months due to this.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dan Miller wrote:

I'm kinda sitting here with raised eyebrows. I mean, perhaps this is true. But really it's just human nature.

OK, perhaps "forced" was a little too strong.  Maybe I should have said "That leads me to the conclusion...".  Just as you pointed out that unity does not depend on our relationships to one another as much as it does our relationship with God, I'd say that any unity we can have in this life also does not depend on 100% agreement on all things, or we might as well give up on it now as unachievable.

I see Christian unity as a work in progress, like sanctification.  We will always be working on it without ever completely achieving it, until Jesus makes us perfect and sinless when we are with him.

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

dcbii wrote:
...

I see Christian unity as a work in progress, like sanctification.  We will always be working on it without ever completely achieving it, until Jesus makes us perfect and sinless when we are with him.

Yes - but also some matters of non-unity should be embraced as intentionally different. We need to learn to view those matters as ones that still allow us to welcome one another. So unity is preserved, even with some differences.

Larry's picture

Moderator

This is why I am puzzled about why this wedding was "not a worship service."

My response is that a wedding is inherently a utilitarian function that is about something other than God, or at least something in addition to God. The focus is on two people, and that is what a wedding is supposed to be. There is no biblical warrant for a wedding service of any type, much less a worship service. A worship service is not utilitarian and it is about God. A lot of events can have those four things and not be a worship service. 

When we call things like weddings "worship services," we are imposing something and perhaps partaking of they "every square inch" philosophy which, while true, misses the point of corporate worship. Corporate worship is different than the "every square inch" philosophy. It is the body gathering as the body to worship God by focusing on him and his word. A wedding is a fine thing to do, but there is no biblical warrant I can find to do it as a church. If I am wrong about that, show me the biblical NT warrant for it. 

Incidentally this is why the Regulative Principle matters. When the church gathers for worship, we are binding people's consciences. We are forcing people to either do what we say and sin against their conscience or compromise (sin against) the unity of the body. We have no biblical warrant to bind people's consciences with anything other than the commands of God in Scripture. The RPW is intentionally narrow. If I, as a pastor, am going to bind a conscience, I need to have warrant from Scripture.

In this particular case, you have taken a regular weekly worship service in which God has commanded certain things and have added to it something God has not commanded. For those who believe that weddings have no part of corporate worship (such as myself), you are causing them either to sin against their conscience by participating or to sin against the unity of the body by not participating. (And by participating, I mean observe and be a party to it as a witness.) So I can endure a wedding, believing that I am sinning against God by not worshipping in accordance with his commands, or I can sin against the body by walking out or by sitting and stewing internally. 

If, on the other hand, we have the wedding after the service, I can joyfully participate in both.

I don't think anything here has been uncharitable. When we post things, we should expect pushback and disagreement, even strong disagreement. It's a discussion forum, after all. Let's discuss.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dan Miller wrote:

Yes - but also some matters of non-unity should be embraced as intentionally different. We need to learn to view those matters as ones that still allow us to welcome one another. So unity is preserved, even with some differences.

I don't really disagree with this.  The ideal would be 100% unity.  I understand that given our human state, and the fact that the Bible does not cover every possible application, there will be some differences, and those we will need to live with ("let each be persuaded...") while expressing unity where we can.

Dave Barnhart

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