A Calvinist called to a Free-will church

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Greg Linscott's picture

...I preached twice that day and was quickly invited back to “preach in view of a call”. I drove the 400 miles to do that on July 6, preaching from Hebrews 1:1-4 (telling them I would preach through that book if called) and had a meeting with the members of the church that evening.

I was asked if I believed in “once saved always saved” and I explained the believer’s security such that “easy believism” was not an option. The same lady asked me is I would be willing to have little children bring trinkets to me during the service so I could relate the trinket to Scripture. I told her the service was for the worship of God, not the entertainment of children. 

I asked them what they thought the main function of the pastor was and was encouraged to hear several say “pray, study, preach”. I asked them what the main function of the church was on the Lord’s Day and was encouraged to hear several say “worship the Lord in song, hear the Word preached.”  That provides a foundation upon which to build.

I was also asked if I believed in predestination and confessed that I had no choice because it is clearly taught in Revelation, Romans 8 and Ephesians. I was encouraged when that answer was met with a few “Amens!” Some questions about programs and Sunday School – I pressed on them the need to engage parents and to help young people grow into adults; so I would accept some “age appropriate” Sunday School for small children, but by 12 they need to be with adults – because we see this in Scripture and we see the need in our culture.

I was asked to step outside. About 5 minutes later, I was asked back in and told that they wanted to call me as their pastor...

If his description was all there was in the process- that is, there was no conferring with deacons by the pastor beforehand, there was no talk about particular doctrinal leanings or raising of hot-button issues, then he bears a great deal of the responsibility for what happened. A potential pastor needs to know what he's getting into, and needs to tell the church what they would be getting, too. If you have a belief or practice that is a radical departure from what has been established previously, then that should be revealed and discussed beforehand. This post is a perfect example of why.

When I came to Marshall, my predecessor had preached from the KJV (though they were using NKJV in Awana). We discussed the possibilities of a a different translation before I candidated, though I did not actually begin to implement any changes for a couple of months (it was actually a change for me personally, too). I also let them know I would probably be a little different in my song selection than they had been before, using much less of the "gospel song" genre than they might have previously. In fact, I told them that if I came, I would assume the duties of song selection. They were fine with that. I'm not sure it would have been anywhere near as seamless if I had tried to do that unannounced after I was called. We discussed Calvinism, polity, conference attendance, all kinds of things... nothing too controversial to talk about! I even brought up a few things the guys hadn't thought of. We're getting ready to celebrate 7 happy years together. Smile

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jim's picture

I sent your name into the Gowen Baptist deacon board (pulpit committee). You could use some drama in your life. 

There's a nice large lot there (somewhere here) for your new trailer.

mmartin's picture

Greg,

Speaking of drama, if Gowen Baptist doesn't call you there could be an opening soon for a pastor at an large, active church in Seattle.

Ron Bean's picture

A pastor I know well was encouraged to resign a church because he believed "that God saved people all by Himself" and that he publicly stated that he didn't believe that salvation was determined by you casting your vote after God and devil had cast theirs.

Then there was the candidate who was rejected by one of the oldest Baptist churches in America because he was a Calvinist and their church was opposed to Calvinism in all of its forms. The church's doctrinal statement? The Philadelphia Confession of Faith.

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

James K's picture

If you submit yourself to an unbiblical church model up front, you deserve what happens.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

pvawter's picture

That is certainly true, James. Instead of stepping down, you can just command the stubborn sheep to follow their leader without question. After all, they are just sheep, right?

James K's picture

Pragmatism rules the day...yet again.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Jay's picture

...because I had a similar situation happen to me.

I was called by a friend we'd made, several years ago, to consider helping out a tiny (less than 10) Baptist Church in my town.  By the providence of God, we'd moved into a home less than a block away and I didn't even realize there WAS a baptist church in the town.  I was at work a few days later, and someone pointed out to me that there was a Baptist Church in town.  We attended there a few times, and knew going into it that it was an ABC-USA church, that it was failing, and that they were desperate for help.  We attended for a few weeks, decided to move on after hearing about six weeks' worth of messages, and got a surprise phone call about four months later that they needed someone to take over for the interim and wanted to know if I were interested.  I consulted with my pastor and an elder, and told them we could talk.  The Pastor and elder (and I) had a tremendous burden for the area, which is heavily Catholic, and we still are hoping to do a church plant in the area at some point down the road.

When I met with them, it was obvious that there were more than a few major problems.  I told them that the church - as it was constituted at the time - was going to fail if they didn't make massive changes.  They needed to pull out of the Convention and go independent (because I didn't agree with the ABC-USA on doctine), they needed to streamline their operations in order to live on the tiny income that they had, and that I was going to revamp the preaching style to a expositional method.  They met and agreed to implement the changes I said, so I accepted their call and apprised the church I was attending.  I went into it with the mindset that I was going to teach the Truth and we would see how God worked.  I knew going into it that unless God worked in an amazing and miraculous way, the church was probably going to die.

Almost from the very get go, it was obvious that there was a bloc in the church that would not make the changes we'd agreed on, and that the congregation cared little for sound doctrine.  They wanted the music and style to change - to incorporate the seeker-friendly style in order to attract attendees.  They wanted to cut expenses - but many of the major expenses were off the table, like moving the services out of the sanctuary.   They didn't mind if we ignored the Convention's policies and ideas - but they wanted to keep funding it. In short, we had two different aims.  They wanted the church to continue, and I told them that the only way to get God's blessing on the church (and therefore to have it continue) was to run it the way God wanted it run.  It became obvious that the 'elders' of the church were not saved and had no serious spiritual interest.  The major priority of the congregation was to keep the doors open and do whatever it took to make that happen. 

I lasted about seven months, then resigned due to other pressures (we'd had to move, which meant I was commuting a long distance to get to the church, and other issues).  They were in discussions with an Assemblies of God pastor (for an explicitly Baptist church) as soon as I announced my resignation, and he's still there now...he's invited me back to preach, actually, which I continue to decline. They have apparently found the revenue to keep the church open because they've done some significant remodeling and have now become quasi-universalist in doctrine.

I don't regret taking the church, because I thought that community needed a gospel witness (and it still does), and we had some good events and a community outreach that put the gospel in probably two to three hundred hands, using the "Share the Good News of Christmas" kits from Crossway, although we did yank the Lucado tracts and replace them with something a little meatier.  I taught through the entire book of Ephesians, and even got them to bring their Bibles and follow along in the text at some points.  I also got a crash course in crisis management when a home in front of our building went up in flames on Christmas Eve about 5 minutes before we were supposed to start our service (the one that we'd done the Share the Good News kits for, no less). It was an incredibly difficult time for me, but I'm thankful for it now.  I also learned a lot about myself in terms of growth and especially weaknesses that I needed to address...areas that needed to be remedied before I could consider pastoring another church.  I am disappointed in how it turned out, but don't regret going there to preach the Gospel and at least give a witness to them.

The congregation never should have approved this guy as pastor if they didn't like predestination and he said that he did upfront.  There's blame to go around on both sides, but if the church called him on the basis of deception, then I don't really know what else he could have done to avoid this.  The fact that they terminated in four days after he was hired tells me that the problems were probably on their side, not his, and I doubt that church will be open in a year if they are that badly divided.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

.....can be a lot like this.  You've got a core of families that have been there since the Deluge, and they're convinced that since the four walls of the church are standing and they got 23 salvation decisions in VBS last year, things are going well.  However, since they're not able to offer much in terms of compensation, they're forced to take what they can get--or at least so they think--and thus they tend to downplay the theology they actually hold and not inquire too much about the theology of the pastor, either.  It comes to a head when the pastor has a mortgage to pay, if you catch my drift.

Plus, in addressing new members, they're looking at the gas bill and the mortgage note, and are also somewhat cagey about their beliefs because they need some rear ends in pews and checks in the offering plate.  I had a pastor point blank tell me he wasn't KJVO, but over the next year put a ton of KJVO things in there.  I succeeded in getting a Chick booklet about the KJV canned (it's great humor but hideous scholarship), but the pressure of the rest of it led me to leave.  Wasn't worth fighting anymore.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

I see this situation as another reason men should seriously consider bi-vocational ministry... No moving trailers or families around if things don't work out after 30 days. The mortgage gets paid regardless.

Jay's picture

You nailed the situation perfectly.  There's really nothing else to say.

Thoward - you're right.  I was glad that I was doing the pastoring on a very, very part time basis and had a full time job that was covering my bills.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

I appreciate the affirmation, Jay, but I think your story of an Assemblies of God-trained pastor trending towards a vague universalism beats (sadly) my story of the closet KJVO guy who stumbles into and teaches a Chick booklet without bothering to figure out if it's at all right.  If people were not dying and going to a Christless eternity because of it, it would be funny.  

I guess it's literally as "funny as Hell", come to think of it, but not in the usual way people use that phrase.

Along similar lines, it might also be noted that many small churches become "less than selective" not only regarding their members and pastors, but also about the resources they use.  After all, Bubba's daddy spent $5 on that book, we can't just throw it away.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

One thought that just occurred to me is that in our world today, it may be a huge and unexpected blessing that a little church in the sticks knew the difference between culturally interpreted Calvinism and Arminian doctrine.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

Then there's that 250 years old Baptist Church whose doctrinal statement was the Philadelphia Confession of Faith but was in word and practice adamantly anti-Calvinistic and pro-Free Will.

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