Do I need to speak to the church leadership?

This is the pastor of my church. I'd rather just leave the church and not cause any rifts, but do I have a moral obligation to take this to the leadership of the church? 

 

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1710 reads
Kevin Miller's picture

What would you take to the church leadership? What exactly do you feel needs to be addressed? As someone who loves to nitpick the semantics of words, I can understand the benefit of a lively theological discussion. I learn best by presenting a counter position and seeing how the correct position would respond. I have to be careful, though, because that method could easily be interpreted as me just arguing for the sake of arguing. It sounds like the pastor just has a false impression that you like to argue or debate for the fun of it, and he hasn't gotten to know you well enough in areas of ministry or showing love to others. Do you feel he has an over-emphasis on the gospel and getting people saved as opposed to teaching people biblical knowledge?

J Johnson's picture

I'm glad if you think I don't need to, but I'll clarify as asked:

I left off one part: the first message was deleted, but I asked him if he knew any good theology forums for debating doctrine.

'Just ask me' <-- the only person I can ask is the pastor, no one else? I already clarified I wanted to make sure my beliefs are correct (not for the sake of arguing). If his problem is my method of debate, he'd say that - not tell me I shouldn't debate... Also, I did ask him a couple of weeks ago - he didn't respond. And notice his universal statement about debate - it's not about how I debate, it's about debate in general.

Debating is contrary to love? ... And I already told him I get my strongest spiritual growth from debate. I also mentioned that it depends on whom you debate with - but this comment was ignored, too.

The dating comment was an off topic attack. This happened weeks ago - I asked where I might find christian girls to date. He gave me absolutely no verses for his position, but basically told me that I need to be doing God's work and wait for a mate to fall into my lap. I however, responded with part of a verse: 'in light of this present distress.' Notice he still hasn't provided any scripture for his stand. I'm to assume his view is correct, and I'm attacked for having merely asked.

Notice he doesn't want my Bible verses, ignores the ones I've provided and the fact that I said I could provide others, but didn't want to because I was afraid of being kicked out. His response to this last part is to continue using off-topic ... stuff. What does how people would describe me relate to this issue at hand - why attack me because I want debate? We're not talking about formal debate, and he knows that - the previous debate he compares with was not a formal debate.  And even if you're right that he thinks I'm aggressive in debate, wouldn't knowing the Bible better help with that? In any case, the man barely knows me. We've interacted nearly none in the last 9 years.

The most offensive part of the conversation is that he continually ignores my references to scripture while strong arming me to his view, bringing up things that are off topic to attack me, and then tells me I need to receive instruction - but in context, clearly I'm supposed to take what he says without question (go back to my dating comment for the most clear example) and not respond with Bible. (Remember, I'm supposed to "stay teachable.")

I would ignore the man and go about my business, but instead I plan to change churches, because: how do we encourage one another, or ask for clarification on something we don't understand, without debating? So then, he'll get upset when I converse about the bible with church members... That's no good.

I'm surprised, you're the only person I've shown this to (I censored it for them, too - don't want to gossip) that doesn't seem highly unimpressed with his pride. Smile Another church member warned me that he has trouble with pride (before this.) Note: I haven't sent this to any of this church's members, not even the censored version.

 

As to what I think I might need to take to the church: personal attacks, despising of debate (scoffers hate correction, wise men love reproof, etc. - isn't this similar to debate?), and pride. Mostly the second point.

Jim's picture

This is the pastor of my church. I'd rather just leave the church and not cause any rifts, but do I have a moral obligation to take this to the leadership of the church? 

No!

Stay there 

Jim's picture

  • On dating: I think your pastor gave you good advice: My advice:

    • Get your financial house in order and have a good job and $$ saved
    • Do what you can to get in your best physical shape
    • In  the right time God will bring the right one your way
  • On texting with your pastor. Texting is perhaps the worst form of communication. Perhaps just above Morse code. So you need to give him a break
  • On debating. Can be healthy. Can be divisive. Your pastor sees the divisive part of it
    • Work on reading through the Bible
    • Buy 5 good systematic theologies and interact with them (plenty of debate right there)
    • Start a thread about 1 topic and go to it with us
Mark_Smith's picture

From what you provide I can't really figure out what the problem exactly is. It seems you have a pastor who focuses on people more than doctrine. That could be wrong, but it seems like it. That may be part of the issue that you have.

Unlike others, I do not always recommend staying where you are at. I stayed way too long at a church I attended in the past. Sometimes you have to leave for yourself...

I am reminded of Steven Lawson, who heartily recommends a pastor starting a men's group where you go through basic theology with them, starting with the attributes of God. Most churches have lots of things for women, but almost nothing for men. If they do have a men's meeting, it is a men's breakfast where the focus is on breakfast...

As for debate, in my experience most people don't get it. Talking about issues often gets me in trouble...

As for dating, I went for years without even seeing a single woman in church... The only women in town (this is a Marine Corps base town), worked at the local strip clubs. One day, I went to another church to help clean the place up, and bam... there my future was. I knew instantly she was the one. Don't give up. Don't settle. Be careful about long term dating unless you are serious.

 

J Johnson's picture

Jim wrote:

  • On dating: I think your pastor gave you good advice: My advice:

     

    • Get your financial house in order and have a good job and $$ saved
    • Do what you can to get in your best physical shape
    • In  the right time God will bring the right one your way
  • On texting with your pastor. Texting is perhaps the worst form of communication. Perhaps just above Morse code. So you need to give him a break
  • On debating. Can be healthy. Can be divisive. Your pastor sees the divisive part of it
    • Work on reading through the Bible
    • Buy 5 good systematic theologies and interact with them (plenty of debate right there)
    • Start a thread about 1 topic and go to it with us

 

Getting away from the main topic: I don't understand why idleness is valued in Christendom when it comes to this topic - looking for a mate. That's not the command of 1Co 7 as I mentioned before, and it's not the heart of it either: marriage is a holy, proper way of dealing with the desire and killing sin (if can't contain, marry.) Your third point regarding that - from where do you get it, scripturally? There's the logical challenge, too: even when she sudden appears out of thin air, do I not ask her out? If I'm waiting for God to throw her into my lap, I won't. So then, where is the line drawn - when am I seeking and when is God tossing her to me? ... I think this idea of dating/marriage leads people to sin, because they're not seeking God's primary ordained method of dealing with their desire. 

 

I started a thread about 1 topic a few days ago and got no replies, hence why I was looking for more places to debate. Smile (Site note:  I expect to be demonized because of the subject. :p)

J Johnson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

From what you provide I can't really figure out what the problem exactly is. It seems you have a pastor who focuses on people more than doctrine. That could be wrong, but it seems like it. That may be part of the issue that you have.

Unlike others, I do not always recommend staying where you are at. I stayed way too long at a church I attended in the past. Sometimes you have to leave for yourself...

I am reminded of Steven Lawson, who heartily recommends a pastor starting a men's group where you go through basic theology with them, starting with the attributes of God. Most churches have lots of things for women, but almost nothing for men. If they do have a men's meeting, it is a men's breakfast where the focus is on breakfast...

As for debate, in my experience most people don't get it. Talking about issues often gets me in trouble...

As for dating, I went for years without even seeing a single woman in church... The only women in town (this is a Marine Corps base town), worked at the local strip clubs. One day, I went to another church to help clean the place up, and bam... there my future was. I knew instantly she was the one. Don't give up. Don't settle. Be careful about long term dating unless you are serious.

 

 

I explained in a previous post, but it was lengthy. I'll shorten: He strong arms me throughout, sometimes by making personal/unrelated attacks. And I used debate loosely, so any conversation about the Bible would quickly qualify - why be at church if you can't talk about the Bible?

For example, I could merely ask: is hell eternal? Someone might quote me a verse, and I'd say I don't understand - what about this one in ecclesiastes? That would be debate, as my pastor and I used it. Why go there at all? If I wanted a social club that isn't centered on the Bible, I could join a bar.

Jim's picture

J Johnson wrote:

I started a thread about 1 topic a few days ago and got no replies, hence why I was looking for more places to debate.  [Smile]  (Site note:  I expect to be demonized because of the subject. :p)

This thread?: http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-defining-modesty

Interesting premise: "Essentially, I argue that the only reasonably-clear requirement from scripture is that we cover our genitals. "

 

J Johnson wrote:
Getting away from the main topic: I don't understand why idleness is valued in Christendom when it comes to this topic - looking for a mate. That's not the command of 1Co 7 as I mentioned before, and it's not the heart of it either: marriage is a holy, proper way of dealing with the desire and killing sin (if can't contain, marry.) Your third point regarding that - from where do you get it, scripturally? There's the logical challenge, too: even when she sudden appears out of thin air, do I not ask her out? If I'm waiting for God to throw her into my lap, I won't. So then, where is the line drawn - when am I seeking and when is God tossing her to me? ... I think this idea of dating/marriage leads people to sin, because they're not seeking God's primary ordained method of dealing with their desire. 

Comment: I didn't even begin to suggest "not ask[ing] [a girl] out" ... but if you do I suggest more than a loincloth 

Jay's picture

Let me recap what I think I know before I say anything more.  

  • This is a text exchange between you (in tan) and your pastor (in grey)?  
  • And you're asking us to confirm that you should go to the elders of your church so that they can intervene as a result?

If that's correct...

I agree with others that texting is just about the worst possible form for that kind of discussion and would strongly advise against continuing those discussions in that form.  Go meet with him face to face and discuss it...and discuss it - don't just go to reiterate your concerns.  Listen to what he is saying.  

It sounds like the Pastor is trying to encourage you to grow by expanding your life, and I'm assuming that it is motivated by genuine concern.  My immediate advice would be to accept that advice and ask the Lord to help you take it to heart.  You may not think that it's valid, but someone who is a spiritual leader over you (cf Romans 13) said so.  Hebrews 13:17 comes into play:

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

This person saw fit to mention a concern about you to you.  At least consider it, because he may be aware of blind spots that you haven't become aware of.

I am not seeing anything in the text exchanges that looks like a sin issue, so I would advise you against involving the elders. I saw your remark about the personal attack regarding dating, but I didn't take it that way.  I suspect that it would be difficult to prove that it's an 'attack' on you to a third party, much less have it be a sin issue. Frankly, the fact that you put this exchange on SharperIron could be construed as you trying to cause trouble (if the word got back to them).  I don't think that having this discussion rises to the sin of gossip, but I have known of several others that would read this thread and automatically conclude that you were gossiping or bringing strife.  I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt on that one. 

I hope this is helpful.

"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

J Johnson's picture

Again, I do not want to speak to the elders. I wondered if I had an obligation to do so.

I censored the messages. Even if anyone from his church came to this forum, no one would know!

Thanks.

 

J Johnson's picture

My fear with speaking to him in person is that he would bash me - and I can't quote the Bible to him. After all, if I quoted a verse to him - I'd be "debating" instead of "receiving instruction" --- again... I don't want to be put in that position :(.

josh p's picture

I am not a pastor so take this with a grain of salt: I do see him characterizing you as someone who loves debate. He does seem to be trying to be loving or at least endearing though. I would not personally take offense at anything you have posted him saying and, more importantly, I don't see anything that justifies going to the other elders about it. The way he characterizes you would probably be true of me for most of my Christian life. I always felt like I was dealing with things I felt were unbiblical. At one church I was concerned about the straw man attacks on a certain theology, the next it was skits in place of preaching, then it was KJVOnly. In my now 20 years as a Christian I have (hopefully) become less of a firebrand. I would still confront every one of those issues but I would try to do it more constructively now. Pastors are sinners like the rest of us. They have about the hardest job out there and he may be sensitive to, what he feels, are attacks. I would:

Pray and thank God for his ministry.

Pray that the Lord would bless his ministry.

Ask God for a loving and humble heart.

In person, tell him that you appreciate him and that you do not want to be confrontational, but that you do have questions which you believe he can clear up.

I would take him out for a pizza and just tell him your thoughts in a spirit of fellowship. 

 

Edited to add: I would not leave the church either. Try developing a friendship with your pastor so that he feels you are "in his corner." You may be able to be really used by the Lord there. If you enjoy debate and your pastor doesn't then just go watch a couple hundred hours of James White debates and take copious notes. 

J Johnson's picture

josh p wrote:

I am not a pastor so take this with a grain of salt: I do see him characterizing you as someone who loves debate. He does seem to be trying to be loving or at least endearing though. I would not personally take offense at anything you have posted him saying and, more importantly, I don't see anything that justifies going to the other elders about it. The way he characterizes you would probably be true of me for most of my Christian life. I always felt like I was dealing with things I felt were unbiblical. At one church I was concerned about the straw man attacks on a certain theology, the next it was skits in place of preaching, then it was KJVOnly. In my now 20 years as a Christian I have (hopefully) become less of a firebrand. I would still confront every one of those issues but I would try to do it more constructively now. Pastors are sinners like the rest of us. They have about the hardest job out there and he may be sensitive to, what he feels, are attacks. I would:

Pray and thank God for his ministry.

Pray that the Lord would bless his ministry.

Ask God for a loving and humble heart.

In person, tell him that you appreciate him and that you do not want to be confrontational, but that you do have questions which you believe he can clear up.

I would take him out for a pizza and just tell him your thoughts in a spirit of fellowship. 

 

I was wrongly argumentative ~10 years ago, but I've been very subdued since I rejoined a year ago. So, he might be upset because of some past issue.

Because of the comments here, I did send a text to ask - but I'm too big of a baby to talk to him in person. Bleah

 

I can ignore what I perceive as him being arrogant or rude, but I can't ignore it if he wants me to avoid bible discussion; if I can't talk about the bible with other believers and thus it's a bible-less social gathering, I may as well join a bar... Not speaking of getting into divisive arguments about issues like calvinism etc, but the normal stuff required for exhortation and understanding. 

Susan R's picture

Why can't you talk to him in person? For an issue of this magnitude, I think a sit down face-to-face is essential. Too much is lost in an email or text interchange, such as tone of voice and eye contact. 

If you are really "too big a baby" to talk to him, why are you seeking to debate with others in a one-on-one setting? 

Jim's picture

J Johnson wrote:

I was wrongly argumentative ~10 years ago, but I've been very subdued since I rejoined a year ago. So, he might be upset because of some past issue.

  • You rejoined 1 year ago
  • What's your church history (membership?) between: ~10 years ago and rejoining

Thanks

Jay's picture

I can ignore what I perceive as him being arrogant or rude, but I can't ignore it if he wants me to avoid bible discussion; if I can't talk about the bible with other believers and thus it's a bible-less social gathering, I may as well join a bar...

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

There is a big difference between discussing the Bible and seeking out debate. I think you're reading too much into what he is saying here.

I think what he is saying is that you are coming across as a guy who is constantly seeking a debate, and it's turning people off.  If that is what he is saying - and we are back to having a face to face with him again - then that's a red flag that you should take under careful and serious consideration.

I have been around Christians that lived to debate and could out-logic and out-argue anyone in the room.  I hated running into them because many issues that came up, no matter how large, became something to be debated and argued, and it became too much for me to deal with. I stopped talking with those people entirely.

You may know that you learn in discussion, but others may be seeing you as combative and argumentative.  That's a problem you would need to work on, or you may not be able to have much of a ministry going forward.

"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

josh p's picture

To add to what Jay said, a conversation or debate is a means of mutual edification beteeen believers (or should be) so if he does not feel that is happening on his end then it is not a worthwhile conversation. As I said there is plenty to read, listen to, or even watch in our day and age.

You need to go talk to him in person. Things like this often get blown way out of proportion because one or both sides won't just talk it out.

You are looking for a wife. Praise God! Let me assure you that as a husband, eventual father, and head of your home you will have to have all sorts of uncomfortable conversations with people in your church, including the pastor. Man up brother.

Jim's picture

My one time when someone wanted to talk to the church leadership:

I had a guy who was constantly complaining about me. Frankly I was intimidated by him. He was about my age + 3-5 years.

More than once he said he wanted to talk to the church leadership (the deacons) about me.

One Sunday I told him that today was the day.

After the AM service all the deacons, him and I gathered in my office (which like some pastor's offices was quite large with my desk and a conference room sized area).

He dumped on me for some time.  Was red in the face and looked like an idiot,

I said nothing in my defense. I don't recollect any of the deacons saying anything to him either.

I was cool as a cucumber as he blathered on about my deficiencies.

When it was over, he left my office never to be seen by me again.

--------

I had another time when mid deacons' meeting a deacon demanded that I resign. 

I said I wasn't going to

He moved to Albuquerque 

 

Dave White's picture

The issue was that the pastor had changed his position away from the church's doctrinal statement on the pre-trib rapture.

The church had an official position (which happens to be my own) in the pre-trib rapture.

The pastor changed his position. As an aside he went both to a well-known fundamental baptist undergraduate institution that is pre-trib & a well-known fundamental baptist graduate institution that is pre-trib.

I first met directly with the pastor. His position was that a change of this nature was not significant.

Then I met with him, an assistant pastor and a handful of deacons.

Near outcome: all supported him. I left

Longer term outcome: there was more to meet the eye about said pastor. He committed adultery after I left and the church soon folded.

J Johnson's picture

Dave White wrote:

The issue was that the pastor had changed his position away from the church's doctrinal statement on the pre-trib rapture.

The church had an official position (which happens to be my own) in the pre-trib rapture.

The pastor changed his position. As an aside he went both to a well-known fundamental baptist undergraduate institution that is pre-trib & a well-known fundamental baptist graduate institution that is pre-trib.

I first met directly with the pastor. His position was that a change of this nature was not significant.

Then I met with him, an assistant pastor and a handful of deacons.

Near outcome: all supported him. I left

Longer term outcome: there was more to meet the eye about said pastor. He committed adultery after I left and the church soon folded.

 

Yeah, going to church leadership seems like a bad idea for that reason: they're already generally on board with the pastor. After all, they wouldn't be leaders underneath of him otherwise! And they don't want to risk losing the positions.

Craig Toliver's picture

J Johnson wrote:
Yeah, going to church leadership seems like a bad idea for that reason: they're already generally on board with the pastor. After all, they wouldn't be leaders underneath of him otherwise! And they don't want to risk losing the positions.

You have to ask yourself this question: "Do I have a problem? OR Do they have a problem?"

If you can't trust the church leadership ... do them a favor and move on! 

 

Susan R's picture

What is important is to do the right thing for the right reason, and let the chips fall where they may. 

But that's if someone is doing something wrong. If it's all about how you feel and what you want, then just work it out between the two of you and reach an understanding. It's not a moral failure for someone to have differing opinions about the worthiness of debate or how to find a spouse.

Jay's picture

Susan's point nails it.  When we give account for what we do to God, we will give account for what we do and whether or not it is faithful to what He commands, not whether or not people actually listen to it.  Isaiah would have been a colossal failure if that was the criteria

I've been in both situations, where I talked with the pastor and when I didn't make an issue of whatever the thing was.  So much of it and how that goes depends on their own willingness to receive what you have to say, but the very first step is to do some serious self-examination to discern if the fault is in you first.  Jesus' admonition in Matthew 7 fits here:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

 

"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

Jim's picture

Back to his original point - "Do I need to speak to the church leadership?"

Answer this: "go "to the church leadership" about what?" Rather ...

  • Have coffee with your pastor 
  • Speak to him one on one
  • Eschew texting as a form of debate-style communication. Texting (I text my kids) is great for very short, easy answer communication - eg "are U coming dinner Sat?"

Conclusion: There is absolutely NOTHING to even begin to suggest that the thread-author should go "to the church leadership"

 

RickyHorton's picture

I read your entire exchange with your pastor.  I went back and read his comments by themselves and then read your comments by themselves.  His sounds very gracious and it appeared he was trying to help you understand something that is not easy to tell a friend.  However, that is part of what a pastor is supposed to do.  You came to him with a question and he seemed to answer it as honestly as possible and tried to encourage you as well. 

When I go back and read only your comments, frankly, it sounds like you got an answer you didn't like. You then seemed to argue (debate) about why you thought his comments weren't correct.  Your texts were confrontational.  I'm just speaking honestly so please consider this as constructive criticism since you asked for it. I don't know you or the pastor, but based on this small exchange I would say that you should listen to him.  I don't see anything there that would even hint at going to speak to other church leadership (someone else referenced Hebrews 13 above and I believe it is a fitting verse for this).  .