Mercy Wins When Abusive Church Leaders Threaten

“For He is Good; For His Loving Mercy Endures Forever.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Beware those who seek God’s power, instead of transformation into the likeness of Jesus Himself.

Abusive church leaders use abusive “teaching” to explain why God has not yet sent revival power/blessing. It is equivalent to spiritual blackmail. The church members correctly believe revival blessing can be poured out on them, but the leaders also believe that they (the people) somehow have forfeited revival blessing by certain disobediences as a body or by certain slacking in “rising in faith-filled obedience” to the “faith step” which the leaders say God set for them as a body. This is dangerous, because it is meritoriously working for revival power/blessing.

Also, great tension occurs between the leadership and the people when the leadership—like some divine oracle—says, “This is the faith step we must take…God cannot bless if this is missing from our hearts as a congregation.” Why? It is meritorious thinking. When the body takes that step sincerely (such as sacrificially giving themselves of time, money, resources, energies – or – giving up certain right pleasures or expressions of personality) they believe sincerely that they have done something, which will make God pleased with them to the point that “hindrances to revival blessing are removed.” Then, they wonder why God is not blessing, and the striving goes deeper and deeper. Worse yet, they fear God will punish them. Soon, the Pastor(s) is subtly turning against his people for “not meeting the mark,” and the people are subtly doubtful of the Pastor’s leadership because of his “brow beating” them for their lack of faith….and they are weary from heavy burdens. One can never be sure if God is pleased. These are the results of abusive, meritorius religion.

In leading people toward revival, we must not make any subtle or overt emphasis of having our music just right, and then, God will bless us with revival as opposed to those whom He won’t. We must not say that God cannot bless us with revival blessing, if we do not have faith promise missions or a ritualized “hour of prayer.” We must not make the issue our having the minutest of doctrine correct as opposed to those who don’t. We must not think that if we change our style, modes, and fashions to exude all manner of visible, outward “holiness” that God will bless us and not those who differ. 

God does not promise revival blessing because we have this or that “right.” Neither does He withhold revival blessing from those who do not. [The only time God promises to bless separation is when we separate ourselves from worshipping and serving together with heathen in the ways they worship and serve. (2 Cor. 6:17)] Rather, God shows mercy on whom He will show mercy, and that means only on those who count His mercy THE thing to be had… who “love mercy.”

Also, let’s be careful about teaching people what we mean by “purity” in the churches. Do we mean, “every person in the congregation has no sin issues?” Is that what we believe revival is… the absence of sin? Is that rational? Do we think that glorification can happen this side of eternity? Or yet, do we mean, “no outward trace that our members were once lost men, even though they might have been newly saved”? In the same vein, everyone knows that God must turn His face away from those children have given themselves over to wickedness. But, those prodigal brothers just may be revived before those who look down upon them.

In conclusion, let’s not strain at gnats and swallow camels. We don’t need to wonder why God’s blessing is not upon us as persons or as a movement, when so much spiritual pride and meritorious thinking saturates our hearts. We should turn away from the carnal comparisons and circles and camps and labeling. Dear one’s, let’s realign ourselves with Christ’s agenda – 

  • PRAISE Him and bask in His mercy! 
  • Get His Good News of MERCY to every soul. 

By now, we all know that we cannot earn the power of His saving influence for ourselves or for our churches or for our movements. God will not grant His likeness on us, until we are looking for His mercy… until we see ourselves utterly in need of His mercy and do Him sacrifice – the sacrifice of the lips – a thankful heart for His goodness, for His loving mercy which endures forever.

Whenever God comes down to pour out His Spirit, He does it because people have realized He alone is good. If His Presence is going to be known, then it shall only be because His mercy endures forever, not because our “holiness” finally met His “standard.” God does not see movements. He sees men – humble men & women, who hope only in His mercy as their happiness in service and sense of success. Only these men know what a freeing and glad thing it is to shout the message of mercy loud and clear, so all the world may hear it. God is not withholding blessing from us or waiting for us to earn it. He wants us to be ready to receive all that He has. He counts us as not ready until we, like Solomon and the people of Israel, make our theme song, “For the LORD is good; for his mercy endures forever.”

What an IFB Cult Leader Sounds Like When Demanding Money

If one says the name Colonial Hills Baptist Church (Indianapolis, IN), then you might remember having seen the 20/20 news report about the church’s publicly blaming/shaming and shunning a statutory rape victim, while failing to properly report her perpetrator. Chuck Phelps was the presiding pastor at that time, and he still is the senior pastor. If you think the church bettered after the debacle, then you are sadly mistaken. 

Colonial Hills recently brought on a new international ministries development consultant, who is associated strongly with the cult known as Falls Baptist Church (FBC) in Menomonee Falls, WI. Matthew Barfield, also a VP at IPM, recently spoke (February 19, 2017) at FBC’s annual Faith Promise Giving special meeting, and his sermon is a proper example of what a cult leader sounds like when demanding money.

One can listen to the audio recording HERE, if FBC will not remove the recording. I provide a correctional critique of his “sermon” below. The text of his message is Matthew 26. [See also John 12, Luke 7 & Mark 14]

>>Barfield’s sermon is not bringing out of the text what is there, but he is using the text as a platform to preach his own talking points… which include some self-given accolades on his mastery of language(s) and ministerial exploits. 

  • The full context of the biblical account is not focused on Mary’s gift or on the doctrine of giving (contrary to what Barfield’s sermon leads one to believe) but on her great love for and belief of Jesus. Mary knew that she had been forgiven much by Jesus; and she was moved to loving action, due to her believing Jesus’ death would be soon. That was a thing even the Disciples themselves did not believe at that time. Ironically, the disciples were the ones misfocused on the gift and “giving,” just like Barfield.
  • Mary had been a prostitute. Would many churches like FBC or Colonial Hills allow a suddenly repentant prostitute to give the result of her “wages” to Jesus, let alone command that she be remembered all over the world for it? Jesus did. 
  • She did what she could” to Barfield means she sacrificed greatly in her gift giving. Contextually, it means nothing other than, A: this was a pre-purchased supply, out of what she already possessed, not what she did not have; B: Mary could not prevent His death, but she could honor His death!! She did what she could.
  • Mary’s anointing Jesus was indeed costly as Barfield notes, but the modern-day equivalent would be to give Jesus embalming fluid. That’s shockingly practical & not exactly flattering. The act sent a poignant, albeit worshipful message. The ointment Mary poured out was used in ancient days to keep stink of death down, but she used it to anoint Him before His death. In contrast, the Pharisees and disciples did not believe; and so, they did not offer to customarily wash & dry Jesus’s feet. The context draws great attention to this contrast. She believed He would die, so she anointed Him is burial ointment. They believed he would not die as Messiah, so they gave Him no common courtesy at all. The only application to be drawn from this context is that disbelievers today still refuse to give Jesus honor… not that believers must give extravagantly, to prove they are truly believers.
  • Mary was giving directly to Jesus’ physical body. Mary was NOT giving to fund missions or raise the budget via “faith promise” (pledging what she did not have on “faith”). In fact, Jesus rebuked the Disciples (particularly Judas) for making the suggestion that the money should have been used for the “Jesus mission fund.” [It is doubly ironic that Barfield is raising funds for missions. He is more Judas than he knows.] 
  • Jesus clearly states the purpose of the passage, when He commands that Mary should be remembered for what she did, after saying she did it for His burial (v. 13). In contrast and in illogic, Barfield charges the audience to give, or they may not be a true believer. If they truly believe in Christ’s return, then they should give extravagantly in light of Jesus’ return, just as Mary gave extravagantly (in light of His death). There’s nothing like a cult leader telling people to give, or else they may not truly be a believer (i.e. headed for Hell & damnation); and by the chance they are a genuine believer, then they certainly won’t have rewards in Heaven unless they give like Mary—extravagantly. 

>>Barfield—with his many appeals for “surrender”—creates (as a cult always does) a false dichotomy between the sacred & the secular, between “the ministry / mission field” and a secular profession… which—in reality—leads to the discontent Barfield describes as a common thought pattern among clergy, when people are not giving enough to missions. Instead, missionaries should just hold “tent-making” jobs like the Apostle Paul.

>>Barfield’s allusion to 2 Corinthians 8 and the example of the Apostle Paul receiving gifts from the Corinthians vs. Macedonians is stretched beyond the context. The context is DISASTER RELIEF for fellow churches to relieve the suffering of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:4). It was a one-time offering asked to be received… not an every year or even every month or week collection. In fact, the Bible never commands the New Testament believer to give a tithe. The passage actually teaches that churches are supposed to note when other churches have endure peril, and then, seek to relieve their plight by whatever means possible. More importantly, Mary’s gift (Matthew 26) was also a 1 time gift… not an annual thing.

>>Barfield forgets verses 12-13 of 2 Corinthians 8, which state believers should give out of what they have AND not give in a way that causes themselves to be in need… which also happens to make Faith Promise Giving unbiblical. 

>>Barfield directly implies—near the end of the sermon—that if someone does not give like Mary, then he/she does not love Jesus the way He loves us… and is on the side of Judas. That is a twisting of the Scriptures!

Conclusion:

Thankfully, the Bible does not teach anything close to “Faith Promise Giving.” In fact, the New Testament believer is never instructed to give a “tithe.” Rather, the Bible teaches free-will & joy-filled giving to those who are in need, but not in such a way as to put the giver in need. There may be ocaisions where disaster strikes and sacrifices are warranted, so that others may have food and shelter and clothing; but to state that extravagant giving is expected regularly by God… or, to say that one may not truly believe if he does not give extravagantly… is sheer cult tactic by a cult leader.

On Meddling & Professional Ministry

After some years away from the IFB movement, I began to see that a common sin in nearly every sect of clergy is “Lording” (1 Peter 5), whereby they act as divine mediators between God and mankind. No one starts out by saying, “Today, I am going to play God with people’s lives.” So, I tried to understand why a leader would get sucked into Lording. The most obvious answer is their subtle desire for position, power & empty glory. Another reason is their practical distrust of God’s ability to direct or correct someone Himself. 

Then, it occurred to me. There is something more elementally wrong and more widespread than the above reasons. It has to do with making a career out of “professional ministry.” These people are paid to sit around all day and basically try to think up ways of both adding attendees and turning them into their brand of “Churchianity.” They must do this, because they view ministry as only what happens inside the church building or church-sanctioned activity. It is true that believers edify one another as they gather together. Yet, leaders often do not see that their only role is to equip the believers for the true, everyday ministry which happens out in the world… and to which God has called every believer in his/her place (1 Corinthians 7:17ff).

Instead of knowing / holding down “real world” jobs themselves, they hole up in the 4 walls of a church building or other Christian institution, where their analytical minds inevitably turn critical and obsessed over minutia… which only leads to meddling in others’ affairs. They think they are serving God, but what they are really doing is meddling.

Meddle: to interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.

Jesus and all of His Apostles had either trades or professions that they did not see as “in conflict” with accomplishing the Great Comission. The difference between the Apostles and modern-day clergy is the Apostles could have expected pay but they did not for the Gospel’s sake (1 Corinthians 9; Philippians 4). Even the Bible itself warns against meddling and states that suffering comes from it. What is more damning, the Bible states that idle people are often the ones who meddle most… and that, meddling is a sin listed right alongside murder.

Once I learned these truths, I decided I would never make a career out of “ministry.” Even though I studied the Bible and ministry for 8+ years, it would be something I would do voluntarily—willingly but “not for filthy lucre.” And I vowed that I would hold a “real world” job. To this day, I do not receive any pay for pastoring; and I—as a result—have more compassion and empathy for others. [I do receive random gifts or “buy outs” for my time] 

I see no need to make others into a sectarian poster child or just like me or like anyone else for that matter. I trust God is able to direct and correct their lives. They are His disciples, not mine. If I do anything, it is to serve others in their struggles… to point them to a direct relationship with God Himself, teach them how to correctly interpret the Word for themselves, to supply what is needful for faith, hope and love; to ease their burdens, lift up the downhearted, to see the “stuck” and overwhelmed get freed up and try to be a healing ointment for their wounds.

On Shunning

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” –Jesus (Matthew 18:12)

The IFB churches, in which I grew up and then left, commonly teach that believers should shun another person who calls himself/herself a believer, but who has been involved in sin and is not repentant. The operative and key words should be “not repentant.” If someone has expressed sorrow and change of mind/heart about the sin, taking steps to be rid of it… [not man-made prescriptions] then they are to be received! (2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 8:7-16). And they are to be received as God sees them, fully righteous, fully restored, walking in their new creature identity (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

For sure, “church discipline” is taught in the Bible, but shunning is not.

IFBers often quote the following:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

And,

I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Again, it is clear that church discipline is taught by the Apostle Paul; and Jesus Himself gave prescriptions on how to deal with offenses within the body (Matthew 18). But, in their zealousness to rid the body of “leaven,” they miss Jesus’ statement to “treat them as a pagan and a tax collector,” and IFBers appear never to consider how Jesus Himself treated pagans and tax collectors. They also either skip over or ignore 2 Thessalonians 3:15, which commands believers should NOT treat a disobedient brother as an enemy! James 5:20 further states we should invest enough love and time and wisdom into a brother’s / sister’s life, so as to be able to turn him or persuade him back to Jesus, and so, “cover a multitude of sins.” We are to reprove, rebuke, exhort, BUT “with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). These things can hardly be done in one “church discipline” visit by a pastor and 2 deacons, where fear and intimidation are the motivations. Jude (v. 22) commands we should differentiate the hardened from the doubting by showing them mercy & compassion; but even the hardened should have mercy mixed with fear (vv. 22-24).

2 Timothy 2:24-25 (ESV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

What is more, IFB’ers insist on man-made restrictions to “make sure the offender has really repented ‘after a godly sorrow.'” These restrictions and life demands are not mankind’s place to determine; and IFB’ers are so behavior focused, they often neglect true restoration… which requires meekly identifying with & bearing the burden of the one who stumbled (Galatians 6).

True restoration is done in order to rebuild the breakdowns of one’s holy identity, faith, hope and love which precipitated the sin; and true restoration realizes a sin problem in a believer is always directly proportionate to their godly identity having been attacked, their godly trusts having been broken, their godly hopes having been dashed or their godly love having been betrayed. It requires sympathetically looking at the trials and hardships that led to said breakdown. Instead, IFB’ers tend to kick those who are down, or treat them shamefully, as if they carry something rabid and catchy. This shaming and shunning can never restore, and it reveals restoration is really not the aim of IFB’ers.

They gain this misdirection & misunderstanding about shunning from misinterpreting passages (out of context and meaning). Here are some Bible studies, which show the biblically accurate alternative to unbiblical shunning. Not associating with an unrepentant person means not to worship with them. Not to eat with an unrepentant person means not to take communion with them. One gains this from the context of 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul describes the difference between what goes on within the body vs. what goes on outside it (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). But, not to share an actual family or friendly meal and/or not to socialize with said persons is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible, and it only feeds unbiblical shunning.

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OTHER RESOURCES:

Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality & Mortality

Treat Them as a Pagan and a Tax Collector

The Kingdom of Heaven and it’s Keys

Binding and Loosing 

Abuse & Authority

Reproving & Rebuking: The Neglected Duty of the Pastors

Reproving & Rebuking are the disowned aspects of the Pastor’s role within the Body of Christ. This comes as a result of hierarchical denominationalism lording over men of God, the rule of feel-good and trendy Christianity, the domination of fleshly and Bible-illiterate church-goers within the congregation, preachers for hire (instead of letting the gift lead), and a sign of the times that:

…people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:4)

But, the charge God gives to pastors to reprove and rebuke could not be clearer.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

 

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)

 

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)

 

He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, who has taken them captive to his will. (2 Timothy 2:26)

While these passages are not a license for tyrannical and authoritarian abuse by pastors, they also should not be denied. As the LORD God stated to those who have gone before, let us hear Him saying also to us,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:18)

…to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. This is the LORD’s declaration. (Jeremiah 1:7-8)

Rise up, O men of God, and do your duty!