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Ok, you really have to hear the background of this next post. The other day I was tweeting with a guy whose Twitter handle is @fivesolasguy, (Brian Thornton.) He responded to a couple of tweets of mine and I have to be honest with you, his words felt very familiar to me. The following is a good sampling of our conversation.
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Eventually, I got tired of the same runaround and so I said “gotta run” or something similar a couple of times. I continued to get more tweets after saying I had to go (notifications come to my smart phone) and I didn’t want to have to keep picking up my phone for the same guy tweeting the same ol’ stuff and so I blocked him. I think I have only one other person blocked in my 1+ yrs of tweeting.
Well, yesterday, I noticed Mr. Thornton came here to the blog and posted a couple of comments. He questioned why I blocked him on Twitter. So, I went back to Twitter to see what was going on. Apparently, he had tweeted and tagged me quite a bit. I found the evidence on Aug. 9 in which he spouted off publicly about me for blocking him. JA did something she doesn’t allow her kids to do – she rolled her eyes.
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Wow – those are 6 tweets in a row. There were more, too. I couldn’t tell if the tweeting occurred all at once or throughout the day. I realized that this guy was obviously trying to get some message across to me and not satisfied with my earlier responses and so I gave him an offer to say whatever he’s trying to say in a paragraph or two and I’d post it here on the blog. (You might consider clicking on that link. The exchange is pretty funny – - one of our regular readers, Eric Fry, saw what was going on and put his TX cowboy boots on. Yea, he cut to the chase.) I figured why not – we could try to discuss it here with complete sentences and paragraphs without the Twitter character limitations and just be done with it already.
Hey, what do you know, he took me up on it. You can tell from the tweets above that we both were getting frustrated. Twitter can be very effective or it can be very ineffective. Our conversation was not getting anywhere.
But check out what he wrote. I can’t believe it’s the same guy. It definitely gives more insight into his tweets. The only edit I made was to break up a long paragraph, otherwise, this is exactly Mr. Thornton’s content. I’m looking forward to the discussion.
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A Call for Reasoned Discernment Before Judgment Is Made Upon Others
My wife and I have experienced what is known as spiritual abuse at the hands of a pastor who went to great lengths to “lord it over” his flock. He would arrive at your doorstep unannounced to rebuke you for not attending a service, have others call you out and rebuke you for some comments you made at a small group gathering, and would even verbally chastise you and threaten to remove you from membership if you did not repent of a particular sin he was convinced you had.
When I finally concluded that this guy was beyond the possibility of being reasoned with, I removed my wife and family from his spiritually oppressive influence. This guy was off the chain, so to speak, and I would not allow him to exert his unbiblical and sinful attempts to control us any longer.
My experience had made me a prime candidate to resist any future submission to a pastor/elder/shepherd (it did, in fact, result in me being hyper-critical for several years following that experience). But, in spite of what we went through, I remain convinced of the Bible’s teaching concerning the submission of Christians to their church leaders. Sadly, though, I fear that there are many who experience similar things that we did who become overly cynical, distrusting, and critical of anyone who teaches the biblical truth concerning the authority of church leaders over their congregations. Simply put, bad experiences do not negate the truth of God’s Word. And they don’t give us unfettered license to rail against anyone we believe is abusing their authority.
One of the main mistakes we can make (especially those of us who have experienced abusive practices firsthand from church leaders) is that, going forward, we fail to give others the benefit of the doubt. Paul said that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”, and I believe part of what Paul is saying there is that our love for one another inside the church will include an attitude and heart of trust, rather than distrust. Our love for one another, rooted in the common bond we have IN Christ, will (should) translate into carefully researched conclusions and comments regarding another’s supposed position on church authority, for example. That love will result in, not publicly expressed suspicion the moment we see a red flag or questionable information, but will instead lead us to make sure that we are counting others as more important than ourselves, which will hopefully result in us reserving judgment until we are sure of the truth. I have been guilty of this more times than I can count.
Another common mistake we tend to make is that we will attack and judge and critique something based upon what someone has written rather than how what has been written actually gets fleshed out in real life. For example, someone reads on a web site article about someone’s position on the church’s authority over a Christian, and they draw all sorts of conclusions and preconceived opinions, not based upon what actually occurs in real life, but rather based upon what was written. I have been guilty of this quite recently. I strongly disagreed with a particular “method” for doing something as it was written and explained on paper, and I began to passionately attack that method with much vigor and emotion. However, when I took a step back and decided to see how that method was actually being fleshed out in real life, my conclusions were completely opposite from my initial judgments. We can erect all manor [sic] of straw men that we can easily knock down (or burn in effigy), when the truth is all we’ve done is malign another member of the body of Christ for no good reason. Make no mistake, there are those who take advantage of others and abuse their authority in the church. And they must be exposed and stopped. But, every red flag is not a cause for misinformed declarations against others who profess Christ. When we do that, we very well may be bringing down someone who is truly on our side. And for what reason? Because we didn’t give the benefit of the doubt, or we didn’t do our homework, or we attacked some words in an article rather than examined real life actions. When that happens, we have acted no differently and no better than those we are accusing of wrong-doing.
I pray we would all grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior as we bear, believe, hope, and endure all things for the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we seek to be well-informed, truly discerning members of the church.