Church Member Responsibility and Church Discipline at Pastor Eric Davis’ Church

Church membership, church discipline, Pastor Eric Davis, Cornerstone Church


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Church Member Responsibility and Church Discipline According to the Cornerstone Church By-laws

mind-the-gap

-by Kathi

I recently wrote about how Julie Anne and I dared to comment on an article at The Cripplegate which subsequently caused our comments to be deleted and comments to be closed. Pastor Eric Davis provided an entirely too long explanation about how the discussion had run its course, more humbleness in being a part of God’s community was needed, and that there was too much focus on logistics. Let’s not forget that he provided the wonderful 16-point article challenging excuses for not going to church. But who’s focusing on logistics?

I was up most of the night wondering who Eric Davis is and what kind of church he runs. Here is Eric’s profile at The Cripplegate:

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Eric’s bio on Cornerstone Church’s site states that he holds an M.Div. from Master’s Seminary and a M.A. in Biblical Counseling from The Master’s College. It is important to note that all but one leadership team member at the church hold some type of degree from The Master’s College or Master’s Seminary. Oh, look! Cornerstone Church even shows up on The Master’s College site as a TMS Alumni Church!

While I can’t find the specific article, I remember reading something on 9Marks (or The Gospel Coalition?) about membership responsibility. What stood out then was how members who live too far away from a “good church” should move, and if members are working on Sundays that take them away from church, they should get their work schedules changed. These two points were in Eric’s post and it caused me to be suspicious that Cornerstone Church might be affiliated with 9Marks. I looked up Cornerstone Church on the 9Marks site and sure enough, they’re affiliated (Search by zip code 83001. It’s a different physical address but same web link). No surprise to me.

So now we know that we have John MacArthur taught leaders in a 9Marks affiliate church. What could their by-laws be like? Since the original post Julie Anne and I commented on was specifically about members, we’ll look at membership and church discipline at Cornerstone Church which is found in Article V of the by-laws.

How to apply for membership:

Section 4. Applications for Membership – All requests for membership shall be made to a Pastor, Elder, Deacon, or Steering Committee Member. Upon making such a request, the person shall be given an application for membership, along with a copy of the Statement of Faith contained in the Articles of Incorporation and a copy of the Bylaws. …… Each applicant shall assent to the Statement of Faith, subscribe to the Bylaws, and shall testify publicly before a duly appointed Committee of the Board, per Article VI, Section 17 of these Bylaws, at a regularly held meeting for prospective members.

Your membership may be denied:

Section 5. Denial of Membership – If, upon review of an application for membership or after meeting with a prospective member, the Board of Elders, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders, determines that the applicant does not confess Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, or that there is a lack of evidence of a Christ-like lifestyle, membership shall be denied. The decision made by the Board, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders, shall be final and there shall be no appeal to any court from that decision.

The Board of Elders holds the power to deny your membership if they deem that you are not a true believer or if they think your lifestyle is not Christ-like enough. Forget going to court over it; their decision in final. Why bring up appealing to court over a denial for membership? Does this happen? I guess it must or, this is simply 9Marks talk to cover all bases.

How you are admitted into membership:

Section 6. Admission of Applicants – Applicants admitted to membership shall, if possible present themselves at a worship service designated by the Pastor and Board of Elders, at which service such applicants shall publicly affirm their membership commitment and be publicly acknowledged as members.

Here one stands before the congregation to acknowledge commitment to the church. Keep reading, though, . . . you’ll find that you might “stand” before the congregation for another issue – perhaps not physically, but surely in spirit.

Member responsibility:

Section 7. Responsibilities of Members – Members shall seek to exercise their spiritual gifts for the work of service to honor Jesus Christ and build up the church and shall submit to the loving shepherding of the Elders, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders.

Serve Jesus and accept loving shepherding. Now we move on to the “loving shepherding.”

Purpose of church discipline (Church Discipline is Section 8):

a.) Purpose: The purpose of church discipline is to glorify God by: 1) pursuing a sinning believer for the purpose of helping them be reconciled to God and the church (Matthew 18:12-18, 1 Corinthians 5:5, Galatians 6:1) 2) promote the holiness of Christ in the local church (1 Corinthians 5:6) 3) promote a biblical fear of God and turn away from sinning (1 Tim 5:20).

PPP – pursue, promote, promote. Honestly, it’s the pursuing that concerns me.

The process of church discipline:

b.) Process: Members of this church and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with this church who err in doctrine, or engage in conduct that violates Scripture as determined by the Board of Elders, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders, shall be subject to church discipline including dismissal according to Matthew 18:15-18.

Say I’m a member of this church and I need to undergo church discipline. For this scenario, we’ll say I’m questioning the leadership by commenting on a blog post in regard to doctrine or church policy (because we all know that would happen):

First, someone who knows about my sinful conduct should come alongside me to warn and provide correction. If I do not repent, then the next step would be for the warning individual to find one or two other people who agree with my sinful nature. Those individuals would also provide warning and correction. But, I’m stubborn and I still do not repent.

My continued stubbornness causes the elders to investigate the matter. If they are able to determine that, yes, I am sinful in my questioning and that I have been warned but did not repent, then:

(b. iii.)…the Board of Elders, shall inform the church and the congregation thereof at a regularly scheduled worship service in order that the church may come alongside the erring individual to call them to repentance and restoration.

Yes, airing my sinful nature during a worship service would totally signify to me that they are walking along my side. Say I still do not repent, even after public rebuke. Now I am publicly dismissed from the church during a regular worship service. The elders can choose to bypass the first two steps and go straight to the congregation if I publicly refuse to repent, disseminate “doctrine deemed false or erroneous by the elders” or if I disregard two warnings.

But here’s the real kicker:

d.) The members of this church, and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with this church, agree that there shall be no appeal to any court because of the dismissal or because of public statements to the congregation at the third or fourth stages of church discipline. Members who are under discipline by the church, as defined in the previous paragraphs, forfeit and waive the right to resign from this church. Resignations from membership are possible only by members who are in good standing and who are not under any disciplinary action.

Did you catch that? You cannot appeal this decision or any statements made publicly in a court. The only recourse you have is to appeal to the elders. If you are under church discipline, you “waive your right to resign from this church.” WHAT??!! With the expectation of members fully adhering to the leadership and the process of church discipline, is it any wonder that Eric Davis has opinions about the reasons people give for not going to church?

I did not see anything that states that members need to sign a membership agreement, but I would venture to guess that this happens. Don’t do it folks! You are only giving written permission for this leadership to call you out for what they deem as conduct that “violates Scripture.”

I’m sure that includes asking questions.

Comments Closed and Removed at The Cripplegate

Pastor Eric Davis of The Cornerstone Church (WY) Decides to Remove Two Comments from Women and Closes Further Commenting

-by Kathi

Thanks to Boston Lady, I looked up a blog post that was linked in a comment on this blog’s previous post. Eric Davis wrote, “Reasons We Miss Church (But May Not Need To)” which was posted on The Cripplegate.

This post discusses all of the wrong reasons why someone might miss church. They include:

  1. “There is no command that says I need to go to church every Sunday.”
  2. “There aren’t any good churches in my area.”
  3. “Family/friends are in from out of town.”
  4. “The preacher/teacher I like is not preaching/teaching.”
  5. “I can watch the/another gathering online, or listen to a message online.”
  6. “Recent birth of a child.”
  7. “Gatherings are too long.”
  8. “It conflicts with the kids’/family’s schedule/sleep/sports/stuff.”
  9. “Church is far away.”
  10. “I work during the church gatherings.”
  11. “I am traveling.”
  12. “Some hard things have happened and I need space.”
  13. “I’m tired.”
  14. “The church isn’t a location or an event, but people, so I don’t need to be there.”
  15. “My spouse/significant other/roommate is staying home so I will too.”
  16. “I know all of these reasons, but you just don’t understand my situation.”

As noted by Boston Lady, the ever eloquent A. Amos Love had left some comments on there, so I decided to chime in as well.

screenshot-2017-01-07-at-9-11-16-pmThen I asked Julie Anne if she had seen it and she decided to comment too (her tweet came later after learning her comment was removed):

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A little bit later in the night I received a text from Julie Anne asking if I knew what happened to the post. Eric Davis decided that enough “robust discussion” had taken place and closed the comments. He also decided to delete my comment as well as Julie Anne’s (noted by the “Removed” sign in our screen shot comment).

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When I left my comment, I noticed that the previous one had been made a day earlier. Why all of a sudden are comments closed and two are deleted? I know I’m risking my attitude being questioned when I ask this, but was it because two women were challenging the authority of a pastor and elders over the congregants? Was it because we are outside of this congregation and asking questions? Lord knows if anyone within the congregation is willing/able to ask questions. If we had left these comments with male pseudonyms would they have been allowed to stay and perhaps had some discussion to follow? Did we step on authoritarian pastor’s toes and question why the church needs to have so much control over people’s lives?

When I first read this post it screamed 9Marks to me, and by golly they are affiliated with 9Marks. Then I went and read the church by-laws and I was left concerned about how much control this church has over its members. You can be sure that there will be more to discuss later. That was a valiant attempt at trying to leave us out of the conversation, Eric Davis.

Oh, and comments will remain on.

Practical Guidelines for Teaching Complementarity

Ligon Duncan, CBMW, Complementarianism, Egalitarian, headship


 

Practical Guidelines for Teaching Complementarity

by Kathi

 

Ligon Duncan stresses that if pastors do not regularly teach complementarity, then “we lose on this issue.”

 

 

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Feel free to play along while you watch the video. You are guaranteed a black out!

 

In April, Ligon Duncan addressed pastors at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) pre-conference of the 2016 T4G conference regarding how to address complementarianism.


Duncan offered eight guidelines for pastors when teaching complementarianism. Three celebrate complementarianism, and five realizations as you practice this “Biblical” view.

You have to teach and preach complementarianism.

Duncan stresses that if pastors do not regularly address complementarianism, then congregations will be won over to the teachings of culture and “we will lose on this issue.” Duncan also stresses that pastors need to make sure that leaders in the church are equipped in this teaching as well.

This leads me to wonder: how often is he talking about addressing this issue from the pulpit? Every other Sunday? Every Sunday? Should it be taught in Sunday school classes and small groups? How about in children’s and youth ministries? If he is calling for equipping leaders, then it sounds like he wants the church to be infiltrated to follow complementarianism on all fronts.

The church needs to become a culture that honors women and loves people who struggle with same sex attraction.

Duncan states that when pastors teach on complementarity they will be labeled as misogynistic and homophobic. Yes, very true. So how is a pastor to combat that view? By publicly honoring women and loving people with same sex attraction.

It is this part of the talk where I get the feeling that Duncan is stressing that complementarianism requires an image make-over. Is he sincere about honoring and loving? I really hope so. However, he goes on to say that he hopes that women’s and gay’s testimony to complementarianism is that “we’re not treated like that.” So really, it seems more of concern about how complementarianism is portrayed than anything else.

As you celebrate “beautiful complementarianism” make sure men know that headship is a service and not a “tool for self-interest.”

Doesn’t this make you wonder why Duncan must tell pastors to address that women should be honored and men cannot use complementarianism as a tool of abuse? In relationships where each partner is treated as an equal, men do not need to be reminded that they are given a “unique responsibility.”

And, for good measure, I’ll throw this quote out to stand on its own:

When women realize that the Bible’s teaching on men being godly spiritual leaders in the home is something that is in their best interest, they are the people in local congregations that are loudly most for it.

Sigh. I haven’t realized what is in my “best interest.”

Moving on to the realizations…

Don’t assume the next generation agrees with complementarianism.

Gasp! And if they don’t?! What is a pastor to do?

Don’t panic!

A pastor must show the next generation the beauty of complementarianism by living it out in marriages and preaching it from the pulpit.

Polity is theology.

This is what it all comes down to. It’s not the death, burial and resurrection of Christ that dictates theology, but church policy and governance on complementarianism. A secondary issue becomes a primary theological issue.

Don’t overreact.

The goal here is to stay calm and carry on. Don’t restrict women’s ministries in the church and make sure that people understand that preaching/teaching of the church is to be done by “qualified men.” Apparently this is not a male/female issue, but an issue of making sure that a qualified man does the job.

Be firm in your conviction and winsome in your persuasion.

Make sure ardent feminists and gays are offended by your teaching yet are overwhelmed by the respect and love you show them.

None of this information is new. Duncan has been teaching about complementarianism for years. But I get the feeling that there has been a bit more push back toward CBMW in regard to their teaching. More women are telling their stories about suffering through abusive marriages that resulted from following strict gender role teaching. Aimee Byrd recently wrote a fantastic post about how CBMW has left complementarian women feeling betrayed by their silence.

CBMW needs to learn that showing respect and love to people, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, is what should be preached from the pulpit because it is how God commands us to live. That should be the primary issue on a pastor’s heart.  Any public display of honoring a woman or loving a gay person will only be seen as a facade if all you are doing is attempting to show that complementarianism is “not like that.”

Ex-Wife of Pedophile Speaks out about The Village Church and Josh Duggar Sex Scandals

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Ex-Wife of a pedophile shares from her heart about mishandling of sex abuse cases at The Village Church and Josh Duggar

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Insidious Behavior at The Village Church Regarding a Pedophile and His Former Wife

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Horrific story of spiritual abuse, mishandling of sex abuse, church membership, Matt Chandler, The Village Church, Jordan Root, pedophile, child pornography

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Kevin DeYoung Pushes Church Memberships and Making Vows

Church Membership, Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Making Vows, The Gospel Coalition, here we go again!

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Whose Rights are Protected in The Gospel Coalition’s Article on Churches and Current Legal Culture?

 Church Membership is being pushed in The Gospel Coalition’s recent article. Whose rights are protected?


Christina Holcomb, litigation counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition (TGC), 5 Actions Churches Should Take in a Changing Legal Culture, which was published today.

I can’t help but perk up and take notice when I read about churches and legal counsel after having been sued by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, and the church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Please note that both my former pastor and the church were plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. Here are a couple of screenshots from this lovely document that altered the course of my life:

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Back page:

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Ms. Holcomb summarizes the new threats she sees in our current culture as it relates to religious rights and freedoms:

These new political, cultural, and legal realities directly affect the church’s freedom to live out its faith. While most church decisions about internal governance or doctrine currently enjoy constitutional protection, churches cannot assume that these protections will stand indefinitely. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today’s culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church’s freedom to continue peacefully teach and live out its faith.

She gave a brief paragraph for the following points:

1. Adopt a written statement of faith about marriage.

2. Establish religious employment criteria.

3. Create a facility use policy.

4. Establish a written marriage policy.

It is the last point, “Adopt a written membership policy,” where I would like to focus.  Here is what she wrote:

5. Adopt a written membership policy.

Only those persons who “unite” with the church have consented to the church’s authority over them. As a result, churches with formal members have greater legal protection when it becomes necessary to exercise church discipline. Churches are encouraged to adopt a written membership policy that explains the procedure for becoming a church member, procedures for member discipline, and procedures for rescinding church membership.

Of course, this recommendation does not mean that a church should adopt a form of church government to which it does not subscribe. Churches can still have designated members who affirm they are committed to and part of a church body, even if there is no voting or say in church practices.

Okie-dokie, I have a couple of thoughts:

Notice in the first sentence:  Only those persons who “unite” with the church have consented to the church’s authority over them

When you become a member, you are agreeing/consenting to the church’s authority over you.

Ok, now take a look at the second sentence:  As a result, churches with formal members have greater legal protection when it becomes necessary to exercise church discipline.

Look again closely. Who has the protection?  The member or the church?

Also please note that she’s encouraging all churches to adopt a written membership policy. 


Christiana Holcomb lays it out for us pretty clearly. She says the church must protect themselves first.

But when abusive church leadership has the law on their side and they don’t agree with you, a covenant-signed church member, you could be hosed.


I was sued without being a church member (despite the fabrications you read elsewhere by Chuck O’Neal). We never signed any documentation, never went before the church body to say we were formally agreeing to be members. I have a copy of the bylaws and know what membership entails and we were not official members, but my daughter and I were still sued.

Imagine, however, being in an abusive church in which your church membership is hung over your head and you are reminded that you signed the dotted line. You may have forfeited some of your legal rights. Please think very carefully about church membership. It is not a biblical mandate. It is a modern cultural trend.

Edited to add:  It looks like Dee at The Wartburg Watch blog also had a strong reaction to this article and wrote a blog post. There are some real practical helps here: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2015/04/09/further-proof-you-are-signing-a-legal-contract-not-a-membership-covenant-courtesy-of-the-gospel-coalition/

Mark Dever’s New Book and Pastors Who Use Language to Control Their Members to Not Connect with Others Outside of Church-Approved Groups

Mark Dever, 9Marks, and other pastors using language to control and coerce members to not engage in outside activities without church endorsement

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Fallen Patriarchy Leader Doug Phillips Leaves Former Church and Becomes Member of New Church without “Letter of Transfer”

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Vision Forum’s fallen patriarchal leader, Doug Phillips, has become a member of another church without obtaining the required “letter of transfer” from the church he established and formerly led, Boerne Christian Assembly

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The Family-Integrated Church Movement is Getting Some Much-Needed Heat from Critics

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The Family-Integrated Church movement is getting some heat by critic, Pastor Shawn Mathis. Pastor Kevin Swanson is forced to make a choice: OPC or National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC)

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Pastoral Confidentiality: Does it Still Apply after Church Member Resigns?

 

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What is the responsibility of pastors for those they deem have “gone astray?” Do pastoral confidentiality rules apply even when someone resigns their church membership?

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Learn to Discern: Church Membership Accountability and Discipline of Children

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Learn to discern church websites, church discipline procedures, membership rules and accountability, attendance, and tithe requirements before joining a new church.  A lot of information can be found on church websites.

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Learn to Discern: Doctrinal Statements and Spiritual Authority

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We can learn a lot about the spiritual health of a church and how they function by reading their church governance bylaws and doctrinal statements of faith.

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Harvest Bible Chapel Files Complaint Against Blogger Paul Dohse, Resulting in Loss of YouTube Privileges

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In a concerted attempt to control others, someone from Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) filed official complaint with YouTube against blogger Paul Dohse’s YouTube account, resulting in blogger’s loss of YouTube privileges. Continue reading

What Does Non-Institutionalized Church Look Like?

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We’ve spent the last several days discussing a variety of issues stemmed from Brenda’s very important topic of institutional churches failing to meet the real needs of their people who are suffering abuse.  Quite a bit of the conversation shifted to the subject that church as an institution is the root problem as boatrocker suggests here:

For me, what I believe about the ekklesia is not based upon how the traditional church paradigm is run, but whether it should exist at all. I’m not one who was hurt by “bricks and mortar”, though I attended for 47 years, very regularly and with much involvement, as had my family for generations.

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9Marks: Church Authority over Church Members

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windmills


I’m long-winded so today you get a picture of windmills. Can you see them along the edge of the hills? Sorry about the window reflection. I’ll be driving this road today.

Over the weekend, I was reading at Sharperiron.org and commenting on a thread that went on a rabbit trail about 9Marks.  My comment got long-winded and I thought it might be good to discuss it here as I’ve never brought up 9Marks before and my concerns with this group.

9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches. (Source)

Evidently, churches can be identified as a 9Marks church if they follow their practices/guidelines, so if you want to find a church that adheres to the 9Marks guidelines, you can search here for a church in your area.

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Independent Churches = Recipe for Spiritual Abuse?

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We were taught submission at our former church:  children to parents, wives to husbands, husbands to Christ, congregants to pastor/elders, civilians to governmental authorities.


Most churches have a check and balance system in place to ensure that there are no abuses going on in church.  Here is part the doctrinal statement from our former church (located on the church website).

To each of these churches, He has given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which He has appointed (1). There are two Biblically designated offices serving under Christ in the church. Elders (males, who are also called bishops, overseers, and pastor-teachers) and deacons (males), both of whom must meet Biblical qualifications.(http://www.beavertongracebible.org/doctrine.html)

Here is part of the bi-laws discussing the responsibility of elders at our former church:

ARTICLE VI. ELDERS 

The New Testament Scripture is clear about those who have the responsibility of rule, oversight, and care of the church.  These men are called elders, overseers, and bishops.  All three different titles are used to refer to the same spiritual office of leadership in the church and are interchangeable (1 Tim 3:1-7).  We know that Christ is the head of the church and that He mediates His rule in the church through the shepherding of elders (pastors).   (Acts 20:17-18, 28-31; 1 Pet 5:1-4)

SECTION 1. THE AUTHORITY OF THE ELDERS 

A. DECISION-MAKING AUTHORITY 

All the decision-making authority of the church is vested in the elders (pastors) who shepherd the church.  The objective of any and all decisions made shall be to do the will of God regarding the matter at hand. (Prov. 11:14)

B.  DECISION-MAKING PROCESS 

Decisions shall be reached after prayerful consideration in a spirit of humility, with each elder regarding one another before himself.  All decisions are to be made unanimously.   This will at times require a dissenting elder to yield graciously to the elder body as a whole, thus allowing the Lord to direct and correct the decision made, while keeping the unity of the elder body intact in private, in public and before God.  Any decision will bebe a unified “yes” or “no” decision.  All elders agree to be unified in the final decision, “yes” or “no” in public and in private, even though it may not agree with their personal preference (Heb 13:17)

C.  SPECIAL DECISIONS 

1.  The calling of or removal of the pastor-teacher.
2.  The calling of or removal of pastoral or non-pastoral ministry staff.
3.  The church’s annual budget.
4.  Expenditures involving new property or new buildings and related indebtedness.
5.  The selection of elders.
6.  Any changes or amendments to the constitution and by-laws.

 

In one meeting with just the elders (we purposely asked that the pastor not be present at this meeting), we asked if they had ever, in 10 years of working with the pastor, brought up anything that needed to be addressed, ie,  any sinful behavior, anger, pride, relational issues, any issue whatsoever.  We weren’t asking for any specifics, just asking the elders if they in fact were holding him accountable.


This was his first pastorate.  No person is perfect and it is the job of elders to keep their pastor in check and hold him accountable.  


Elders are supposed to be on the same level as the teaching pastor.  Our pastor should not have been exempt from that close observation just as the elders were certainly not exempt from his watchful eye.   Both elders told us that they had found no reason to bring up any issue, behavioral, sin, etc, in the prior decade.   


Not even one minor issue for a first-time pastor in 10 years?  That raised a huge red flag for me.    


So, if the elders did not and were not able to bring any issue to light, correction, criticism, concern, regarding any character issue, behavior, sin, etc, then who is?   We did not see anyone fulfilling that role.   What we saw were yes-men as elders and a pastor as an authority with no other pastoral oversight.  I never got the impression that the elders were equal level with the pastor . . . ever.







As I have been reading so many stories of spiritual abuse, there seems to be a common thread.  Some of these involve independent churches with pastors and elders who are yes-men with no other accountability or oversight.  If you are in a church with elders who are yes-men”, it can be a perfect system set up for spiritual abuse.  


I’m sure this subject will come up again with the amount of stories I’ve read.  Perhaps this is something very important to consider when looking at new churches.  I had never thought to consider this when looking for a new church. Hindsight is 20/20, huh?