There is something that has been on my mind for a while and it leads to today’s post. It is my contention that many Evangelical Christians have a flawed understanding of what peace is. Peace is not just avoiding conflict but its also the presence of justice. If you are in a church that has problems but are afraid to speak out you are not creating peace, instead I would suggest you are enabling injustice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
Romans 13:1 NLT
Appoint judges and officials for yourselves from each of your tribes in all the towns the Lord your God is giving you. They must judge the people fairly. 19 You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly. 20 Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 NLT
An issue of an old American Atheist, notice how Mars Hill Seattle is mentioned on the cover.
This is a post that I have longed to do for a while and its the creation of several circumstances over the past year. Let me list some of the situations that led to this quick post.
- In my own experience with Redeemer Arlington, a former Sovereign Grace Church I was struck by how closure was elusive. There was an emphasis on the right words by Jordan Kauflin but no activity to back those words up by Andrew White with any action. As long as Andrew said he is “sorry” that is all the mattered. He didn’t neutralize the false accusation or do the effort needed to resolve it. As such peace was elusive, ultimately denied and I feel stuck. Yet Jordan Kauflin says Andrew was sorry.
- I’ve had a lot of interesting interactions with people over the past year in a lot of differing situations. From the Evangelical Free Church of America to various church planting movements such as Acts 29. There are people who contact me and tell me about a certain situation in their church but then they feel like they need to preserve “the peace.” They feel its wrong to speak out and as such they stay quiet about what is going on. A church could be theologically hijacked, unhealthy, or more but they feel the need to preserve “the peace” and not say anything at all. Families are hurting, relationships affected, and pain is coming out of the organization but they talk about preserving “the peace.”
- Other people have a sense of loyalty to organizations that makes me wonder…”why are you loyal them?” These are organizations that don’t respect, care or do incredible harm.
To Say the Lord will One Day Judge and Leave People in Pain is a Sin I Propose
All too often many evangelical Christians will often say something to the tune of the following. “The Lord will judge _____________ one day…” and leave it at that. That is where they will drop it and not proceed farther. Many injustices abound in churches, denominations or more; yet because of this passive approach it leaves and creates a profound amount of harm. I have had the pleasure of working with a lot of people here at this blog but those from the Elverson, Pennsylvania area who contacted me and told me what Steve Estes orchestrated in Community Evangelical Free Church have my deepest respect. In a small town where everyone knows everyone and people grew up together a number of people challenged the corrupt authority of Steve Estes and the Stoltzfus family leadership. When Steve Estes orchestrated the church discipline of an alleged rape victim to protect his son Brock Estes and preserve his job as a jail guard at the Berks County Jail after all that went down and the national Evangelical Free Church refused to do anything that is when they contacted me. To all those people in the Elverson and Morgantown area that I have gotten to know, I salute their courage and faith. What they have done shows their faith, love for the Lord and more. They did not sit by and enable the situation instead they helped bring light to darkness.
As I have written about the Evangelical Free I have had inklings or stories come to my attention or people who have contacted me about differing situations. Its deeply disturbing what I hear. For example say I am contacted by someone in Kansas and they tell me that a Neo-Calvinist pastor attempted to hijack their church and in the process he tore it apart drove away a lot of families and divided them. Then he leaves a mess in his wake and moves on and goes to another church. I would propose that members of that former church have a moral obligation to speak out and let the greater church at large know what happened. Why do this? You do this to prevent another Evangelical Free congregation in Wichita, Colby, Great Bend, Salina, Chanute, Manhattan or Kansas City, Kansas from going through the same thing. You preserve and protect other families and keep them from being harmed. You also do this because you care about the faith and care enough so that other people’s lives will not be harmed. You also speak out so that unhealthy trends and issues in the Evangelical Free Church of America are brought to light. How can you fix something if you don’t know its broken?
But let me propose this as well. Spiritual abuse is a sin also. Its a sin for a pastor to abuse his authority. Its a sin for a church to cover up a child molestation. Its a sin for a church to practice illegitimate church discipline. Its a sin to cover up a church hijacking or packing of the elder board with “yes men.” All of this is a sin. When spiritual abuse happens and people go along with it they are complicit either in supporting the church, leadership or more as they became actors as well. Another factor to consider is that in these situations there really are no decisions. Even a decision not to get involved is a decision to support a problematic church or organization. To not choose in the end is a choice. And while the Lord will one day judge I believe the Lord ordained the court system and called for us to be agents of change. Now please note I am not speaking of political change, I am speaking about the church and what happens internally. We are called to stand against in-justice and we should do so because we care for the Gospel. We should speak up for those who don’t have a voice. At the top of this post you will find the cover for American Atheist. In that magazine is an article about Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle and the financial issues that occurred. I picked up that magazine when I attended the Reason Rally this past June. To go on the record I am grateful that they wrote about and featured the problems at Mars Hill Seattle as it was long overdue. And I hope that more atheists and skeptics do engage and point out such problems.
What is Peace? How I Look at it
While many evangelicals will toss around Romans 12:18 out of context I need to ask the following question. What is peace? Its much more than Romans 12 as that barely scratches the surface. I would propose that peace is the following. Peace is not just the absence of conflict but it is the presence of justice. So what does that mean? Peace is knowing that a church has the proper protocols in place to prevent a child from getting sexually abused. Peace is a church that reacts swiftly and quickly to domestic violence allegations. Peace is a church being transparent about its finances or its Elder Board candidates and letting the congregation have the final say and who can be chosen and who can serve by voting. Peace is being consistent about church discipline and doing it in the most extreme situations when all other actions have failed. Peace is being transparent about theology and what you believe and not concealing or hiding anything at all. Peace is the full measure of justice in a congregation of a spiritual community. Justice weighs and is a check to peace. I propose that we should remember this…when one suffers all suffer. When one person is denied justice in the congregation and the spiritual community is denied justice. In these days given the networks and the way churches are linked its key to remember that when one part of the community is hurt, the entire community is hurt.
By having a system where you have justice that will help make many sections amenable, stable and healthy. When you have justice people are listened to and the system admits its errors. When you have justice the system is content and you have actual pastors who are shepherds and churches that are good communicators of the Gospel. That’s what is amounts to in many ways. I want to write this post as a challenge for those of you out there. To speak your mind, be bold and courageous and confront injustice. You can only avoid a problem for so long and to continually support a bad church like Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania or Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee is idolatry in the end. The Lord I believe gave us the court system to process people like Rick Trotter, or Brock Estes. Justice and peace go hand in hand. Even Jesus turned up tables in the temple and that’s what blogs like mine and others do…is overturn the tables in the temple, which today is the modern day evangelical Christian church. Please leave a comment below and know that I love you guys!