On September 30, 2018 Justin Pearson of Sojourn Fairfax gave a sermon on joyful partnership. In the talk he also explained why you covenant with the local church, and encouraged people to covenant with Sojourn Fairfax. The message was disturbing in several ways. First of all Justin is ignoring the covenant scandals out of Matt Chandler’s The Village Church or Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia. Also what the members of Sojourn Fairfax need to understand is that while they will be subjected to church discipline, Justin Pearson and Edward Hunt are above church discipline and it doesn’t apply to them.
“This kind of partnership is not something you can do from a distance. Its not something you can do from the sidelines. Its not something you can phone in as it requires an all in mentality. Because when the world around is you is pressing in, when the world around you is pulling you apart its critical for you and for me to know that we are not in this alone, but that there are a group of people there for you and you are there for that group of people.”
Justin Pearson from his September 30, 2018 sermon.
“A text like this is why we practice covenant membership as a church family. Its why we believe its so important. Church membership is not about moving your name from one list to another list. At its most basic level church membership is about commitment to the Gospel and to one another. And when we take it seriously and pursue it meaningfully its a statement a declaration that says I am for Christ. And I am for Christ in you and I am not going anywhere.”
Justin Pearson from his September 30, 2018 sermon.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Philippians 1:3-5 ESV
On September 30, 2018 I attended Sojourn Fairfax. I did so because I am going to start to write about the issues with the Sojourn Network. You can read an overview of the network in, “An Overview of the Sojourn Network out of Louisville, Kentucky.” You can also study the documents that were given to me that deal with the Sojourn Network in, “Sojourn Church Network Documents.” I wanted to sit through a service and observe and study it. This is the first time I have seen Justin preach. The last time I physically saw him was in the 2005 to 2006 time-frame at McLean Bible. I had raised issues with the small group program and he took it as an affront to his authority. So he physically yelled at me in the basement of McLean Bible in front of what was the coffee shop. In light of Sojourn I guess he was just practicing to be like his idol at the time, Mark Driscoll. This post is analysis of Justin Pearson’s talk on September 30, 2018 called “Joyful Partnership”
Overview of What Justin Pearson Preached
Justin started out his sermon by discussing his personal love of baseball. He spoke about attending a Washington Nationals game with Max Scherzer as the pitcher who was approaching 300 strikeouts in a season. You can read about the details of that in this USA Today article. When it happened Justin talked about how puzzled he was that the catcher was interviewed. Later on, he said that it made perfect sense especially as the catcher helped Max meet his record. It was an example of partnership. Partnership is key to the Gospel. A good example is of the joyful partnership between Paul and his local church. Paul as Justin said, was a man of prayer. He prayed prayers of thanksgiving regularly. But Justin likes to stop an define things as he does throughout the sermon. So her started by asking what is joy? He then goes back to Galatians in talking about the fruit of the spirit. Paul has joy because God is great.
Then he goes on to ask if those there pray for each other. Justin said that as a pastor it is a privilege to pry for people in the congregation. He is thankful for the mean being discipled. He goes on to speak about how he prays that the good work will continue in people at Sojourn and he used some examples of prayer that he saw in the congregation.
The sermon that shifts to asking what is partnership? After all as Justin says when most people think of partnership they think of business relationships. Partnership is translated to mean fellowship. But what is fellowship? Justin spoke about how many people think of the fellowship hall in church and coffee and donuts. For Paul his passion was the Gospel and we must never move on from the Gospel. The Gospel is everything as the Gospel changes people. He then made a quick example of people like Lydia, to the slave girl as examples of transformed lives. Gospel works best in a family relationship and coming together as one. After all partnership means that you covenant together in membership. You go all in, and covenant together. Membership in the local church is what community should be. Everyone should be committed to each other, after all Justin and Edward are covenanted to the members. All partners are members and membership gives glory to Jesus. Covenant membership is joyful partnership. Commitment to one another is a commitment to God. And whether you are a college student of someone who PCS to the Washington, D.C. area for a two year assignment (US Military) they should engage in membership also.
The Problem with Membership Covenants as this Blog has Documented with Acts 29
Justin Pearsons’ talk sounds good to the undiscerning ear. It looks promising and even plays om what most humans want. The need of belonging to be met. But in light of the culture of Acts 29 there are many problems that exist. It should be noted that as of this writing of December 5, 2018 that Sojourn is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Acts 29 and the Sojourn Network out of Louisville. According to the SBC there are 180 attenders and 98 covenant members. When you look at the culture of Acts 29 and how it has used membership covenants its stands as a warning to anyone attending Sojourn Fairfax. In 2015 you had the Karen Hinkley situation at The Village Church at Flower Mound. Karen had annulled her marriage to her husband, who was addicted to child pornography and sexually attracted to younger individuals. The Village Church used the membership covenant to attempt to practice church discipline on Karen, even pursuing her from Texas to South Carolina. You can read about that situation in, ‘“The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants.’ You can read more at, “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?” Now looking at how controlling an Acts 29 church can be we can also look to Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church in Richmond. Bryan Laughlin is responsible for the Acts 29 district that Justin Pearson is involved in. In many ways Justin Pearson reports to Bryan Laughlin. This blog has written about Remnant Church and the issues it faces. One of the many issues that comes out of Remnant is a church that is so controlling that it has even allegedly directed members on how to turn down a solid job offer that is extended to a member. For me that is very much cult like when a church is trying to interfere in your ability to accept a job. You can read more about that in, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.“
This all raises question in my mind about Justin Pearson’s Sojourn Church. Those questions are deeply reinforced especially when you consider the culture that shaped Justin. If someone at Sojourn Church Fairfax discovered that their husband was into child pornography and breaking the law, and they initiated divorce proceedings, would they face church discipline? I am not trying to be difficult but based on the history of Acts 29 I am trying to ask a serious question in my mind. Those membership covenants you can find in the Sojourn Church network documents which are also linked in this page at the beginning of the post. The reason why Justin Pearson wants people to sign membership covenants is so that he can control them. One of the most important factors that humans crave, that is what is the core of the sermon Justin gave. Its called Lordship # 101.
Neither Justin Pearson or Edward Hunt Will ever Face Church Discipline
But here is the biggest reason why people at Sojourn Church Fairfax should reject what Justin Pearson taught. The fact of the matter is church discipline will only be for the people in the seats at Sojourn. The one standing in the pulpit will be exempt. I am reminded of what George Orwell said in Animal Farm. “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” What does that mean? Well the animals of Sojourn are equal but the leadership is above them and exempt from the rules that they enforce on others. Justin Pearson or Edward Hunt who are the pastors of Sojourn Church Fairfax will never face church discipline. Neither will the leadership of any Sojourn or Acts 29. Its the reason why Jason Conner at Portico Arlington will never face church discipline. That also applies to Bill Riedel at Redemption Hill on Capitol Hill. Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin will never face church discipline at Redeemer Arlington. Church discipline will never be applied to a leader in an Acts 29 or Sojourn Church. A good example in the Sojourn Network is Dave Harvey. Dave’s former Sovereign Grace Church in Glen Mill, Pennsylvania allegedly covered up child sex abuse. Did Dave ever face church discipline? No to the contrary he was actually promoted to the Executive Director of the Sojourn Network. That might be the lesson for Justin Pearson in all this, if you want to go anywhere in evangelicalism the key is to cover up child sex abuse. Then you are promotable. That is it for the day guys!