Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours. I'll start posting again after the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who's Getting Hurt?

One may ask that what does the MBC's decision to defund Acts 29 affiliated churches hurt? The Great Commission for one, Kevin Larson for another.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Two posts in one day, I think that's a record or something. Our electric has stabilized, which is a blessing, but I think our electric may well be the only stable thing in the state. Breaking news breaks fast in our electronic age, and yesterday’s Missouri Baptist Executive Board meeting has already made it’s rounds. So, I thought I would weigh in on the subject.

For the past hour or so, I’ve been thinking about people in my past. People in my Southern Baptist Sunday School class growing up, people in my Southern Baptist youth group, people who went to the (Southern) Baptist Student Union with me, and on, and on. I think about them, and I am sad, because sitting here right now, out of the several hundred people I’ve come across through those encounters, I can count the number of those still in a Southern Baptist church on two hands. I have in my short 29 years, seen my generation make nothing less than a great exodus from SBC/MBC churches. I still keep up with a great many of them. Some are in independent churches, many are in nondenominational churches, some fled to mainline denominations, though admittedly those numbers are few. They’re active in their churches – deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers – they all tithe, and they’re deeply committed to their church (and conservative innerantists to their core). Why did they leave their SBC/MBC churches originally?

Too much fighting.

Too much bickering over things that didn’t matter.

Splitting theological hairs while ignoring major spiritual issues.

And as much as I hate to admit it, they have way too many examples to prove that they’re right.

Yesterday, they were given another example when the MBC Executive board voted to defund all church plants that had any association with the Acts 29 network.

I honestly don’t know what to say about this development. Right now, I am pastoring an established church – but in all honesty if I were to plant, I would go through Acts 29. And if the MBC didn’t want to go along? I guess I would be a part of that sad exodus. Right now I am frustrated at this development. Right before the MBC annual meeting at Tan Tar A, there was a solemn assembly that called on God to send a revival. I would dare say that the Acts 29 network may well be the start of a nation wide revival – after all, just look at the success they’ve had in areas of extreme darkness. Well, we found that revival, and we’ve voted against it. I suppose God should send a revival of our liking – otherwise He might be next.

So far, these gentlemen have voiced the problems raised by this move much better than I could, their blogs are worth the time to read them.

Micah Fries: Acts 29 Is Banned
Scott Lamb: Missouri Baptist Convention vs. Acts 29
Tom Ascol: Missouri Baptists Axe Acts 29
Timmy Brister: When I Am Ashamed to be a Southern Baptist
Steve McCoy: No Funding for SBC/Acts 29 Church Plants in Missouri

Winter Is Upon Us

At the moment I have parted ways with the roughly 160,000 other people across the Mid West in that I (for the moment) have electricity. Ice is all around us and I have a particularly large limb that I must remove from my roof. So, there will be no substantive post this week - just a plea for prayer for the folks around the Jeff. City/Eldon area.
Also, for the first time I have decided to allow "anonymous" posts to my blog. One thing that I do ask from you, my readers, is that you will have the decencey to sign your name when you comment. If anonymous bombs start going off around here, we'll go back to allowing only comments from those with blogging accounts.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Pastor and His Divorce

Any time we apply for a job or a duty, there are qualifications that we must meet. If you want to be a lawyer, you need a law degree and you need to pass the Bar exam. If you want to be a soldier, then you need to be 18 or older, have no past felonies or drug use, and be below a certain weight.

Now this begs the question: what are the qualifications of a pastor? Typically when this question is asked, there are two passages of scripture that people tend to turn to. They are:

1 Timothy 3:1-7 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.


Titus 1:6-9 if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

There are many things in these passages we could discuss, but for our discussion today, I would like to focus on that one phrase "the husband of one wife." What does this mean? Does that mean that a pastor cannot be divorced? Or does it mean something else?

For the sake of discussion, I will show my cards early – I do believe that this means that a divorced man is indeed disqualified for pastoral ministry.

Now I know the first argument that people usually raise against this interpretation. They will say "Oh no, these passages don’t forbid divorce, they forbid polygamy – having more than one wife at a time." And no, that is simply not true.

Let’s consider the context that Paul was writing in for a moment. Paul was writing to Timothy & Titus, both of whom were living and ministering within a Roman context. They were in the Roman empire, and bound by Roman laws, and one law that the Romans were very serious about was that there was to be no polygamy in Roman lands – it was strictly forbidden, in fact, it was a capital offence. The Romans were so serious about their ban on Polygamy, that in 34 BC when Mark Antony, a member of the Roman Triumvirate, went to Egypt to marry Cleopatra, the Roman Senate clamored for war if he did not first divorce his Roman wife. If you were subject to Roman laws, you were married to one woman at a time – there simply was no polygamy, and if there was, you had better make sure that no one found out about it.
With this in mind, why on earth would Paul write to Timothy and Titus, warning them against polygamy? The answer is that he wasn’t, he was writing to warn them against divorce, which was a major problem in the Roman Empire. In fact, some estimate that the divorce rate in the Roman Empire was somewhere around 80-85%.

Given the context of Paul’s writing it is fairly easy to deduce that Paul is not arguing that pastors should only have one wife at a time. Instead, he is arguing that they should only have one wife – period.

Another argument against my position is that it somehow cheapens Christ’s atonement. The question is asked, "What if a person was divorced before they got saved? What if after they were saved they felt called to be a pastor? If Christ has forgiven them, shouldn’t we?" At first this argument sounds very noble and holy, but on a closer examination it turns very hollow. First off, who is arguing that Christ’s atonement cannot cover a divorcee? I have yet to see that argument made, and I am certainly not making it here. We’re not talking about salvation here; we’re talking about qualification for service. The one thing that people forget when they make this argument is that while sins may be forgiven, they still have consequences. I have seen drunks find a wonderful salvation in Christ – which was followed by years of struggle with alcohol and its physical side effects. I have seen people hit the bottom of the barrel in jail, only to turn and trust in Christ – but that doesn’t mean that they should then just be let go. At the same time, yes a person can be divorced and forgiven – but that doesn’t mean that they are qualified for service. You may feel some inner turmoil over this, and believe me I can understand it – this argument almost moved me away from the no divorce position. But Christ’s forgiveness of sin does not alone qualify one for service, and if you don’t believe me then just wait until the ex-pedophile comes to your church wanting to serve in your children’s ministry.

Finally, the question must be asked, why is this such a big deal? Why would God not allow divorcees to serve as pastors? I believe the answer lies in the phrase "must be above reproach." If you will notice, divorce is not the only sin that disqualifies a man from pastoral ministry. These passages are clear that a pastor should not have any serious, public, ongoing sin in their lives. A person may be greedy in life, but if they want to be a pastor, then they must expunge that sin from their lives, and stop loving money. A person may be an alcoholic in life, but if they want to be a pastor, then they have got to turn away from that sin, and stop being addicted to wine. And herein we find the problem with divorce. If you are divorced, you cannot turn away from that sin, and stop being divorced. Once you’re divorced, you will continue in that sin for the rest of your life.* You may remarry, but that does not change the fact that you are divorced. You may get saved, but that does not change the fact that you are still divorced. Divorce by its very nature is a serious, public, ongoing sin. And any serious, public, ongoing sin in a person’s life disqualifies him for the pastoral ministry.

*Disclaimer: You can actually stop being divorced. This is done by going back to your wife, being reconciled to her, and remarrying her. I have a friend who has seen this in his own life. He was divorced, got saved, and came to realize how bad he had been to his wife. He went to his then ex-wife to be reconciled; she forgave him, and because neither had remarried, were able to restore their marriage to each other. Today he serves as a pastor, and Biblically speaking does so with integrity, as he has lived up to Paul’s call on the pastor to be the husband of just one wife.

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