When I first came to our church here nearly 30 years ago, as I have told you previously, it was a mess. A mass of unconverted people who walked in sin and yet had been assured for years that they were surely fine Christians. One of those people was Randy.
Randy was a stalwart in the community. I was a newcomer, so even though people knew that Randy was no one they really wanted to associate much with, nevertheless they still gave him rank over me. That’s how these things work, as most of you know.
Randy was a liar. He was a fake and he was, well, a loser. He was a wannabe, putting himself off as a fine Christian, and yet he was anything but. Randy had connections though through other members of his family and he rode on their coat tails, seeking praise for himself yet never measuring up.
Well, as I said, Randy was a liar. I knew this firsthand because he lied to me. And it was a significant lie because in it Randy endangered the people in our church. When I told the church board about this, they blew me off. In fact, they acted quite upset that I would say such a thing about Randy. I was causing trouble for them, you know, just like a domestic abuse victim does when she reports her abuser church member to the pastor.
Randy eventually stormed out of the church one Sunday. Just before I began the worship service, he waltzed into my office, slapped a letter on my desk, and told me that I was going to have to find someone else to “carry on his ministry.” That “ministry,” by the way – if you can believe this – was to bring sex offenders from the local prison to our church services each week and leaving them unsupervised among us. Myself, the local police, and the prison officials put an end to this nonsense. How it ever got started I don’t know, but we told Randy it was over. So Randy wanted to get even. He quit, thinking he was dumping his ministry duties on us. Not real bright – there wasn’t going to be anymore “ministry” like this.
Well, the stalwarts in the church, including the church board members, were still Randy supporters. Here was a mess, as they saw it, that I had caused instead of just leaving things alone.
Fast forward now about 20 years. I received a phone call one day from a lady who had seen my book on domestic abusers hiding in churches and she wanted to talk to me. Turns out that, as we talked, I learned that she was married to – guess who – Randy. She told me about his abuse, how he ruined her economically, and other cruel ways he treated her. I could tell she was afraid of him.
And yet, THIS was the man who the church here 28 years ago, harbored. When his evil started to be exposed, what did the church leaders do? They protected him. Refused to confront him. And of course Randy, after he left our church, simply paraded on down the road to the next church where he was welcomed with open arms and lauded in later years as the most godly Christian anyone in that church knew. I warned the pastor about Randy. What do you suppose he said? You guessed it – he arrogantly told me that he was glad to have Randy in his church and that people often need to make a change and move on. And then I have no doubt that he went right out and told Randy I had called.
Christ sees it all. He walks among the lampstands of His churches. He sees. He knows. And one day it is all going to be broadcast for the entire universe to see and perfect judgment is going to be rended by the King of kings.
What an incredible validation of your work!
I am appreciative of this story. First…thanks for being discerning. It never ceases to amaze me how “the powers at be” within the church seem to “look away” from dangerous issues and people….when it will affect the money flow and step on “important people’s” feet! After my X pastor husband began his smear campaign against me. I went to my church St. Andrews Presbyterian church in Newport Beach. Ca. It was there that Pastor Chap Clark refused to meet with me or talk to me when I tried to tell him my side of my abusive marriage story. This double abuse by Chap Clark continued for over a year of me requesting help from him. I have emails documenting this. Clark actually told me to “cleanse myself” and then he may consider talking to me! Well….he continued to refuse to hear my story but allowed my abusive X to lead and teach at our church. There are many reasons why this occurred, mainly it occurred because my X was powerful…why ? Well….he raised 24 million dollars from our church for the building fund that year! Money talks and stay at home moms/pastors wives are abused! Thanks for seeing “our stories”!
Carrie – exactly. Power and money. God hates bribery and that is exactly what pastors like this are guilty of – accepting bribes and then dispensing injustice to the oppressed. That multi million dollar cathedral is a stench in God’s sight. By the way, I had forgotten that I also warned the leadership of a parachurch group (very well known one) that Randy was in about him. The response? They just blew me off and acted all offended when I told them to remove me from their mailing list.
I cannot even conceive of a “church” needing all those millions of dollars – and then to spend it on themselves. Of course they will quickly say “God blessed us. It is all for his glory.” Blah, blah, blah. Just like Laodicea, Christ spews them out of his mouth.
I’ve often wondered why we never hear stories of how those “perfect Christian marriages” are down the road. Thanks for sharing this. I hope she is free now.
Hi — I have a question about the practice “open communion.”
I grew up in a PCA church that practiced open communion every 1st Sunday of the month, and since I became an adult and moved to where I live now, I have been attending a small non-denomination church, ruled by elders and church members as the practice (the pastor has no authority) but that is by design of the church Association of Covenant Churches and Ministries (ACM) to which it is affiliated. At first I thought that seemed like a good idea, but now after reading your blog for sometime and the stories you’ve experienced, as well as some recent decisions made in the church I attend, I am questioning that arrangement….
Mostly, though I am wondering about the practice of open communion. I never thought much about it before given the PCA background and I also attended Catholic schools growing up and the occasional Catholic mass b/c my paternal grandparents were devout catholics from Eastern Europe.
And — practically speaking it seems to make sense, like how can you not practice open communion, b/c who can truly know what is in a person’s heart at the time? However, in the instance of open flagrant sin, say for example, a young adult openly living with his girlfriend while confessing to be a Christian and taking communion, it would seem to make sense not to allow that person to partake in it — but then where does one draw the line? It seems like it would open a can of worms….
Is communion different or separate from “church discipline?” Or are they part of the same thing? Is it possible to have open communion but practice strict church discipline that holds people accountable and then withholding communion if the discipline is rejected? But then, is that then no longer the practice of open communion?
I guess I kind of think that: aren’t there are bigger issues than the debate of open communion? Such as church leaders who are truly preaching the Word, congregants who are truly seeking God’s word. And then practicing church discipline with communion as part of it after the discipline is rejected?
Wouldn’t the withholding of communion also open up opportunity for so much judgment among congregants? While I know there are many people taking communion who should not, …..
Maybe the complication of this is one of the reasons why churches are actually meant to be small and intimate and never meant to be big? ….. ????? Would like to know other’s thoughts.
LG – I do not think that withholding communion is a separate action from church discipline. A person who is walking in sin and refusing to repent is to be confronted and then put out of the church. I don’t see anything in scripture that specifies keeping the person in attendance but not giving communion. Bottom line is that ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility before God to come to the Lord’s table in a right and worthy manner, in Christ and not using communion for any purpose other than remembrance of Christ. “Let a man examine himself” is Paul’s instruction to each of us in 1 Cor 11.
Thank You for your careful response to this.
I am also wondering, what if someone is not an official “member” of the church yet occasionally (on a regular basis) attends services and receives communion when attending, is the church still accountable to hold them to church discipline and withhold communion?
Yes as to church discipline. The basis for accountability is when someone professes to be a Christian. Anyone making this claim is subject to it whether they are a formal member of a local church or not. Many times churches claim they cannot discipline someone because they are not a member. That is an unbiblical notion. 1 Cor 5 makes it clear that any “so-called brother” is accountable.
Also — while I think church are more meant to be small and intimate instead of large and “governing” on the flip side it seems like that arrangement — small intimate ‘home style church” could lend itself more easily to “cults” and while I know Christ Reformation Church is anti-catholic, I noticed a recent increase of people from protestant backgrounds who are converting to catholicism and have one friend from a charismatic pentecostal type background who grew up in the south and recently converted to catholicism, pointing out that 1) they do not worship saints and 2) what she liked the most was that the catholic church, no matter where you are in the world reads from the same scriptures the same day – so that on any give day, the catholic mass around the world is reading the same scriptures and there is always an OT, NT and Psalms. That seemed so powerful to me esp when so many protestant church preach disproportionately from the NT even though 75% of the Bible is from the OT. One of the things I love about Pastor Crippen preaching is that he preaches so much from the OT — understanding the OT makes the NT come alive! For me anyways.
Also when my newly converted Catholic friend came to visit my daughter and I with 2 of her 5 kids, we attended the local catholic church (I live in a predominately catholic area where protestant churches are kind of suspiciously considered a “cult” – as was the sentiment when I lived in Europe too. I noticed at the catholic service we went to the priest preached against abortion, advocated strongly for members to sign an anti-abortion bill. I was so moved by the priests boldness — I have never heard a paster speak about this in my church. I took one of the petitions forms to bring to my church for people to sign the next week and was confused that hardly anyone signed it and did not seem interested at all in signing it…. ever since then I have been questioning if that is the right place for me to continue to be, but do not really know where to go in the alternative…..
I also think about Elizabeth Eliot a lot who wrote in one of her books how she continued to stay on in her church she grew up in throughout her adult life even as the pastors and liturgy and theology changed, so much so that she was actually persecuted in her own church. But she felt convicted to stay on even if she was the only voice of truth…..
However I have a teenage daughter now and think this makes a difference in my case and would like to find a church were there are people her age, but am also afraid of being surrounded by a lot of fake christians…..
LG – All of those things you mention that your friend likes in the Roman church are superficial. You have to get to the root of the matter and that is the GOSPEL. Rome has always taught a false gospel of justification by faith plus works. They dance around with equivocation when confronted with this but this has always been the fact of the matter. Rome is a heresy and there is no salvation to found in it. The mass is a trampling on the shed blood of Christ, insisting that the elements become the literal body and blood, thus continually re-sacrificing Christ and denying the efficacy of the once-for-all atonement of the cross. Flee from Rome. Have nothing to do with it.
Thank you for your feedback!