I have been around a few years now. I have seen a few Pastors sin and lose their calling because of sin. I have done grievous things against God also. So I am not throwing stones here. I have no condemnation for anyone who fails in their calling. I am not immune from sinning against God nor failing in my calling. In fact, today I was reminded by Pastor Nick Batzig how prone to sin I am via Ligonier Ministry’s blog. It is titled ‘Take Heed‘. Despite those facts we need to be reminded that God has set boundaries and made requirements concerning who is able to function in certain capacities with authority. I am speaking about the ordained offices of Elder and Pastor.
Church Government is a gift from God. It is given to us so that we may grow in maturity and unity. Church Government is not one Man (a Pastor) who is leading a flock of sheep. It is a part of the body. It is usually a group of men who are ordained and meet certain qualifications. So when a Leader of the Church has disqualified himself we should be able to see Christ doing his work through His ordained means. A Congregation that belongs to Christ has certain features and it shouldn’t look like a group of people following one single individual. So when some travesty happens, such as we are observing again via media reports, we should see a Church being Governed by the means Christ has ordained. I am not so sure we should be observing just one man declaring he has resigned because of some impropriety. We should see a King ruling and running His Church through the means he has appointed. And that just hasn’t been clearly seen for many of us who have lived through the infamous names of fallen Christians these past 30 years. Need I give examples? I think not.
The Church is about a King and His reconciling Gospel. It is about what God says through His written word as His Spirit teaches us. What we should be seeing during these times of crisis is Christ making a judgment through His ordained means. We should also see how people are fit into His body no matter what they have done. The weaker parts are just as important as the stronger parts according to St. Paul (1 Corinthians 12:21-26) Watching and guiding people as they fit into the Church is a challenge the Church has to deal with on a regular basis. For many aspire to be useful in the Church. And it needs ministers and laypeople to fit together as they have gifts for ministering. Also remember that everyone needs ministered to. Sometimes this challenge to see how a person fits in is hard. Today a special challenge has been given to a Church where a very caring Pastor has committed adultery. He was going through a deep trial in life and became weak and succumbed to the temptation of forbidden love.
The challenge I mention is now given to Tullian Tchividjian’s Session and Presbytery. A Session and Presbytery are parts of Presbyterian Church Polity or Church Government. That is to whom Tullian Tchividjian is responsible to. And they are responsible for taking care of his family and dealing with the recent situation as it impacts the Church. Now that may sound callous and cold but from my experience as one who has sat under Church discipline and nurture, it is one of the most freeing and nurturing things I have ever experienced. It was also a place where my family and I received a world of protection from others who opposed me and a Devil who desired to devour me and mine. There is grace, mercy, and protection when one is humble and submits to God and His ordained servants. God gives grace to the humble and He tells us through the book of Hebrews to be careful and listen to our Elders. (Hebrews 13:7-17)
One thing that has been missed during this type of situation in the past is the need to understand that when an Ordained Man falls into great sin (as a Pastor committing adultery) he is no longer qualified to fill a position of Ordained Elder any longer. I mention this fresh situation because I have seen defrocked men avoid the scriptures and seek to be restored as Elders just a few years after their indiscretion. I have also seen Church Members think they are helping these fallen men by getting them refocused on their abilities and usefulness so that they may return to their Prior Position. Of course the usual course of events start with what appears to be repentance and confession. Then the Public Relation campaigns start intentionally or unintentionally as others allow these men back into the pulpit. It seems they are being endorsed as men worthy again to fulfill the office of Pastor / Elder. Unfortunately, the Church becomes more focused on a man’s talents and ability than upon the requirements God has set.
The Church is weakened because the Church has refused to hear what God says about the station this person is not allowed to occupy any longer. Either that or they are not informed enough to understand what God’s requirements are concerning the office of Elder / Pastor. Because of those situations God’s grace is presumed where it shouldn’t be. And I would even go as far to say it is a Grace that God hasn’t bestowed. It is no grace at all to restore a person into an office he is now disqualified to occupy. In fact it is injurious and confusing to many who have had to take part in the past experience, especially when divorce and remarriage was an end result. That just compounds the whole thing even worse. And yes, I have experienced that. No, I didn’t commit adultery but it has touched my life through my parents and my marriage.
Let me explain with a bit more clarity what I mean by the above. The Church needs to recognize that any man that has this type of failure in his life is now unfit for Ordained Eldership for the rest of his life. That doesn’t mean he can’t be useful to God and be a blessing to the world and the body of Christ. It means he is not qualified to Pastor nor be an Ordained Elder in the Church Christ is building. Let me reiterate, that that doesn’t mean he is not an important part of the Church any longer. It might be quite the opposite. In fact, he may actually become more beneficial and effectual for the Church now. Even more so after he has matured through repentance and reconciliation. But according to Titus 1:6 and a few other places where Eldership qualifications are noted, this man is now unqualified to fulfill the role of Ordained Pastor / Elder.
Here is Saint Paul’s word to Titus.
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. (Titus chapter 1:5,6)
This is how John Calvin explains the phrase, if any man be blameless.
“When he says, that a bishop must be ἀνέγκληος, blameless, he does not mean one who is exempt from every vice, (for no such person could at any time be found,) but one who is marked by no disgrace that would lessen his authority. He means, therefore, that he shall be a man of unblemished reputation. 218″ John Calvin Commentary on Titus
In the past I have seen the body Christ be overly anxious to pull up along side and help mend the fallen. That is very commendable and even commanded by God.
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
But church members might desire to go too far in a fallen Pastor’s life. They might have so much affection for this person they may actually desire for that person to be restored to their previous life and position. But that is going against God’s will. I have made that mistake before also. It is easy. Especially when a person has played a significant part in our growth as a Christian and as a person.
So what needs to happen now? Well, that is for the Church to decide. They will pull up along side and have to take care of all the congregation as well as Tullian and his relationships. Accountability and discipline will be set in order so that he may become useful and mature through this very hard trial in life.
I have seen an anti-nomian spirit take over the Church. Many have disregarded Titus 1:6. It seems ok to some to restore men who aren’t blameless as Pastors. It is okay in their minds eye if a Pastor falls into adultery and is restored back into Ministry. After all God forgives sin doesn’t he? Isn’t the Gospel about restoration? They shouldn’t waist their talents and gifts should they? They claim God has forgiven and restores ministry. But my experience is that kind of thinking only makes a mockery of the Church as they neglect Titus 1:6 and similar passages. It neglects the inspired scripture of God. It also spreads a truncated false gospel message. My kids now can say, “Well what about so and so Dad? He got away with it. (Adultery, Divorce, Remarriage) If God will forgive him, he will forgive me.” Time heals all wounds doesn’t it? We are commanded to forgive as we have been forgiven. Of course I don’t allow my boys to understand the Gospel that way and they know the hypocrisy of that anti-nomian position.
I will note that a lot of those quotes above are taken out of context and don’t relate to the topic at hand. Of course there is forgiveness in Christ. There is deep love and care to be overjoyed by. But also know that there are a lot of talented and gifted people who are not called to fulfill ordained positions. But that doesn’t take away from there ability to be used of God.
It seems presumptuous sin has crept into the Church and a little leaven has leavened the whole now. It breaks my heart. I hope God is merciful toward TT. I hope TT realizes what he has done and is genuinely able to repent. A hardened anti-nomian theology and heart is hard to overcome. I have seen it too many times in my life. But all things are possible through Christ.
For more reading on previous posts concerning topics related to this you can click here.
Tullian Tchividjian, Michael Horton, David Murray / Depraved Christianity / Antinomianism