Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pastor's Discernment

I know a Pastor by the name of Pastor Ben Asis. He’s a well known Pastor in Mindanao. He’s known for being strict and being firm on his stand as a Baptist. One younger pastor even commented that the more Pastor Ben grows old, the more he becomes strict. The Old Church pastor even said that he never saw Pastor Ben smiled. His firm stance was attacked by cults (he has a radio ministry). He’s so strict that one even said that the church would be much bigger if not for his being strict. One even said that he’s stricter than the Pastor of Christian Bible Baptist Church, Dr. Ed Laurena.

He’s now in Heaven. He died last year. His firm stance causes the ire of cults in Mindanao. One time, in his radio broadcast, he attacked one cult group. He received threats from them.
At first glance, people from the Baptist circles will admire him, until I say that his firm stance made him at odds also with another Baptist churches.
I know a group of church people (if I’m not mistaken, the church itself) whom he decided to cut his fellowship. At first glance, you’ll consider it unfair. Honestly, I don’t know why Pastor Ben did that and the ground for his disciplinary action. Pastor Ben was vindicated for his strict judgment after his death. How? These church people later moved to another church with a friendlier Pastor. These church people are now headaches of that Pastor. Why? These church people (they’re even church kids. How sad because I myself am a church kid myself) caused discord quite a number of times. Their Pastor right now is kind enough and patient enough not to give them “severe” discipline as “severe” (I used quotation marks; you’ll see later why. Just read carefully these posts). One member suggested to give them a discipline they’ll never forget (firm, but compassionate. Church discipline should not be punitive, remember?). After all, Biblically speaking, Paul said to mark them which cause divisions (it’s just sad that Baptist churches nowadays focus so much on disciplining a fornicator, sometimes even drastic, and ignoring to discipline a talebearer for causing discord and divisions when usually, these types of people are the main reasons why there are members who stopped attending the church. In fornication, you destroy the church’s testimony. In causing discords and division, you are dividing the brethren themselves). Their current Pastor is so kind he didn’t do that. After all, he said that he doesn’t have any proof to execute disciplinary actions to them.
Recently, one of those church people cause another stir among the brethren: that member caused two single ladies to fight each other to the point that it rattled the church itself, especially that church’s Youth Ministry. There is also another thing that that person allegedly did, but I don’t want to mention it (and that thing is the main reason why the Pastor is having a problem). Now, the Pastor and also the youth ministry head are having a hard time. Yes, as a Baptist Christian, we should love and forgive. However, as a church, there should be order. There should be discipline. Still, I understand why there is no action yet given: there’s no proof pointing against that person. That person outsmarted the Pastor and the youth ministry leader. It doesn’t matter anymore. God will take care of that person. A true believer in Christ will not stay in his/her deeds or else, according to I John, there’s a sin unto death. Why is the consequence not so swift? It’s because God is kind and gracious. [Note: I’m no fault finder. I’m just being candid. After all, I never mentioned anyone except Pastor Ben Asis, whom I praised.]

NOW MY POINT IS REALLY THIS: YOUR PASTOR, NO MATTER HOW STRICT HE IS, IS YOUR PASTOR. YOU SHOULD RESPECT HIS DECISIONS, NO MATTER HOW STRICT, ODD, OR “BIZARRE” THEY ARE. AFTER ALL, GOD GAVE PASTORS A DISCERNING SPIRIT ON THINGS. MOST OF THE TIME, THESE DISCERNMENTS LEAD TO THEIR DECISION THAT THEY THEMSELVES CAN NOT EXPLAIN. I EXPERIENCED A SEVERE DISCIPLINE DECIDED BY THE OLD CHURCH PASTOR. HOWEVER, NEVER DID I HATE HIM. THE DISCIPLINE THAT WAS GIVEN TO ME MAY LOOK DRASTIC, BUT I TRUSTED HIS DISCERNMENT ON THE MATTER. HE MAY HAVE DISCERNED THAT IF HE WILL NOT DO THAT DRASTIC ACTION, THE CHURCH ITSELF WILL SUFFER (maybe because he discerned “those people’s” attitude and background. They caused discord to their own church, remember?).
PASTOR BEN ASIS’ DECISION MAY LOOK DRASTIC AND SO STRICT DURING THOSE TIMES, BUT MAYBE HE DISCERNED SOMETHING, AND HE HIMSELF MAY NOT HAVE EXPLAINED THAT CLEARLY. NOW, HIS DISCERNMENT IS RIGHT.
BRETHREN IN CHRIST, SUPPORT YOUR PASTOR’S DECISIONS. PLEASE DON’T VOTE YOUR PASTOR OUT. I’VE SEEN MANY TIMES THAT THOSE CHURCHES WHO VOTED THEIR PASTORS OUT OFTEN ENDED UP NOT BEING BLESSED BY GOD. AFTER ALL, IF THEY ARE WRONG (IF THEY ARE WRONG), GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF HIM. OUR RESPONSIBILITY IS TO SUPPORT HIS DECSIONS. THE MERE FACT THAT HE SURRENDERED HIS LIFE TO GOD AND GAVE UP HIS CAREER IS ENOUGH REASON TO RESPECT HIM AND HIS DECISIONS. INSTEAD, MAKE SUGGESTIONS. IF NOT, PRAY FOR HIM TO GIVE HIM MORE WISDOM AND STRENGTH TO LEAD AND DECIDE ON THINGS.
SUPPORT YOUR PASTOR AND HIS DECISIONS. HE’S ALL YOU’VE GOT AS YOUR RESPECTIVE CHURCH’S LEADER.
HE’S THE PASTOR THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO YOU.

Friday, September 5, 2008

An Admirable Character of a Pastor that I know

It is such a wonderful atmosphere that a church executed its disciplinary actions with love. In addition, it is a wonderful site to behold when a church, through the leadership of the pastor, gave remedial, not punitive, discipline.

I know of a pastor who demonstrated such. I saw with my two eyes how he decided on the matter regarding one case. (If you’re a follower of my posts here, you’ll know what I am talking about. I’ll not explain it further in order to save space) Time and time again, he mentioned that his desire is reconciliation of the three parties. After all, all of them have their own shares of mistakes.

The young preacher was never given a severe discipline. Instead, his financial support will be suspended for 6 months (depending on the church approval). Still, his authority to preach in the province will stay. Personally, this is a second to the young preacher. No, I don’t find the discipline liberal. After all, he committed the sin in the new church, not in that place. Besides, the memory of fornication will haunt him (that alone is a consequence is in itself), even if pastor gave him a “light discipline”. No, the discipline in my own opinion is not light; it is just appropriate. You can’t give the exact discipline to everyone. Yes, the forms of discipline have similarities, but still, you can’t give the very exact discipline to everyone. This is not booth camp; this is a local Baptist church you are talking about.

Still, I can’t help but think how God have been gracious to that man. If his case happened in another church, he’ll receive not only freezing financial support, but also giving up the pastoral post (OR taking away the authority to preach from him), a public apology, and worst, excommunication. However, I salute the Pastor’s character for deciding like that to him. He demonstrated forgiveness to the congregation, and at the same time justice.

About the other party, he said that he is fully aware of the girl’s character, that she’s capable of making up stories. Still, the pastor’s character and compassion for his members are admirable: he told me that despite of that, we need to help her. He added that if we will not help her, her life will become more miserable. The only way to help her is give her the justice she deserves. Well, let’s face it. It’s fornication. Let’s face the harsh reality: when woman flirts and the man resisted (and he never mentioned it to anyone), nothing really happened. When woman flirts and man gives in, the end culprit will always be the man. Besides, he’s a leader, a preacher. He’ll surely receive more disciplinary action. To whom much is given, much is required.

Still, even at the last minute, the girl said that the preacher is lying and vice versa. I admit, I don’t want to conclude who really is telling the truth. After all, it will be revealed one of these days. However, I can’t help but observe something: young preacher is repentant. I can’t discern any repentance from the girl. Still, maybe that assumption of mine is wrong. Besides, a person may prove to the whole world that he or she is right and the other party is wrong. Still, the true test of a person’s character lies if he or she will continue serving God. Yes, you may say to the whole world that you’re the victim, but if you quit serving God through the church ministry, it’s nothing. Putting it bluntly, I will prefer a repentant person (as long as it is genuine, only God knows that) who continues serving God (after proper discipline) than a victim who quits serving God, and blames it on the so called hypocrisy of the brethren. After all, a saved person is just a sinner saved by grace. At the end of the day, it is a Christian’s mandate to come to God and confess his sins and shortcomings.

By the way, the parties also involved will be given appropriate disciplines for their bad conduct. I will not mention what are those, but let me tell you this: again, the discipline is appropriate, not liberal.

For me, this is a very good example, if not an excellent one, of unbiased decision that is still love-driven. The pastor also added that he doesn’t like to do it, but he needs to do those actions. For me, it is the appropriate attitude when a brethren needs to be disciplined. There are times (I myself am guilty of this sometimes) that we are driven with hate to a person (despite his repentance) that when a discipline was executed, man, we seemed to like it to the point of having a figurative teeth grinding.

(I still can’t forget a statement that if I’ll finally be allowed to make my public confession and apology and the execution of discipline, the MOTHER OF MY EX WANTED TO WITNESS IT. The Old Church pastor assured me that it is not possible because they’re not Old Church members, but hey, with her rebellious attitude, she can break “church loyalty and protocol” and go straight to the Old Church. I understand the consequence of my actions, but her attitude is inappropriate and hate driven.)

Yes, it is normal to feel that way, but not all normal tendencies are right!

For me, the decision of that pastor regarding these brothers and sisters in Christ is appropriate in this case. Other Baptist church will see this as liberal. In other Baptist churches, that preacher might even be excommunicated. Some will put this into technicalities. However, this is the beauty of the independence of local Baptist churches, self governance. Besides, your approach in church A may not be applicable to church B. This is where “judge not” principle is also applicable. You can’t compare one Baptist church with another Baptist church. Each Baptist church is different from each other. Yes, basically the doctrine MUST BE the same (salvation, baptism, deity of Christ, etc), but because of different geographical, cultural, and even economical, things like church discipline should be solely given at the discretion of that local Baptist church’s pastor. Yes, he can seek counsel from other pastors, but at the end, it’s up to him. For me, his decision regarding the people involved is admirable. If I’ll mention the details, you’ll understand what I am talking about. I do really pray that God will reward him for his kindness and forgiving spirit and for putting reconciliation and restoration as topmost priority in church discipline.

(Side notes before I end this one: By the way, when you read I and II Corinthians, you’ll notice that Paul restored the man because he’s repentant. Excommunication is applicable only to the unrepentant and arrogant. However, it’s easier said than done. By the way, marriage is not the ONLY by product of repentance. Many marriages fall apart because of this practice. I’m not bitter when I said these things; I just can’t help but say it.)