The Waiting is Almost Over - a Brief History and Our Present TransitionTuesday, August 16, 2005
Finally, the Lord has granted freedom to point to the background of my previous post. For quite some time, since my eighth week here as pastor to be exact, the Lord has been teaching me this lesson of waiting as it relates to the gospel. So the lesson taught there, though short in nature, has been deep and lengthy in its teaching process, and still promises to be so in the near future as it relates to my current trial.
I will not go into much detail on this blog about the details of my trial, but suffice it to say that my trial has been both a literal trial as well as a spiritual one. The leadership of the church, as well as every member in attendance here at present, are convinced that our trial has been, at root, about the gospel of Christ. To be sure, it took form in allegations of Calvinism starting my second week as pastor! It quickly escalated, however, to four petitions and three church conferences to remove the entire leadership of our little flock. The foundation of it all was Calvinism and the nature of the gospel.
There were probably only a handful in the group who stood against the leadership who understood what the term meant. But none seemed to understand what it truly taught. As is usually the case, a caricature of Calvinism was constructed, essentially a straw man, which was then set on fire for the community to see. Our little church was split right down the middle, the older constituency being the opposition. And our little Christian school lost 85% of its enrollment as well as the same percentage of teachers, or thereabouts.
The covenant of our little church on which it as founded, teaches clearly about the treatment 0f other believers which the gospel demands of us all. This includes the utilization of passages like Matthew 18 to resolve conflict and difficulty. But it seemed that every member of the opposition was unwilling to live in accordance with this kind of biblical, gospel-0riented treatment. Unfortunately it eventually extended itself not only toward the leadership of the church but also to those who wished to join as members.
The final church conference in June of last year brought the conflict to a head. The opposition, viewing the conflict as a battle over member-rights in the local church, brought the government in as an attempt to resolve the matter. Since we are a non-profit corporation in the state of Georgia, the opposition decided to use the non-profit code of law. This meant viewing the leadership as directors of a corporation, rather than spiritual leaders of a local church. Despite the wording of the non-profit code itself on the issue (namely, when doctrine conflicts with the non-profit code, doctrine shall prevail), it was used anyway, and thus conceived the entrance of the state government into the affairs of our local church.
When this plan did not succeed, because again the bylaws and covenant of our church and its gospel-spirit were in continued violation - the opposition sought to bring the government into the affairs in a different way. Violating 1 Corinthians 6:1 ff, the opposition rationalized that since the leadership of the church would not operate in a way which was in keeping with the traditional model, though that traditional model violated Scripture regularly, they had every right to protect themselves by suing the leadership, bringing a lawsuit against other believers.
We've been in litigation ever since that day. The judge's injuction has remained in effect since June of last year, prohibiting us from accepting any new church members (from growing, that is), as well as from disciplining any disobedient church members (from keeping itself pure, that is). The lawsuit has crippled any effects the gospel might have through a little church in a community of 600 plus citizens. And here we wait, faithfully following the Savior, until the day when a verdict from the Appeals Court of the State of Georgia comes to render its final decision in the matter.
So the lawsuit and the trial have been, from the very beginning, about the gospel of Christ. It was the gospel as preached from the Scriptures that first generated the opposition. Then it was the kind of gospel-living as taught in the Scriptures that fueled the opposition. And it was the peace which the gospel demands as taught in the Bible that continues to keep the conflict firmly in place, ironically enough. This would be the background then, not only to the previous post, but to all the recent posts dealing with offenses and forgiveness.
In light of all this, it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to our leadership team that my family and I transition from this work very soon. For the good of the local church, my departure may relieve much of the tension inherent in the conflict. But what feels good to this pastor is to know that the leadership remaining behind has been strengthened in the gospel to the extent that the 'good fight of faith' will continue in my absence. So while it will be alleviated in my absence, it will certainly not go away. There is still an issue of gospel-love which believers ought to have for one another. And until this becomes a necessary part of the thinking and living process witin the opposition, the conflict must continue.
Pray for us in this transition. The Lord is good. His confirmation of this decision has been clearly made known to us. We will move to Athens, GA and meld ourselves into the community at Crossway Fellowship Church in Watkinsville, GA. My friendship with Paul Cooke, the pastor there, as well as with his family has been a ministry to my family that words simply cannot describe. We anticipate great things from God's hand as we heal, grow, and mature under his leadership as well as in the fellowship there. And it is within that context that I will submit my calling to ministry, waiting patiently in God's timing for His direction there.
In the meantime, the Lord has provided housing in what is really an amazing, incredible display of His providence. And it appears, at least at present, that the Lord is providentially moving myself and Diversified Communications Group (a company for whom I used to work several years ago) together in a very unique way that can only be explained by sovereign providence. He is so good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
So there you have it. The short (and long!) of it behind this blog in the last year - the gospel's effects in my own life, family, and pastoral ministry. But while the pastoral ministry may be coming to an end here soon, this blog will not, for it has always been about the effects the gospel must have in our lives, and all the areas it touches (whether we feel it or not!).
P.S. If I know the opposition, they're are probably readers of this blog, if for no other reason than to gather more 'ammo' for the fight. To them I say: May the Lord answer my prayers for you to bless you and make you prosper. I long for reconciliation and peace, but that can only come through the cross and its gospel message. But until that day comes, my heart reaches out for the throne of God for you all that God might touch your hearts with his gospel and what it requires. To the rest I say: don't be surprised by the comments section which will follow this particular post!
An appropriate song the Lord has used greatly to minister to us in this time is the SGM song, "Oh, What a Glorious Mystery." Listen to it and see what a glorious mystery God is and has been to our family!