There are many people today who believe that their only responsibility is to themselves and not to others.
I believe the biblical example of "my brother’s keeper" has been lost in many cases. We forget at times that our actions not only affect us but they also have a great impact on others and their decisions.
When I look at leaders in the Bible, I see leaders who have faults just like me. These are leaders who have been placed in a certain position by God--to further the cause of winning souls for Jesus. So I wonder, do these leaders understand their calling? Do they have a grasp on the effect their decisions have on those under them?
I remember a meeting some years ago I had with a Conference President. The topic of discussion was rebels in his conference who weren’t doing what he wanted. Some of the discussion topics included Worship style and Music, EGW, Female elders & pastors, Presentation of biblical truth from the pulpit by his ministers, and leading by example -- from the conference officials. This was a heavy discussion, but one that was much needed.
The meeting started like this "I’m the president, you’re a member, I speak you listen." It wasn’t a promising start but nonetheless I hoped we could have a good discussion and learn his position on issues. I found out rather fast that he was a man who--in his own words--says he "Doesn’t micro manage!" I asked him to elaborate based on our discussion. I was told that he does not manage how any services are held, that is up to the pastor of the church. So if they like the rock style church that’s up to them, if one prefers a calmer style that’s ok too. This baffled me, because prior to this his second-in-command was offended that the church I was at didn’t allow a Sunday-style church music service ('Christian' rock). That was one of the reasons we were having this meeting.
He further revealed that each pastor does what they want, and he doesn’t set any regulations on their conduct. This concerned me as I expressed to him some of his pastors were teaching rapture theory, they were teaching that we should follow the teachings of Rick Warren and Joel Olsteen and we should throw away Ellen White and never use her for any teachings. I expressed a concern about pastors who were breaking up churches and causing members to leave because they held an authoritarian stance that "What they said goes" and they had full power from the Conference office to wield that authority. I expressed concern that his pastors were taking members after Sabbath church to the local buffet, and encouraging others to do likewise. I also expressed many concerns in regards to the teaching that our fundamental beliefs are flawed, because we live in a age of cultural biblical teaching (this was also the Conference President's belief as well). "What may have been for those in the past, are not for us here in the present" he told me, which was the same response I got from his second-in-command--who was also in the meeting, observing.
Suffice it to say, nothing was accomplished that day. But I did see his point of view, and I saw where he stood on the issues and what he believed was his role as Conference president. What was his role? To receive a check and not rock the boat. My final question to him was "You're supposed to be the President, (and I turned to the other person in the room and said "You’re the Vice President"), do you not think you have a responsibility to set an example for your pastors and members of this conference?" Their response was "We don’t get involved and don’t micro manage. We may not agree with everything, but what can we do?”
This was a false answer. I ended with this "If you do not get involved, then why is it when a church wants to worship conservatively you get involved and try and change that or shut them down?" Their response was "We don’t get involved, that’s just hearsay." When I reminded them that this is what they were doing to my church, their response was "You need to conform."
What I saw in this meeting is what I see happening in the North American Division. The stance of "We believe a certain way and we believe this because we see our culture in America shifting, changing its acceptance on certain things and we need to comply and change as well. And, if you don’t change and comply, we will do all we can to get rid of you silently as to not rock the boat. Because we are in a high position nobody will believe a simple church member or a small church over us."
I think of many of the Bible characters in Scripture who, because of their wrong decisions, caused such destruction and chaos. Look at the results of taking Hagar to have a child; we still see the results of that decision today. We don’t know the great effect our decisions have on others or on the world at large and to be honest we don’t need to. But we should be in the mindset that God has given us a gift of understanding and has called us who believe to share the good news of the Everlasting Gospel. And that gospel is found in Scripture, not in culture. Those in position have a responsibility to share truth, to live truth, and to study truth. We may stray at times but if we intentionally leave out the teachings of the Bible and don’t make it our standard then what we are causing is chaos and sin, not truth and understanding.
We cannot lead others to God using lies and deceit. And if this is the stance of any leader, I would hope that there are honest men and women who will tell them these things and not just let it go. I would also hope that there will be many who pray for these leaders that they would come back to God and set a godly example for others. I also wish that these individuals would be handled by those in higher authority faster. We can take the advice of some and "Let it run its course", but there are many who will suffer and possibly leave the church during this process. That concerns me. I think it is time to start dealing with those who are openly denying Gods truth and are leading others to follow a false gospel. With love and kindness this all can be done. Also my friends, let us not allow love and kindness to be used as an excuse to allow these false teachers to damage the purposes of God.
Let us also keep those churches in prayer who are being ridiculed and persecuted by their conferences for following our biblical teachings and not following culture. For those of you who are being affected, remember, although man may dismiss you or hurt you or banish you, God will never leave you for following Him.
"Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
Ray Chavez is an AFCOE graduate and elder of his church in Albuquerque, NM. He is happily married to Jessica and they currently have one awesome daughter.