Douglas Wilson already explained the general lay of the land in the latest PCA, Covenant Seminary sexual confusion fiasco, including a number of well-framed paragraphs qualifying the overarching call to arms. Those qualifications included a full-throated insistence on biblical standards for justice and due process and the complete rejection of mobs, virtual or otherwise. But men of conviction in the PCA really do need to rise up with their Bible in hand and bring a bunch of questions to their sessions, pastors, and presbyteries in a spirit of holy consternation. And nothing about the announced change of venue from the South City PCA elders should calm anyone down, since their statement amounts to a paper shuffling “nothing to see here.”
What I want to lay out here is a sketch for why many good men on the ground who care about missions and church planting and evangelism really have to care about this kind of thing and the hundreds of others like it. I know the objections. I know why good men don’t have time for this. These things turn nasty political, these things eat up time and energy, tensions get high, friendships get frayed, and meanwhile there are still sermons to prepare, fundraising to do, and millions of people who don’t know Jesus, who need to hear the gospel of grace. And good men often have good lives: happy families, leisure time, hobbies, and friends. Who wants to go to war and risk any of that?
But here’s the deal: there is simply no way to love the church of Jesus Christ, to love the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to love lost men with the gospel of Jesus Christ without guarding the church of Jesus Christ. Granted, some men are better at the guarding and some men are more gifted at the fishing. Some men are particularly gifted in hauling the fish in and others are particularly gifted to disciple and discipline the fish. I get that and rejoice in that. But no minister of the gospel has the luxury of seeing a wall in the castle of Christendom being breached and shrug and say he’s just in charge of the archers. No, in a war, we all have our particular assignments, we also have our particular skills, and then we have to do whatever needs to be done. If you are shepherds in the church of God, then you must not only be about bringing sheep into the flock of God, if you truly love those sheep, you must be about fighting the wolves that attack the flock of God.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
But let me press the point harder in two different directions.
First, if you have a heart for the lost, for church planting, for gospel outreach, you must take heed about the harmful and dangerous teaching infiltrating the church because that is the very same church you are laboring to bring the lost into. You cannot say you love the lost if you are merely laboring to bring them into a Hellhole. And I do not use that word lightly. Jesus Himself warned of this very thing: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15). Understand that it was fully possible for good-hearted scribes and Pharisees to be out in the field laboring to make converts while other scribes and Pharisees were back home crucifying the Messiah.
If you are a church planter with the PCA or OPC or Bible Presbyterians (or even looser associations like the SBC or Acts 29), what sort of body are you bringing those new believers into? What sort of tradition are you bringing those poorly taught evangelical believers into? And remember, we (the so-called “reformed”) are the ones who understand how covenants work. We are the ones trying to teach and pass on covenantal, generational faithfulness and blessings to these same people. But the stakes are high, and you could just as easily be bringing people into bodies where you are preparing their children or grandchildren for Hell. And my point isn’t a theoretical “what-if?” My point is that church planters and evangelists who refuse to participate in the denominational defense against wolves are functionally voting for their denomination to become “woke” (which is Yiddish for “liberal”) and for all their labors to be flushed down the generational drain. When I said “Hellhole” I had in mind things like the modern PCUSA and ECUSA, where pastors routinely bless abortion clinics and sodomy is openly celebrated. And if you don’t think the PCA or OPC or SBC could go there in a generation, you are part of the problem. But my primary point is that if you love church planting, evangelism, and discipling new converts you must have a place in your schedule and in your heart for fighting the wolves trying to set up residence in your denomination. Please note that I said “a place in your schedule,” by which I mean that I am not pleading with you to allow these fights to consume your schedule.
But if you think that just because there’s a committee “looking into it” or the elders issued a statement foppishly suggesting that some elements of an event “appeared to be inconsistent” with their “theological convictions” — if you think we’re in good shape and that will be good enough, you obviously don’t understand evangelism. Is that how evangelism works? Is that how church planting works? A committee “looks into it” and ambiguous statements are published and then magically good things happen? Heh. Of course not. No, the real work of evangelism and church planting happens in the trenches, one on one, emails, meals together, phone calls, admonition, rebuke, repentance, bible study, and tons of prayer. Of course there is a good and lawful place for the formal mechanisms of church polity to provide their rightful checks and balances and verdicts. But in addition to those important functions, much church work takes place when real men take responsibility and make the calls, write the letters, follow up, admonish, rebuke, and fight it out over Scripture with tons of prayer. So don’t say someone else is doing it or the presbytery is taking care of it. Remember what it’s like to do the hard work of evangelism with little encouragement, support, or back up, and then go add your voice to the good work of guarding the church. Yes, I know there are some smear jobs and screechfests out there that never grew out of WWF Wrestling, but I’m talking about good men standing and pointing out the egalitarian golden calves, the altars to intersectionality, the incense offered to woke justice, and the alphabet soup of perversion masquerading as an oppressed minority group. Encourage the men on the front lines, share the articles, send them to your elders, make phone calls, write letters, and speak up. And do not be satisfied with vacuous statements of good will. Is that the kind profession of faith you’re looking for?
Second and last, I want to urge the good men in the ministry trenches to speak up with a holy consternation because that is just as much part of your witness of the gospel that this world so desperately needs. Why don’t the media generally care what preachers are talking about anymore? Why don’t unbelievers generally care what preachers have to say? But why are they at the very same time all flocking to hear Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro and others? Because those men have a backbone. Those men are at least trying to stand up for a semblance of truth and justice, and they are fighting real giants in our land. The real shame is that neither man (Peterson or Shapiro) has the sword of the Spirit; but they do have what many gospel preachers lack: common sense and courage.
But the gospel is that Jesus took responsibility for our sin. When the Dragon, the Strong Man came to bind us and destroy us — we who deserve God’s holy wrath and eternal death and damnation — Jesus stood up for us. He stood in our place. He played the man for us. He scorned the pain of death for us. He suffered for us. But get this: The crucifixion of Jesus was not Jesus going limp. The crucifixion of Jesus was the moment in which Jesus was strong for us. The crucifixion of Jesus was the moment in which He crushed the devil’s head. No one took His life from Him; Jesus was fully Lord at every single moment of His sufferings and death. And we know that He was fully Lord even in death because He took His life back up exactly when He wanted to (Jn. 10:17-18).
Good men who want the real good news of Jesus to change hearts need to be busy fighting all the enemies of the gospel. Do you want to preach with conviction? Do you want your message to land where you are planting a church? Then fight for it, fight with it, take some hits, deliver some hits. We need evangelists that look and sound a whole lot more like John Wayne and lot less like Joel Osteen. We have PCA churches hosting worship led by trans-lesbians and accidentally (?) scheduling events for them to teach at and OPC pastors cheering them on (see screenshot above) and Bible Presbyterians forced to resign for standing for the truth.
What’s the point of evangelism? What’s the point of church planting if you don’t stand up and defend the truth now? If you don’t stand up with godly conviction where the devil is actually attacking us, you are asking God not to bless your evangelistic efforts because for whatever reason you don’t think it’s important or worth it or that you can make any difference or you’re afraid of the consequences. In which case, you really shouldn’t be doing any evangelism or church planting. You clearly don’t understand the point.
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