Compromise is not ALWAYS wrong.
I’ve sat in many marriage counseling sessions listening to stubborn people who refused to lower their unreasonable expectations. Many times I’ve encouraged young entrepreneurs to reconsider their business plans and embrace the ideas of another. I’ve even found that pastors can find certain moments of compromise necessary. How the nursery workers will be scheduled, what brand of coffee will be served, and when the youth group plans on holding the carwash are all decisions which might be made without consulting the senior pastor of the church. This isn’t to say that a control-freak, like myself, lacks strong opinions even about these things. (Every other week, Starbucks or Dutch Bros, and Saturday at 10:00am – for the record.)
A pastor, like any other leader, must be willing to compromise on the little things. Otherwise, he diminishes into a mere caricature of an insecure boss who can’t help micromanaging his people. However, there are certain areas in which a pastor must never compromise. The fundamental doctrines of the Bible must never be compromised. These are the very beliefs that make us uniquely Christian. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ must never be compromised. Methods of evangelism may change but the message of the gospel never does. These are obvious. Yet there is another area of ministry in which many pastors are under extreme pressure to compromise. The leadership of that local church belongs to you! It was entrusted to you by our very Lord and Savior. And there are many in this world who will attempt to wrestle that inherent responsibility away from you. Therefore, I want to encourage you to…
Stand Up to Bullies
Joshua 1:9Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lordthy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
My friend Matt leads a church he and his dedicated wife planted many years ago in the heartland of the United States. When it came time to name the local church, to which they would dedicate the rest of their lives, they chose a name that reflected their personalities as well as what they hoped would be the predominate characteristic of this community of believers. They named it Charity Baptist Church. Love would define this church!
Several years into the life of the new church they had experienced tremendous growth. People were getting saved, baptized, and being discipled by this gifted couple. The church not only experienced “conversion growth” but they also saw “transfer growth”. Christians who felt the Lord leading them to come alongside this pastoral team left their own churches in a noble effort to help establish a new church. Yet, not all of these transferring Christians turned out to be so noble. Actually, they turned out to be bullies.
Hey Pastor! Have you realized that God is not the only one who has a plan for your church? There is also an enemy, an accuser, an old dragon who hates you and your work. And just as God has commissioned you to accomplish His plan, so has he commissioned his own agents to seize control of your local church and halt the progress you are making for the Kingdom of Christ! These bullies are more concerned doctrinal minutia, obscure passages, and personal preferences than they are with souls being saved, disciples being trained, and missionaries being sent. They come to you with cash in hand, smiles in faces, and a string of broken churches behind them.
Matt and his wife felt the Lord leading them to cancel one ministry program in order to start another. Sunday school would be replaced with midweek small groups. This change would provide more ministry opportunities while requiring less rented space. Bible study would remain a priority while Christian community would be enhanced. The benefits were many and the drawbacks few. After a very strategic campaign to introduce the change to the congregation they slowly, with great intentionality, began to cancel the established Sunday school classes and reformat them into small groups with new locations. This change was received with great excitement and celebration from those who had been saved and discipled at Charity Baptist Church. Even several of the well-established Christians saw the obvious benefits and potential of this shift in method. Yet there were 4 to 5 families in the church who were not happy.
After establishing a game plan this group of religious traditionalists set a meeting with the pastor. Their demands were clear. Their ultimatum plainly spoken. “You will restore Sunday School to its’ rightful place or we will leave the church and take our tithe with us. Think carefully pastor because we’ve done the math. Our combined giving makes up over 50% of the church’s total budget. If we leave – you don’t get paid. Your family will go without.” I wonder what Jesus thought of this tactic? I wonder what the Apostle Paul would have said to these men and women?
Matt was a hero for the cause of Christ. “I don’t want you to go. But if you feel that you must, I understand. I feel very strongly that the Lord would have us move to Small Groups. There are many churches around here who still have Sunday School and I can help you locate one if you’d like. As to the financial implications? I can get another job. I’m not afraid of hard work.” WOW! That’s Courage!
He would not compromise to retain a crowd!
He would not compromise to keep a ministerial income!
Here’s a simple truth. If you don’t stand up to a bully – they will never stop pushing you around. And, as Matt demonstrated, you can do this with kindness and grace.
These bullies have plagued the church since the days of the Apostle Paul. This scenario plays out every week in pastoral offices across our country. If you don’t turn down the music – I’ll leave! If you don’t preach on my pet topic – I’ll leave! If you don’t decorate the auditorium the way I like – I’ll leave! If you add that instrument – I’ll leave! Each of these demands come from religious traditionalists. The mistake they make is twofold! First, they think they are the ones who provide financially for the servant of Christ. Yeah, that’s not how it works! Second, they think the servant of Christ can be manipulated and intimidated. HA! Okay – look – when you spend your mornings at the feet of The Risen Savior – very little can scare you. If our ministerial forefathers weren’t intimidated by the lions of the Roman Colosseum, I’m pretty sure your little tithe isn’t going to get me to sell out.
You’ll not only have to stand up to bullies, you also must…
Expect to be Criticized and Shunned
Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
John 15:20 The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Some religious traditionalists will be sitting in your pews. Some religious traditionalists will be standing behind other pulpits in your city, state, and nation. They are not content leading their local congregation. No, no, these Nicolaitans deeply desire to have control over your local church as well. They salivate for power. They pine for influence. Like the politicians of this world’s system they yearn and crave to rule a kingdom. Beyond the plot of land to which they’ve been tasked they secretly dream of entering the Master’s home and taking His place. Since this is not possible, they must be content with criticizing the work of fellow servants. And, with a bit of luck, gain control through criticism.
Open Criticism is one tactic. Religious Shunning is another.
This more subtle attack takes place when a pastor of a local church refuses to compromise his beliefs and begins to utilize methodology that has not yet been approved yet by denominational leadership. The punishment of isolation is used as a tool to bring a wayward pastor into submission. One knows when they are caught in this compromising situation when they begin to reason, “I know God is leading our church to do this. However, if I did – I would limit my influence, no longer be invited to preach in certain places, and would no longer be accepted by my friends.”
And so, the minister of Christ chooses to compromise. Look, I get it! It’s truly not easy to stand alone. It’s not easy to put your financial future at risk. It’s not easy to be criticized by others. It’s not easy to disappoint people. It’s not easy to do the right thing. It’s much easier to compromise.
You’ll be bullied from those in the church, you’ll be shunned by those outside the church, but you must always…
Love Those who Hate You
Over the last few years I’ve come to a liberating conclusion. I don’t have to hate someone that hates me. This is another powerful implication of the gospel. Jesus loves those who nailed Him to a tree. Jesus loves those who mocked Him, spat upon Him, and slandered His good name. Because He loved me, I can love Him. Because He love me, I can love others.
Does it shock you that there are people who don’t like Josh Teis? Ha! It shocks me. I’m a likable guy, at least my mom thinks so. What’s so funny about this concept is that I know I now write for two extremely different audiences: my local church and friends in ministry. What my local church may find shocking, my friends in ministry know very well… there are a few people who don’t like Josh Teis. And yes – I am now referring to myself in the 3rd person. So, what can we do with the ones who hate us?
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Every time someone tells me of a ministry leader who doesn’t like me, I make it a point to say something positive about that man’s character, family, or ministry. Every time someone feels the need to relay a slanderous comment, later that night I’ll spend a moment of prayer for both the brother who told me and the brother who slandered. There are former friends on my daily prayer list who have felt it necessary, for whatever reason, to shun me. No, it doesn’t feel good. But there is a solution. Love those who think of you as an enemy!
Whatever you do, don’t win against the Devil by refusing to compromise your theology, philosophy, and methodology – simply to lose to the Devil by compromising your spirit through hate.
Finally, you must also…
Know That We Stand with You
I Kings 18:22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord.
I Kings 18:3-4 Now Obadiah feared the Lordgreatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.
Hey Elijah! You’re not alone! There are many other courageous brothers and sisters who have refused to bow the knee and compromise Biblical Truth. At times you and your wife may feel all alone. WE KNOW HOW YOU FEEL! We felt the same way. But this is what we’ve found. There are a lot of people like us!
We have discovered that there are many ministry leaders out there who don’t demand conformity in the realms of ministry philosophy and practical methodology. The basis of these relationships have more to do with who you are in Christ than how you deliver a sermon, how you sing your songs, what you wear on vacation, or how express your theological musings. Frankly, we just don’t care. We figure that you have a walk with God and a Bible in your hand. We can share ideas with each other but, in the end, you’re going to do it your way and I’m going to do it my way. Your songs might be different. Your preaching style might be different. Your dress might be different. We might even have minor theological differences! GASP!!!
One of the things I’ve heard more than anything over the last five years is this, “I thought I was the only one.” Ha! Yup! I thought so too. But there are a lot of us over here. It seems that God always has a remnant who have refused to compromise.
Have you ever been tempted to compromise? Have you had to deal with bullies in your local church? Have you been criticized or shunned because you refused to compromise? Honestly, do you ever feel alone?
I want to hear from you! Comment Below:
Also – please share this post if you think it might be a help to someone who is refusing to compromise the faith!
For the entire story – listen to this recording of a recent Idea Day Panel Discussion on the topic of Church Planting. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/church-planting-episode-25/id1069672009?i=1000414603496&mt=2
I wrote about the unbiblical practice of hyper-separatism and Second Degree Separation in this Blog Post: http://joshteis.com/2017/12/11/six-degrees-of-separation/
Idea Day has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life! I’ll tell you why in one word: FRIENDS! Heather and I have met more lifelong ministry friends through this silly little gathering of ministry leaders than we ever thought possible. Honestly, if you’re feeling alone (no matter how conservative or progressive you think you are), you’ll feel welcome here! Register for the January Idea Day here: http://ideaday.net/events/summit
DannyJuly 13, 2018 at 12:17 pm
Have you ever considered that you might actually be a bully yourself? Your characterization four times of “religious traditionalists” is uncharitable, especially in paragraph five in claiming they are agents of the devil (!!). You claim opposing those that oppose your stand in conclusion with your story about Matt can be done with kindness and grace, but calling those that oppose you as agents of the Devil hardly classifies as kindness and grace! Same with your wild accusations and judgmental statements toward those that oppose you in your section on expecting criticism (rather inconsistent in saying to expect criticism when you freely dish out unfounded criticism and assumptions back toward them). Now, to support my preliminary question, the relegating of a whole “group” of people under one term to deride them as “religious traditionalists” is a bullying tactic which is a favorite of the news media at large, lumping groups together and alleging on the basis of the behavior of one group that it fits the other groups, such as the wild-eyed slandering of Biblical fundamentalists by alleging since it’s the same term that applies to terrorist Muslims being fundamentalists that they are all the same. That’s what you did with the subtle ascription in this article that all that oppose your methods are “religious traditionalists” (or “bullies”). Please don’t lump Biblical fundamentalists (fundamental independent Baptists) together with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (and Orthodox Jews), which are the real religious traditionalists since their religions are based on the traditions of men. It’s a fine thing to attack true religious traditionalism as Jesus did in Matt. 15, Mark 7, and Paul warned against it in Col. 2:8, and Peter in 1 Pet. 1:18. But, maybe, just maybe, Biblical fundamentalists have found their methods from the Bible (and not neo-evangelical or emergent church writings, etc.) and do not agree that your methods line up with the Bible. If you do not follow the Bible in theology, methodology, or philosophy, you are leading wrong and you have no authority for ministry for the Lord. The Bible (KJB, by the way) is our authority for ministry. The Bible is the SOLE standard for faith and practice, and lumping Biblical fundamentalists with “religious traditionalists” ignores the former’s Biblical basis and instead is a red herring (dismissal by diversion to what is not really the problem). Maybe Biblical fundamentalists have found a Biblical precedent that you just have not figured out thus far. Maybe there’s a Biblical reason why they do what they do–why not just go and learn what they mean instead of deriding them?
Lumping together theology, methodology and philosophy with martyr-like boldness and fastidiousness is a Non sequitur (conclusion not following from the initial argument given). In paragraph two you correctly advocate not compromising on doctrines of the Bible, on the message of the Gospel. Yet you subtly introduce through your article that compromise on methodology and philosophy is equivalent to it, that being directly what you at the end advocate just before your section on Elijah: “don’t win against the Devil by refusing to compromise your theology, philosophy and methodology”. You did not mention philosophy or methodology in paragraph two where you give what not to compromise on, and there only about methods of evangelism changing (which there are Biblical methods which should be followed and never changed). I don’t discount the counsel of standing for Bible truth with martyr commitment, but not methodology and philosophy if it’s not Bible based. Would you die for having Small Groups?
Your stand is problematic. Your methodology and philosophy you advocate much of the time in opposing the fundamental independent Baptist movement is not Bible based, but rather stemming from pragmatism (paragraph 7, what Matt feels very strongly for instead of what he has through prayer, fasting and Bible study found the Lord wants them to do, and paragraph 6 obvious benefits and potential instead of Biblical foundation for, etc.) and worldly methodology. Your methodology is very akin to neo-evangelicalism. This foray of yours into neo-evangelicalism is foolhardy. Your stand is not that dissimilar to the Israelites panicking in Num. 14, and claiming among themselves they need to appoint a leader to bring them back into Egypt. That’s what neo-evangelicalism is, going back into Egypt, the land of bondage, into the old, pre-saved kind of ways of operating. Using worldly styles of music with rock band kind of instruments and styles of singing, along with rock concert lighting and “mood” is the old way of operating and bondage that many of us got redeemed out of! And, just like their rejection of God’s leader in Moses and God’s direction of what they were to do caused the Israelites to wander for 40 years, it has caused neo-evangelicals to wander for 40 years+. Many of them are coming to the realization that the things you are trying to lead others into do not work, and actually are trying to morph themselves into more of a stately like atmosphere to re-appropriate a sense of respect, etc. So, you want to delve into the failed neo-evangelical way of operating? Fine. See you in 40 years when you finally come to your senses that Biblical fundamentalists have something worth listening to. At least please stop calling yourself independent Baptist when you are operating more like neo-evangelicals, and teaching principles like them, and not what independent Baptists have been teaching for quite a long time now. If you are not teaching and preaching like an independent Baptist then you should stop trying to claim the appellation (Jer. 48:10a).
Matt BrunkJuly 16, 2018 at 4:34 pm
Danny – Many things could be said to this angry response that lacks so much context. I know what is best though is to pray for you. That’s what I’m going to do right now.
DannyJuly 26, 2018 at 8:54 pm
Is this the Matt from the article? I don’t know exactly when you say of this response that it lacks so much context what you mean–I was trying diligently to provide the context from Josh’s article and discuss it so no one would be confused what I was saying. Are you saying my comment is lacking the real context of your situation if this is the Matt of the story? If that’s the case, I’m just going on how Josh represented it. Otherwise, I am addressing directly Josh Teis’ foray into neo-evangelicalism and his desire to sweep others into it, as well as reproving the article’s skewed and dangerous assumption that we should not compromise on methodology and philosophy. Teis’ assault of the old-time independent fundamental Baptist way is the context–if you missed that then I understand your confusion. As for angry, sure, I’m angry that people like Josh Teis are trying to piggy back a wonderful movement that God has used for many years and steer it to what it absolutely should not be. I’m calling him out for it as well as his inconsistency in calling himself independent Baptist when he is trying to decimate what independent Baptists are or should be. And I am rightfully angry–Ps. 119:128, “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.”
beccaAugust 2, 2018 at 8:51 pm
Your characterization four times of “religious traditionalists” is uncharitable, especially in paragraph five in claiming they are agents of the devil (!!)… the relegating of a whole “group” of people under one term to deride them as “religious traditionalists” is a bullying tactic…If you are not teaching and preaching like an independent Baptist then you should stop trying to claim the appellation (Jer. 48:10a).
I appreciate what Danny has said. I have nothing personally against Josh or Matt and I can rejoice in every soul they truly lead to Christ. That being said, the meaness toward “traditionalists” has gotten old fast. You know, Rick Warren’s popular book on growing a church advises that the traditionalist who refuse to go with the new program (music, clothing style, Bible version changes etc) be weeded out. They are a thorn, an annoyance and something to be put out. How is that any different than what is going on in IFB churches that are being “changed”?
JoyJuly 18, 2018 at 1:45 pm
Great read, Josh! Thank you for posting. You and Heather have been such an encouragement to us in the last few months! Keep it up!
JayJuly 19, 2018 at 10:13 am
The point I want to highlight about your post is about member transfers. It seems like the western US does not get a ton of transfers looking for greener pastures (and young pastors they can whip into shape). For the rest of the country, pastors regularly get transfers who come programmed with their previous pastor’s philosophy. I think this is where most of the nit-picky picketing comes from whenever the pastor prayerfully wants to make a change. Your illustration of your pastor friend, Matt, is a great case and point. Something that may help to curb some of this is having a very detailed interview meeting with transfers before they join so that they and the pastor know exactly what they are getting. Anyways, just a thought.