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My Expectations of Church Members

It is rare that a week goes by where, as a pastor, I have not failed, disappointed or offended someone within the church. I know because people feel the freedom and apparent need to tell me.  That can be discouraging. In fact, I’ve observed that there is a corresponding corollary between the frequency of failing, disappointing and offending, and the level of discouragement on my part.

In those more sobering and clear-headed moments, I am able to evaluate what was said to me about those failures, disappointments and offenses against what Scripture says. On the one hand, it is a constant reminder of my sinfulness, weakness and inadequacy. On the other hand, it is a commentary on the nature of people’s expectations of me as a pastor. Merely evaluating the comments or criticisms over the past several weeks, it has been quite obvious that most of those failures, disappointments or offenses were not against God but against members’ expectations.

That got me thinking. What if I, as a pastor, took the liberty to assess church members based upon my personal expectations of what I want from them?  Granted, all pastors do that to some degree; but I am not talking about all pastors.  I‘m talking about what I want! I am talking about taking the same liberty that so many church members (and deacons and elders) do:  judge others within the local church according to their own personal standards.

So, allow me to expose my selfish desires for what I want, expect, demand(?) of all church members within any church in which I serve. Here’s the shortlist:

1. For every member and regular attendee to be at every event I am at.

2. To be faithful to every Bible study or class I teach.

3. To be early to Bible study, Sunday school and worship.

4. To be attentive to everything I say and teach.

5. To learn more from me than from any other teacher or pastor.

6.To give undivided attention to every sermon I preach (never be bored, never fall asleep, never miss a sermon).

7. To never compare me with any other pastor or preacher, unless it’s in a positive way.

8. To idolize me more than all of their current idols and superpreachers.

9. To have each person or family invite me and my family for supper at least once a month.

10. To do what I ask them to do and go where I ask them to go.

11. To anticipate in advance when I will get sick or enter the hospital, and attend to me accordingly.

12. To always pray for me.

13. To adore my wife.

14. To think my children are perfect and wonderful.

15. To never correct me, scold me, rebuke me or say anything negative to me.

16. To read every article, blog or book I write, and like them.

17. To speak glowingly to everyone they know about how wonderful I am.

18. To bring people to my church every week in order to make the church grow in a way that will break all records (so that I too can be featured in Christian magazines and go on speaking tours).

19. To not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a Christian should be.

20. And certainly not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a pastor should be and do (that’s just too unreasonable).

21. To always be available when I call.

22. To always be home when I come to your house.

23. To like the same personal tastes and preferences I like.

24. To enjoy the same games and sports as I.

25. To like the same music that I do, especially in church services and events.

26. To dress according to my preferences and standards.

27. To always be pleasant and kind to me.

28. To tell me how much you like what I do or say (I would be angry at you if you don’t).

29. To never have any expectations of me (such as having to be at every class, Bible study, church activities, or worship service because I do have other things I want to do, you know?)

30. To visit with me when I feel like you need to (and you should have the foresight and intuition to know when that is).

31. To always send me birthday cards (gifts would be awesome).

32. To read the same books, magazines and journals that I do so we can discuss them at my pleasure.

33. To make sure everyone else in the church is doing what they need to do in order to make me happy. If they don’t, then I will threaten to leave.

34. To fulfill this list and anything else I can think of.

35. And never to think I‘m ever being selfish expecting these things!

Because, as we know, church is about my kingdom coming and my will being done; for mine is the kingdom and the power, and I want the glory, forever and ever…

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Characteristics of a Cult

Someone recently objected to the statement that Harold Camping is a cult leader.  Yet, when he and his teachings are compared to the standard definition(s) of a cult, he fits the bill.  What are some of those main characteristics?  See the short list below.  I am indebted to Mr. Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry for outlining the basic traits of a modern cult.

1. Unorthodox, esoteric, with a devotion to a person, object, or set of new ideas.

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2. Often isolationist.

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3. Many cults have non-verifiable belief systems. In other words, they tend to have special beliefs no one else can know or verify, or special revelation no one else outside of the cult’s inner circle has.

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4. The leader, who is often charismatic,  is supposedly very special because he or she:

a. Has received special revelation from God, or special knowledge about God and God’s will that no one else has.
b. Claims to be appointed by God for a mission.
c. Claims to have special abilities (wisdom, power, talent, gifts, insight, etc.) no one else has.
c. Is considered above reproach and is not to be denied, contradicted or rebuked.
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5. The ethics of a cult:

a.  They typically seek to do good works.
b.  Usually moral and possess a good standard of morality.
c. The Bible is often used or additional  “scriptures” are penned. When the Bible  is used, it is distorted with the leader’s private  interpretations.
d. Many cults recruit Jesus as one of their own and redefine him accordingly.

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Rebuking Harold Camping

Because of the erroneous, unbiblical teachings Harold Camping continued to invent which caused many to leave their churches in order to follow cult leader Camping, the Northern California Presbytery of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church drafted and sent a no-nonsense, straightforward rebuke to Camping.

Camping, an engineer and contractor, who had built several church buildings, including the one for the congregation in which I served while in the San Jose/San Francisco area, was a friend to many Reformed churches.  For many years he broadcast sermons and radio devotionals by local pastors and big-named radio Bible preachers. However, something happened, and he became more and more convinced that he alone was privy to true interpretations of the Bible.

As a consequence, many of the regional pastors began to confront him. Solid seminary professors, pastors of large churches, friends, relatives were among the throng who called him, wrote to him or spoke with him directly to address his aberrant teachings.  Rather than listening to any, he either ignored them or rejected them out of hand. None of his responses were logical, let alone biblical.  Nevertheless, he did find a way to counter the waves of admonishment:  he declared that God made clear through the Bible that all churches were apostate and evil, and all pastors demonic.

It was then that avid followers of Camping, chose to follow a self-taught, over-confident man than to believe their own schooled pastors and learned elders. I recall talking to one of our members who declared that Harold Camping, the man of God, knew what he was talking about, while I, his pastor who had trained in exegesis and the original languages, did not know anything.  The week after he made that angry declaration, he left the church; as did a number of other families.

Camping’s followers caused many churches to split or to lose many former members. Like Camping himself, these families were solid in their belief that Camping was absolute right and everyone else in the world was wrong.  Further, like Camping, they also said the only ministry that was truly preaching the gospel message was Camping and his Family Radio.  The sad thing has been, there was and is no gospel (which means “good news”) message. It has been a message of judgment and fear with absolutely no hope other than to believe that there will be judgment, and a rapture for the select few (the number is now 200 million) who apparently listen to Camping.

It was at this point that the Northern California presbytery (pastors and elders of the regional Orthodox Presbyterian Church) issued a public call for Camping to repent and to return to the essentials of the historic, Biblical, Christian faith.  From what I recall, he received the notice, but rejected it as nonsense.   Here is a copy of the call for Harold Camping to repent:

RESOLUTION AGAINST MR. HAROLD CAMPING’S

UNSCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH

Whereas, we, Presbyters of the Church of Jesus Christ – ministers and ruling elders of the Presbytery of Northern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – are to protect and guard that which has been committed to our charge;

Whereas, we, ministers of the Word, are duty bound to warn the uninstructed and erring not to receive or to teach that which is unscriptural especially in regard to the biblical existence of Christ’s holy Bride, the Church, and ought to give authoritative direction to those members tempted to follow such erroneous teaching;

Whereas, we, ministers of the Word, are commanded to propagate the truth of the doctrine of the Church;

Whereas, Mr. Harold Camping proclaims publicly on Family Radio stations (a worldwide Christian radio network) his doctrine of the denial of the God-ordained institution of the church visible;

Whereas, Mr. Camping arbitrarily decides which scriptural texts refer to the so-called eternal church and which refer to the so-called temporally “cursed” local church;

Whereas, Mr. Camping argues that the Spirit of God has abandoned the local church and is no longer working in it at all;

Whereas, Mr. Camping argues against the continued validity of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, even exhorting members of the Church to cease from partaking of the sacraments and new converts from experiencing the sign and seal of the covenant;

Whereas, Mr. Camping denies the legitimate authority of the ordained offices of the church: pastor (teaching elder), ruling elder, and deacon;

Whereas, Mr. Camping’s doctrine has never been submitted to any ecclesiastical authority for review and correction, in effect, denying all ecclesiastical authority; thus making himself the sole defining authority and communicator of this so-called new insight;

Whereas, Mr. Camping teaches that those members who continue in the church visible are disobeying God’s Word and thus sinning by remaining faithful to the local church;

Whereas, Mr. Camping counsels that even if one’s own particular church is teaching the “true gospel”, short of this particular doctrine, he still must forsake even this assembly of saints;

Whereas, some of our churches have lost members because they have received and believed such false doctrine, repudiating their vows of membership;

Whereas, Mr. Camping cuts himself off from the visible and local church of Jesus Christ, thus committing a form of excommunication;

Therefore we, the Presbytery of Northern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, do condemn this teaching against the church and exhort the members of the church visible to refuse to heed his teaching to forsake the visible church;

And we, the Presbytery of Northern California, call Mr. Harold Camping to repent of this heresy and turn back to the Church of Jesus Christ visible, and to stop teaching such on the public airwaves and in his published literature (1 Tim. 1:3-7);

And that this Resolution be circulated to the Presbyteries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and to the 71st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and to anyone else we believe ought to know of our church’s stand on this issue and need to be encouraged and reassured of the true doctrine of the Church visible and invisible.

May God have mercy,

The Presbytery of Northern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

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