Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism part nine

The Lord Jesus Christ will not come and remove His candlestick from fundamentalism. Fundamentalism holds no candlestick. And fundamentalism carries no guarantee that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

God designed the church to operate without help from outside and inferior movements or institutions. However, churches have become addicted to or dependent upon these. If scripture is sufficient, and it is, then we don't need them. But how do we cope without them?

I understand the thought process behind sending children to Christian college or university. Christian parents don't want their children learning the way of the heathen (Jeremiah 10:2). It is why pastors organize church schools or encourage home schooling for their church members. But what should the high school graduates do?

Churches have colleges too. And a church college doesn't need fundamentalism. If your church fellowships with that church, your high school graduates could attend that college. The church itself is judged based upon its belief and practice.

What I have concluded from the Bible is that parents in cooperation with their church are responsible for raising children until adulthood. There are three necessities for Christian parents---character, marriage, and fulfilling the role. Character assumes salvation. Parents can network with churches of like faith and practice for a pool of possible marriage candidates for their children. And then we have the fulfillment of role. I say fulfillment of role, because our girls shouldn't be the ones responsible for breadwinning. That should be our boys. The girls should at least learn to be homemakers. We are serious about training our girls in that.

So as parents we've got to take responsibility for equipping our boys to earn a living. I'm not talking about character on that. Do they have some skill that will enable them to provide for a family? I see that is what college is for. In certain cases, I understand that eighteen year olds finish high school and still don't have character. A church college looks very attractive for the young person who doesn't have the character to make it any way else. I'm afraid this is often most of the boys and girls that reach eighteen years of age in our churches. They are too immature for anything but a church college. So college may be a continuation of character training, training suitable to help insure that a boy or girl will live right.

Churches have so depended on colleges to instill character to immature young people, that I believe this has become the primary purpose of college for them. They aren't really learning how to earn a living, except for perhaps earning a living by being a missionary, pastor, or Christian school teacher. I don't believe those are ways for our boys to foresee earning a living. This is one way we've got into trouble today with the Bible college movement. Our kids get out of college and they can't do anything to earn a living, so we have a generation of dependents that need to be taken care of by a church. And if they can't get a job in a church, they can't get a very good job, hardly one that will earn a living in the world. A man should not look at a church or churches as a means of earning a living.

Some will say, "God will take care of His own." That's true. He will. But how does He do that? He does that by parents taking the responsibility for teaching their boys how to earn a living.

I see college as the means for that third part, the fulfilling of the role. Sure, our boys and girls can go off to a church college. Or a church could start its own. There are other options. If college is a way to learn to earn a living, a boy can stay at a local junior college or college or university and do that. The key, I believe, is for him to attend where his church is or where there is a fellowshiping church, one just like his church.

I've talked to many men about what I'm writing about here. I know of some Christian kids who have gone to state college and have found out that their Christian school has not done a very good job of teaching them math and science. And when I say science, I don't mean evolution. I mean physics and chemistry. The church school grads find out that they are way behind in math and science in the state school and they can't cope with the work. They also might not do so well on the ACT test, and not just because of the multiculturalism that exists in the government testing. That's not the only criticism I believe we should have of much of Christian education, but it is enough for you to get my drift.

The above is a tough situation for us. We want our children to live for God, have Christian character and marry the right person. We might give them a good work ethic that will allow them to earn enough of a living without higher education. That would be better than losing them. But that also should lead us to consider what we're doing with our children in our home and church. Are we thoroughly training them in the true gospel so they are genuinely converted? Is it real Christianity that is being resembled in our churches? That is the real problem and not the absence of the church college. If our children understood their true reason for being on earth, they could function as a minister within the context of a local college while still operating as a member of our church or one just like ours. From what I hear, the church colleges are receiving more and more immature, with even greater immaturity, from the churches. The churches knew their kids would "go to Bible college." By the time they get through with college, they can't earn a living, but now they've got enough character perhaps to function in the real world.

Hopefully a boy who finishes college could make a decent enough living in secular society, that he would not be a dependent on other people or his church. I understand that some of you reading this might be thinking---but what about our girls? That's a longer discussion. And I have right now a 16 (17 in two weeks), a 13, and a 10 year old girl. The boy is finishing up his second year at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

But what about pastors and missionaries and Christian school teachers? Your church should be able to produce those, especially out of people who have a good education. I've found that a college can't produce a teacher. Learning to teach doesn't come from a college. Other important learning can come from a college, but not how to teach. To learn how to teach, you've got to teach. I believe you want your future pastors to be men who already know how to earn a living. We don't live in an age where every church can provide enough an income for its pastor. We need pastors who can do both, like we see in the very beginning of our country. The need for support is a motivation for many pastors to cut corners and compromise for church growth. A man who can already provide has a foundation for waiting on God in his ministry philosophy.

And is the biblical model for us to raise every last bit of monetary support for missionaries? Of course not. Not at all. We need to get our church members back to the mentality of tent making. We need men who can do both on a field, work and evangelize and make disciples, like the example of Paul. Paul held himself up as an example to the church of Thessalonica as that model.

Pastors themselves ought to be well enough trained that they could train their own new pastors. It ought to be the norm for the pastor to be the Bible scholar. That standard can be emulated. I tell our guys that we want to make our cake from scratch, not from mix. If you can do that, then you can train your own men. And that also is the biblical model.

Colleges have been one of the resources that have tied men into fundamentalism, unnecessarily so. You can use them, but you don't need them. If you have no need for the colleges, you won't need that part of fundamentalism either.

19 comments:

Charles E. Whisnant said...

Of course all this sounds good on paper. I agree there is a real need today in our churches. I have said much of what you have said for many years. Too many preachers untrained are trying to do what they are not really able to do in this area, and we have many Christians and would be preachers failing in their task.

I agree that churches should train their people to do the work of the ministry. But we need pastors with the ability of doing the training.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Churches have so depended on colleges to instill character to immature young people, that I believe this has become the primary purpose of college for them. They aren't really learning how to earn a living, except for perhaps earning a living by being a missionary, pastor, or Christian school teacher. I don't believe those are ways for our boys to foresee earning a living. This is one way we've got into trouble today with the Bible college movement. Our kids get out of college and they can't do anything to earn a living, so we have a generation of dependents that need to be taken care of by a church. And if they can't get a job in a church, they can't get a very good job, hardly one that will earn a living in the world. A man should not look at a church or churches as a means of earning a living.

I agree. For quite a while, I've been bothered by the IFB "model" of a young man in his teens being "called to preach," going off to Bible college to get his degree in Bible or Pastoral or whatever, and then leaving college expecting to be hired by a church, as it he were just like some kid with a secular degree looking to get hired by some secular firm.

I just don't see that really fitting in with the whole idea of a man desiring the office of a bishop - taking into account the emphatic nature of the Greek underlying that verse. I just don't see expectancy as being the same thing as zeal.

This is coupled with the observation I've made over the years that many of these young guys who follow this route end up not becoming pastors or missionaries, or becoming them only to "wash out" after a few years. You can't believe the number of UPS drivers that I've met who have told me they are former pastors/former Bible college students/etc. At least four, by my reckoning, which doesn't seem like very many, until you take into account how many UPS drivers we're actually very likely to meet AND have conversations with (not that many), and how statistically likely it is that four of them will all have the same general backstory (very unlikely).

A lot of this is due to the wrong "model" for entering the pastorate, but I think a lot of it also comes from the fact that even many Christian colleges don't really teach maturity and charactre like they should. I remember visiting one institution in particular for a conference and observing the preacher boys sitting around playing a worldly computer game that I knew from before I was saved, a game that I knew was based on ungodly principles, and definitely featured ungodly, synthesised rock-type music. Let, none of them seemed to see anything amiss with this, and acted like no adult in authority would be mad if they'd been caught playing it.

That bothered me.

Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,

I believe that this is one of the most important articles you have written on your blog. I agree 100%, & I want to make sure our church people understand this as well.

In the overall picture, the only thing you did not address was the common experience of Christian parents seeing their young people corrupted by the attitudes, teaching, & philosophies they imbibe while being in the CHRISTIAN COLLEGE atmosphere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no parental influence & usually without being under sound preaching in a local church.

This problem is indeed one of, if not THE greatest problem in American Fundamentalism.

Bobby said...

Yup.

jg said...

Brethren, we've abandoned scrutinizing men to see if they really match up to I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. As long as a man says he's called and has the right kind of degree from the right kind of school, he's qualified, amen?

Of deacons, it says a man must first be proved. How much more a pastor?

How can a man be "proved" if he's never held a job, if he got married right after Bible school and his wife worked to put him through seminary, and they don't have any children or the oldest is 6 months old?

It seems to me for a man to be proved he has to have demonstrated an ability to serve the Lord, provide for his family, etc. BEFORE you start paying him as an elder/pastor.

I don't see any way we can really be true to the Scriptural teaching on qualifications for ministry if we are putting men into the ministry that can't provide for their families unless they have a "ministry job".

I do believe a church should pay their pastor, to the extent they are able, but I know well that isn't always possible.

You've hit one of my hobby-horses here. Not everyone should be a "tent-maker", but every pastor should be able to make tents in one way or another should the need arise.

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,

I am thankful that the Lord promised to preserve the church, for if the fundamentalist movement were our hope, we would be in a bad way. I have the following questions.

1.) You had stated: “I'm afraid this is often most of the boys and girls that reach eighteen years of age in our churches. They are too immature for anything but a church college.” Does Scripture state that eighteen is the age when people are adults and are accountable to take their place in civil society, or, based on Numbers 1:18, 20; 26:4; 32:11; etc. is it twenty? (The Gal 4:2 text relates as well, but I don’t believe that is a text about civil society, and both it and the Numbers texts need to be kept in mind.)] Should we be surprised that many 18 year olds are not ready to do everything if Biblically they have two more years? (Of course, ideally everyone will be able to take care of himself for days without supervision at twelve years of age, like Christ could Luke 2:42ff., but He was perfect.) I believe we were more Scriptural when we had the voting age at 21 than when we lowered it to eighteen and made that age the cutoff for everything.

2.) Is it true that church colleges are for those who are immature? Is there any basis for any form of secular education at all? We are in a fallen world, but is non-church education in anything the Biblical pattern?

3.) You stated that in church colleges youth “aren't really learning how to earn a living, except for perhaps earning a living by being a missionary, pastor, or Christian school teacher. I don't believe those are ways for our boys to foresee earning a living.” If it is God’s will for them to be pastors, why is it wrong for them to forsee earning a living that way, since “the Lord [hath] ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:4)?
By the way, not that earning minimum wage is the goal at all, but someone in the USA earning minimum wage is more wealthy than 99.9% of people that have ever lived in history. Kings in the Middle Ages couldn’t vaccinate their children, drive a car, have all the food options in the grocery store, use a cell phone, have easy access to hot water and good sanitation, etc. We have an eight hour work day instead of the twelve hour one of the first century (Mt 20:6), so we have plenty of time. Therefore all 21st century Americans can provide for their families, can they not? If not, how did the 99.9% of people in history who could not even dream of the wealth of the poorest Americans provide for their families? While I am certainly not saying that stopping here is the goal, nonetheless, if a family has food and raiment, are they provided for?

Thomas Ross said...

4.) It is certainly true that the church is sufficient, and someone can be trained for the ministry in his own church without going anywhere. However, we do see in Scripture that Paul took Timothy out of his own church for the purpose of greater ministry (Acts 16:1-3). Many Baptists who are in various ministry positions cannot explain something such as basic as Biblical, Chalcedonian Christology (if you are reading this, and you don’t know what I mean, answer the following question in your head right now: “Did Christ die on the cross in His human Person or His Divine Person?” I’ll answer this question at the end of the post--and, by the way, I believe that many of the godly readers of this blog can very easily answer this question correctly), or exegete Scripture in the original languages. There is no original language based English language systematic theology that is local-only in ecclesiology and perfect preservationist. Many men in the stronger churches don’t know how to prepare an expository sermon or how to carefully exegete Scripture, and could not, to save their lives, diagram a sentence from the inspired original language texts to make sure that the central points of their messages are the central points God made in the Word. Could this situation be improved if more men got advanced training in church-run schools where detailed and careful study of such topics was made?
A man who refuses to preach certain things because he gets a salary is not qualified to be a pastor, and any man of God needs to be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to be true to the Word, including getting a secular job if necessary—indeed, he must be true to death if necessary—but the pastor who works a secular job is not the Biblical pattern for the pastor, is it, 1 Cor 9:14? And is it really certain that the Biblical pattern is that missionaries get a job in third world countries rather than “living of the gospel?” Paul did need to work a secular job on occasion to avoid giving offense and because sometimes funds from churches, many of which he had just planted in any case, were not that easy to come by. (They couldn’t just electronically transfer money into his bank account, after all.) Is the Biblical pattern to have a full-time pastor, but not a full-time missionary? That is what the following seems to assert: “And is the biblical model for us to raise every last bit of monetary support for missionaries? Of course not. Not at all. We need to get our church members back to the mentality of tent making.” It seems to me like the didactic passages in 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, etc. teach that the pattern is exactly one of having pastors and church planters, whether local or foreign, having every last bit of monetary support, while noting from the non-specifically didactic narrative text of Acts that it is not wrong to do it a different way in some circumstances.

Thanks for the posts. I appreciate your desire to evaluate everything from Scripture alone.

By the way, Christ didn’t die on the cross in either His human Person or His Divine Person. He doesn’t have two Persons. He is one Person with two natures, and in His human nature He died a death of infinite value because of the union of His human nature with His Divine Person. If you think Christ has two Persons you actually hold to a heretical Christology.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thomas,

1. I don't disagree.
2. Q#1--this doesn't relate to my two sentences. It doesn't follow the quote of me in 1. Q#2--Daniel and Moses. How did Paul learn tentmaking? Q#3--ditto. How do you relate these to your learning Hebrew from a Jewish rabbi?
3. People can do it with a minimum wage. I made minimum wage. We don't make most of our decisions by what might work, but what will be the best. Having a skill for earning a living does not clash with contentment (1 Tim 5:8).
4. A church should take responsibility for a pastor. When it doesn't, what does the pastor do? Does he quit? Paul wasn't taken care of by the churches. He had to earn a living and he set himself up as an example of that.

I didn't deal with something that Bro. Webb. brought up and that is the wisdom of theological training under those who don't believe and practice like we do. And if you are going to get secular training for earning a living in a secular world, that doesn't have to be done by a Christian. I'm not talking about elementary or secondary education.

Daniel learned from the Babylonians and God didn't condemn that, except for areas that disobeyed God. And Daniel was blessed in that.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing Thomas,

You could support your family in California by minimum wage if you worked an 80 hour work week. It wouldn't leave much time for pastoring. Some of you what you are talking about is totally fantasy. It's true that we could live out of the back of our station wagon, but not with a wife and children. Probably a tent would work if it was legal, and that would be like people in Christ's day. Is that what you suggest for the pastor in America?

jg said...

"any man of God needs to be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to be true to the Word, including getting a secular job if necessary—indeed, he must be true to death if necessary—but the pastor who works a secular job is not the Biblical pattern for the pastor, is it, 1 Cor 9:14?"
Brother Ross, your argument seems to neglect the clear context that Paul had chosen to be a tentmaker. This was not a necessity on his part, but a choice. He had the power or authority to do otherwise, but chose not to.

Should I have waited 3 years (or however long it would have taken) to raise support for a family of 7 before going to the field, when I could take my job with me?

Should I now leave our young and very small church to go raise support from American churches so that I will be able to follow "the Biblical pattern for the pastor"? Either I'm violating the Biblical pattern and need to repent or you've not accurately described the Biblical pattern. I'll take the choice behind door number two, please. :-)

The Biblical pattern Paul laid out in this passage is not that pastors should not work "secular" jobs unless they have to. The Biblical pattern is that churches have a responsibility to their pastor, but the pastor is free to choose not to use his power in this area if he is convinced it will further the Gospel.

Of course, the main point Brother Brandenburg raised was that pastors should be able to earn a living outside the ministry. There are abundant reasons for this even if a pastor never serves as a tentmaker.

Gary Webb said...

Good questions by Thomas. Good answers by Brandenburg. American society is wealthy. I have often thought about the standard of living required for a pastor ministering in the US versus a much poorer place. I don't think that it is being materialistic to realize that neither Paul nor Jesus - in spite of their circumstances - would have been considered a "street person" in their day. However, when I look at Brandenburg's article, what draws my attention most is not the references to what preachers do to make a living, but the failure (many times) of separatist, Baptist churches to train their young men to be able - not only to earn a living - but to be able to earn enough so that "he may have to give to him that needed"? Not every person has the ability to, say, be an engineer, but why is it that usually the professionals in our churches did not grow up in Christian homes? We do have similar examples in Scripture of very successful men receiving secular or ungodly training: Moses, Daniel, & Joseph. Of course, not only were they trained by the world, but they did not "learn the way of the heathen".

Josh said...

Thomas,
Do you believe that you need to look at the original language to properly understand the Bible? If so could you please explain why?

Thomas Ross said...

To answer Pastor Brandenburg's questions:

1.) The pastor should not quit if his church does not take the responsibility of supporting him, but he should teach the church that they ought to do so.

2.) I do not suggest that a pastor works 80 hours a week at minimum wage while pastoring. I suggest that the church supports him fully.

3.) In relation to jg's questions, I would agree that Paul chose to do what he did, but that in the large majority of instances it will not "further the Gospel" if he works a secular job instead of living of the gospel.

By the way, Moses, Daniel, and Joseph all did get a secular education and made it. But did any of them choose to get a secular education, or was it a matter of death or bondage that put them in that situation? And how many of Daniel's countrymen got a secular education in Babylon and made it? (Moses' countrymen were murdered by drowning when infants, so one can't get a percentage for them, nor, obviously, in Joseph's situation.)

By the way, I can't guarantee I will have time to reply further, so if brethren ask further questions and I don't answer them, please don't assume that it is because you are being ignored.

Thomas Ross said...

I realize I didn't answer the Jewish rabbi question. As I mentioned earlier, learning something non-theological from a heathen person is not forbidden. I just don't see it as the Biblical pattern. Also, I am all for people having skills to make a living, but Paul's knowing how to make tents fits the pattern of a 1st generation Christian who learned his trade while an unconverted person, rather than a person in a Christian home going to a secular college or something of that nature, so I'm not sure how much evidence it can give us.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thomas,

What JG is saying, and I agree with him, is that Paul chose to work a secular job because it would further the gospel. The 1 Cor 9 passage, which I believe is one of the best NT evidences for tithing, is also Paul saying that he isn't going to take money for what he's doing for the furtherance of the gospel. Who are we to contradict revelation from God that says that it would further the gospel? The only argument against would seem to be human reasoning.

When I say that a church takes the responsibility, that doesn't mean a church will be able to support a pastor. A group of ten or twenty or thirty people will be able to support him to varying degrees. But he'll still need to work, and why not work less hours for greater pay, if possible? Why not have that as a goal through having a skill like Paul had. That's what I'm talking about.

And you made an exception for non-theological training. That's what we're talking about. If you could learn to be a great writer from a great writer who wasn't a Christian, would you choose that over becoming a mediocre writer from a mediocre Christian writer. A Christian plumber isn't necessarily a better plumber.

Everyone,

Maybe we need a longer discussion on this and another post. We do see several rich believers in scripture. That isn't condemned. Job, Abraham, David, perhaps Philemon. The goal isn't to be rich (1 Tim 6:17-19). However, while someone is waiting to know that he is a pastor through the desire, fulfillment of the qualifications, and the laying on of hands, shouldn't he be working, showing he can care for his own (2 Thess 3:6-12)? The role for the man is to provide, to win the bread, and while that younger man doesn't know if he's going to pastor, should learn a way to earn a living.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Wow. Nothing like a Blogger foulup to kill a discussion, eh?

RJ said...

Pastor B,

Are you done with this particular series, or is there more to come?

Many thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...

There is more to come, RJ.

RJ said...

Great, thanks. Looking forward to it.