"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

A Pet Test to Find a True Pastor of God's People

Rachelle, my wife, loves cats. I take the 5th regarding my charity toward the furry felines.

When Rachelle’s business takes her away, I must "fill in" to care for the cats. The cats love my wife, She's their caregiver. She's tender with them. She loves them. She shepherds them.

I am a hireling for the cats.

My wife is a true pastor to the cats.

Yes, that's right. Rachelle meets the biblical definition of what it means to be a pastor.

Rachelle doesn't "rule over" our cats. Cats weren't designed to be "ruled over" by anyone. It's not in their nature. There's a reason that attempting to do something without success is compared to "herding cats."

So too, when Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior, He makes it very clear to us that only He is to reign as King over our lives. Jesus alone is Lord.

Nobody else is to rule over His people.

Especially pastors.

A Pastor Never Rules 

In the average evangelical church, there's this concept that an elder, or a bishop, or a pastor, is someone who should "rule over" God's people.

The typical "ordained" pastor in an institutional church believes in pastoral authority over people because it’s been taught by those who trained him. Further, says the average evangelical pastor, the church “pastor" must only be a male, never a female, because the "pastor" must be in authority over his church like the husband is in authority over his wife and like a father is in control of his children.

But that's not how the New Testament defines a pastor.

The New Testament definition of a pastor looks more like my wife’s care of her cats than it does the traditional pastor's control over his church.

Am I being silly? I don't think so.

In the Greek New Testament, there are four different words used to describe the person whom the evangelical church calls "pastor," or "elder," or "bishop," or "ruler" of Christ's church. Not one of those four words speaks of authority or control over. Rather, each of them describes what my wife does for our cats.

Let me show you.

1. Pastor (Greek: ποιμήν, transliterated poimaino).

This word literally means "one who feeds, nurtures, and guides with tender care." The Greek Septuagint uses this word in translating the Hebrew of Ezekiel 34 where God condemns Israel's leaders for being abusive "shepherds" (pastors) of His sheep (people).
"You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally." (Ezekiel 34:4 NIV)
God then gives a Messianic prophecy of the coming of the Son of David when He declares:
"I will place over them one Shepherd (poimaino), My servant David, and He will tend them; He will tend them and be their Shepherd (poimaino). (Ezekiel 34:23)
The great Hebrew linguist John Gill says of Ezekiel 34:23:
The shepherd is not David himself literally; who though a shepherd, and the servant of the Lord, yet had been dead many years before this prophecy was delivered... but the shepherd is Messiah, as is expressly owned by the Jewish rabbi Kimchi; who says, "This is the Messiah that shall arise from his seed in the time of salvation: he is called David because his name agrees with him, which signifies "beloved", he being beloved of God and man; and because the son of David, of his seed according to the flesh; and because David was an eminent type of him, in his person, offices, afflictions, wars, victories, and exaltation; and because he was David's Lord and representative, and in whom his everlasting kingdom is established." (Gill's Commentary on Ezekiel)
Jesus accepts the words of the prophet Ezekiel as a reference to Himself. He said:
"I am the good shepherd (poimaino). The good shepherd (poimaino) lays down his life for his sheep" (John 10:11)
The Greek word poimaino (pastor) conveys much more than "to feed" (Greek: boske) sheep. The word poimaino (pastor) involves feeding, caring, guiding, guarding, and protecting.

David is the epitome of a good poimaino.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear." (I Samuel 17:34-37)
In the famous passage from John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter about his love for the Good Shepherd. In the conversation with Peter, Jesus uses both boske (feed) and poimaino (pastor/shepherd) in reference to His people:

Jesus: "Simon, do you truly love me?
Peter: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus: "Feed (boske) My sheep."

Jesus: "Simon, do you truly love me?"
Peter: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus: "Take care of (poimaino) My sheep."

Jesus: "Simon, do you love me?"
Peter" "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus: "Feed (boske) My sheep."

My wife pastors our cats. She protects them, cares for them, guards them, guides them, doctors them, and feeds them. I will sometimes feed them. I am a fill-in for the true pastor. You could call me a hireling. I feed the cats when my wife's away, but I don't pastor the cats.

A pastor by its very biblical definition is never one who "rules over" any thing. A pastor is one who truly cares for God's people.

2. Ruler (Greek: προστῆναι, transliterated proistami)

This word literally means "to assist, to help, or to manage." 

Unfortunately, the English King James translators of the Greek Bible sometimes wrongly translated this word prostenai as "to rule." For example, Paul wrote to Timothy and gave the qualifications of character for those who truly shepherd God's people. 
 "One that ruleth (prostenai) well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; For if a man know not how to rule (prostenai) his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (I Timothy 3:4-5 KJV). 
The word prostenai doesn't mean "to rule." It means to help, assist, or manage.

The King James translators came across this same word prostenai in reference to a woman named Phoebe. This time, King James translators used the proper English words to convey the true meaning of the Greek proistemi. Paul told the Christians at Rome to:
"Receive Phoebe in the Lord as becometh saints, and assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you; for she hath been a succourer (proistami) of many, and of myself also." (Romans 16:2).
Succourer is an old English word which means "helper."

Ironic, is it not, that English translators in the early 1600's wanted to make men "rule" over women and children, while at the same time, they wanted women and children to help and assist men?

Sounds like John MacArthur would have felt right at home in London during the early 17th century.

When proistami is properly understood in the New Testament as a word that means "to help, to uphold, to care for, and to support," then a pastor/shepherd is seen as one who "helps" God's people and not one who "rules over" God's people.

I Timothy 5:17 is a verse where proistami is used, and when properly translated, makes clear that God's people who "help" widows are worthy of double honor.
"Let the elders that rule ("protect, uphold, care for, and support") be counted worthy of double honor." (I Timothy 5:17). 
Who are these "elders" deserving of double honor.

Women. That's who. Let me prove it by showing you the context of I Timothy 5:17.

Paul has been discussing the need to care for widows in the church where Timothy ministered in the preceding verses:
"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." (I Timothy 5:8-10)
Then, in the verse immediately preceding the "double honor" verse of I Timothy 5:17 where Paul states that those elders who protect and uphold widows are worthy of double honor, Paul writes:
"If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed." (I Timothy 5:16). "Let the elders that rule ("protect, uphold, care for, and support" the widows just mentioned) be counted worthy of double honor." (I Timothy 5:17). 

Oh my. The "elders" deserving of "double honor" for caring for widows are the women believers who care for widows so as not to burden the church."

Greek scholars J.H. Moulton and G. Milligan point out that the word proistami was used as early as 256 BC by a Greek son writing to his father.
"There will be nothing of more importance for me than to look after you (proistami) for the remainder of life, in a manner worthy of you, and worthy of me." (Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament; Moulton/Milligan, p. 551)
 Paul's use of proistami represents the New Testament principle that God's people should be cared for by people with shepherding, caring, helpful, and encouraging hearts.

My wife caring for our cats comes closer to the New Testament definition of pastor/shepherd than a male ordained pastor who sees himself ruling over God's church.

3. Bishop (Greek: ἐπισκοπή, transliterated episkope)

This word means "one who looks upon, considers, has regard for, is concerned for, or cares for something or someone" (Kittles, Vol. II, p. 599f).

The word "bishop" occurs 6 times in the King James Version of the New Testament to identify leaders of the church, but without any clue to its meaning (see Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; Acts 1:20; I Peter 2:25; and I Timothy 3:1).

However, there are other biblical texts where this word is used - episkopos (noun) or episkeptomai (verb) - and the context makes clear its meaning. The KJV translators chose other English words other than "bishop" to translate it (bold words below translate episkope)
When Jesus raised the son of the widow at Nain, the people observed the miracle and declared:"A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people" (Luke 7:16).
When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to report all that God had done among the Gentile people, James responded, "Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself." (Acts 15:14). 
Later, when Paul and Barnabas decided to go back and check on the churches among that had been established among the Gentile, they said, "Let us go back and visit (i.e. care for) the brothers in all the towns where we preached." (Acts 15:36). 
 In Matthew 25:36, Jesus said that those found acceptable at the Judgment would be those that had bishoped" Him: "I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited (cared for) me." On the other hand, those who would be condemned on judgment day have said of them, "I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me" (Matthew 25:43). 
"Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). 
A bishop is someone who "looks after," and "visits" and "cares for" God's people with regard and concern.

Every Christian is to be a bishop. Every Christian is to be a pastor. Every Christian is to be a minister.

A few Christians are called to serve others vocationally, but every single Christian is to serve others volitionally.

God forbid that a man or woman draw a paycheck as a "pastor" or as a "ruler" or as a "bishop" without a heart of care and concern for God's people. 

My wife's care for our cats better epitomizes the role of a pastor than any man who rules over God's people.

4. Elder (Greek: πρεσβύτερος, transliterated presbuteros)

This word simply means "older, or elderly."

An "elder" is someone older than the average.

Presbyteras, occurs in 1 Timothy 5:2 and  refers to aged women.

Paul uses this word in Philemon 9 where he says he is "an old man and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ."

Over the years, the word "elder" took on an additional meaning in the institutional church, but throughout the New Testament, the word presbuteros simply meant "old" or "mature."

When Peter wrote to some aged men and women who followed Jesus in the early church, he writes: 
"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers..." (I Peter 5:1-4). 
 That last little phrase, “serving as overseers,” is not found in any of the early Greek manuscripts.

Elders are people who “care for God’s flock.”

Every Christian should be a minister. Every Christian should be a bishop. Every Christian should be a pastor. Every Christian, especially as he or she grows older, should be a shepherd of God’s flock.

A group of Christians may at times gather and determine that a gifted person among them is to be “set  aside” to fulfill a specific ministry on behalf of the assembly. However, nobody is to “rule over” God’s people.

If you want to find who has a true pastoral heart among your gathering of Christians, just think of the pet test I’ve given you.

My wife is fulfilling the call of pastor to our cats.

Pondering our pets and how we care for them keeps you on track to determining those who are true pastors of God’s people.

Those who focus on “authority,” “control” and “ruling” are disqualified from being considered pastors of Christ’s people, at least according to the sacred Scriptures.

Hat Tip: David Tinker, Quentin and Eileen Vennum, and Rachelle Burleson

Sheep Among Wolves Vol. II: Christianity in Iran

Two hours. That's how long it will take for you to watch this life-changing movie about a Great Awakening occurring in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has the the fastest growing Christian church in the world today. It is a rapidly-reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominately led by courageous women.  It will be the best two hours you've spent in a long time.  #Iran

When Men Rule the Church, Men Fool the Church: FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, and the Mistakes Made

A Conference at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee (2017)
My heart goes out to the people and leaders of First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee. They are in a mess.

Emails flooded my inbox at the beginning of this week with people asking if I'd "heard about FBC Clarksville calling a pastor who had used his position as a youth pastor to sexually prey on young women in his youth group." 

I had not. I then read this newspaper article.

I then read that Southern Seminary, the place where this pastor had taught as an adjunct professor, suspended him this week.

My wife and I then read the account of the sexual predatory behavior from the two women groomed by this former youth pastor, the man who is was the leading candidate to be the next Senior Pastor of FBC Clarksville, Tennessee.

Our hearts broke while reading what the girls wrote.

I then listened to the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee explain to the church last Sunday morning that there were "a few adversaries" that were opposing their recommendation to bring this man as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee, (see video below).

I could not believe what I heard from the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee.

I had to listen to the video three times to make sure I comprehended what he was saying.

I was not misunderstanding him.

I'm sure the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee at FBC Clarksville is a wonderful man who is doing his best. I can't imagine the pressure he must be under.

But he made three huge mistakes:
1. The moment he heard from victims about the leading candidate's previous sexual activities with females in his youth group (with photos and testimonial corroboration), he should have made that leading candidate the last candidate his church ever considered. The information he obtained should also have been shared with the leading candidate's current church. 
2. Calling the two young women that were groomed for sexual activity by their former youth pastor "adversaries" is like calling a victim of a robbery, dying from a gunshot wound inflicted by the robber, an "adversary" because the killer was your relative. The impartial see through this subterfuge instantly.
3. In the age of the Internet, when the Chairman seemed to excuse what he learned about the sexual indiscretions of his leading candidate by comparing him to previous pastors of FBC Clarksville, he made a fatal mistake. Classic sexual abuse is when someone in a position of influence and authority preys on others. No previous pastor of FBC was in ministry when their sexual indiscretions occurred. Pre-conversion stories don't match post-conversion stories. And on top of that, the sexual indiscretions of the leading candidate occurred while he was a pastor! The leading candidates' previous grooming activities are unacceptable - period. No excuses. The candidate's social media profile has gone dark. But the websites which seek to protect the church of Jesus Christ have lit up. It's a new day, but I'm not sure that the chairman of the FBC Clarksville Pastoral Search Committee has the wherewithal to understand it. Sunday's statement to the church is unconscionable. 
The leading candidate to be pastor of FBC Clarksville is no longer the leading candidate.  He can't be. He won't be. It just hasn't been announced publicly - yet.

What's more, in my opinion, a new Pastoral Search Committee needs to be elected. The cultural, social, and church "tone deafness" of the current FBC Clarksville Pastoral Search Committee is stunning.

Were a woman to be the Chairperson of the Pastoral Search Team, or were women to be in prominent leadership positions of FBC Clarksville, what happened last Sunday at FBC Clarksville would not have happened.

When men rule the church, men fool the church.

FBC Clarksville has been taught over the years that "the man rules." Sadly, when "the man rules" alone, the church makes mistakes. Southern Baptists rightfully oppose homosexual marriage, believing that the male and the female in union is God's design?

Why do same sex leadership churches in our Convention not bother us like same sex marriages in our homes?

Both are against God's design.

No man should "rule over" the church but Jesus Christ.

When the full complement of men and women serve the church as the Spirit gifts them, mistakes like those made at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, this past weekend are not nearly as likely.

The full-orbed wisdom and image of God is seen when both gifted and humble men and women serve God's church in leadership positions.

I was not going to write about this debacle until I saw someone on Twitter ask, "Why are leaders of the SBC not speaking out about what's taking place at FBC Clarksville?" 

If you happen to read this blog, I want you to know that many in the SBC understand the serious problems of attempting to excuse predatory behavior of our SBC pastors or leaders.

I'm going after the source of the problem. It's a faulty view of inherent male authority over females (e.g. "the man rules") and I am seeking to provide long-term, biblical solutions.

Men of the Great Assembly and Women Teaching

The Men of the Great Assembly were a group of 120 Jewish leaders who ruled Judea from shortly after the dedication of the Second Temple (516 BC) to the invasion of Judea by the Greeks under Alexander the Great (332 BC).

The formation of the Great Assembly is described in Nehemiah chapters 8, 9, and 10. Today's Israeli Parliament, called The Knesset (Hebrew for "assembly") also has 120 members, imitating the Great Assembly of Ezra's day.

Few Christians understand the significance of the Great Assembly and the effect it had on Jesus' ministry in Judea. 

1. Be deliberate in judging.
2. Educate many students.
3. Make a fence around the Torah.
Make a fence. The word pro-fane is from the Latin and it means "outside the fence." The Great Assembly interpreted the Torah and told the Jews how to live so as not to offend Yahweh. If you didn't abide by the judgments of the Great Assembly, you were a profane person. 

The spiritual descendants of the Great Assembly believed Jesus to be profane person

Jesus was to free. Jesus hung around people outside the fence. Jesus empowered women. Jesus paid little attention to religious rules of the Great Assembly. Jesus sought to transform lives from the inside out. 

The Great Assembly: The Foundation of Jewish/Christian Legalism

In 586 BC, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple, carried away the Jews as slaves into Babylon, beginning what is called for the Jews "The Babylonian Exile." For the next seventy years (586 - 516 BC), the Jews had no Temple to worship Yahweh. 

Ezekiel the prophet saw the glory of Yahweh leaving the Temple before its destruction in 586 BC, and the glory of God never returns to Judea until the birth of Jesus:
"An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the LORD shone around them, and the shepherds were terrified. "Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the nations, for today, in the City of David (Bethlehem) a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the LORD." (Luke 2:9-11). 
That's the first time the glory of the Lord appears in Judea since 586 BC.

Religion for the Jews continued, but the Spirit of God isn't present. When the second Temple is dedicated in 516 BC, the glory of Yahweh did not fill the Temple like He did at the dedication of Solomon's Temple in the 10th century BC

Any time there are attempts to be sacred without the Spirit, to prioritize rules over relationships, and to point the finger at others rather than to put the focus on oneself, religious legalism arises. 

Here's how religious legalism began among the Jews. 

In October 539 BC, the Persian army conquered Babylon and deposed the Babylonian king (see Daniel 5), Persian king Cyrus released the Jews to return to Judea and re-establish Yahweh worship in a reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem. 

Zerubbabel led the Jews in constructing the second Temple. The Jews dedicated it in 516 BC. After the Temple's dedication, the Jews struggled with Yahweh worship because the walls of the city weren't yet rebuilt. Foreigners had moved in to Judea while the Jews were in Exile. Several prominent Jews, including Daniel, remained in Babylon and didn't go back to Jerusalem. The Jews' attention was focused more on their enemies than their God. 

The Jews appealed to the Persian king for help. In response, a young Jewish scholar trained in the Persian court of Babylon, a scribe named Ezra, left Babylon in 458 BC and came to Jerusalem. 

Ezra created the Great Assembly to help the Jews interpret the Torah and apply it to their lives. Nehemiah followed shortly to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem.

Ezra and Nehemiah helped the Jews build the fence. 

There were a few men who argued with Ezra, telling the scribe that it was Yahweh's desire for all nations (e.g. foreigners) to know Yahweh, and Judah was to keep the "gates open" (Zechariah 8:22-23)

But the Great Assembly prevailed. 

The religious fence was constructed. 

Rules were established to keep Jews inside the fence. Rules were established to keep others out. These rules were interpretations of the Torah by the Great Assembly. But because of Great Assembly's alleged "authority" over the Jews, these interpretations became laws.

For the next 400 years, the fence did its job. 

He was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3). He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). All who saw Him mocked Him and sneered (Psalm 22:7). They condemned Him to death (Mark 10:33). 

He was profane. He didn't follow the rules. He was "outside the fence."

Those filled with the Spirit will often be called "profane" by the faithfully religious. 

The Modern Equivalent of the Great Assembly in Evangelicalism

Photo: Church Leaders.Com
There's within Christian evangelicalism a group of men, similar to the Great Assembly of Ezra's day, who wish to instruct Christians, churches, and all who follow Christ as to what Spirit-gifted women can or cannot do within "the assembly." 

My son Logan, a very intelligent follower of Christ who seeks to lead others to the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus, sent me an article about Christian women and "where they can teach." He asked if I had read it and if so, what do I think about it.

I had read it before. In fact, I read it three years ago

The article was re-posted on John Piper's Desiring God Ministries website this past week. 

Photo: Charisma News
All I could think of was the Great Assembly. 

There is a pretty big fence being constructed by the evangelical religious on the issue of women. 

After stating it is profane (outside the fence) for Christian women to teach in the place of "church fathers" (think Great Assembly) or to imitate the authority of a males by leading others, Mary Kassion explains how to determine whether a gifted, Spirit-filled woman is acting as a profane person in her biblical teaching. 

In 2016, John Piper published Mary's article with the title Women Teaching Men - How Far Is Too Far? - a very good fence-building title. 

This past week, John Piper republished Mary's article, with a few word changes, under the title "Where Can Women Teach? Eight Principles for Christian Churches."

At least there's progress in the titles. The 2016 title "How Far Is Too Far?" conjures up a fence. I think the modern evangelical Great Assembly is feeling the heat from Jesus' followers.

Below are some of the main fence-building efforts of John Piper and others in the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as they seek to keep out gifted, humble Christian women from teaching or leading men. 
"Christians gather at many other times and in many other contexts. There’s Sunday school, small groups, prayer meetings, seminars, and conferences. What’s more, Christians often gather for religious edification and instruction with people who don’t go to their church. And they listen to podcasts, watch videos, and read books. The Bible doesn’t specifically address these contexts. As a woman, how do I decide if teaching in these other religious, coed contexts is appropriate?
The way I determine if teaching in a specific religious venue to a coed audience honors male headship is by trying to determine how closely that particular situation mimics the nature, role, and function of a church father in governing and providing public doctrinal instruction for the local-church family.
In particular, I try to pin down where the venue sits on the following eight continuums. The more a teaching venue leans toward the left (the first part of each pairing), the less likely it is that the venue is an appropriate one for me to provide coed instruction. The more the speaking venue leans toward the right (the second part of each pairing), the more likely it is that I might be a helpful teacher in this context.
Context: congregational (church) ⟶ non-congregational. Is this the local church, or is it not exactly church?
Nature: exegetical ⟶ testimonial/inspirational. Am I forcefully interpreting a text of Scripture or sharing from my life and experience with biblical support?
Authority: governmental (directive) ⟶ nongovernmental (nondirective). Am I establishing the official standard for the community?
Relationship: close (personal/relational) ⟶ distant (impersonal/non-relational). Am I in a community relationship with these men? Am I seeking to mentor them?
Commitment: formal ⟶ informal. Have the listeners made a formal commitment to me or to this community?
Obligation: obligatory ⟶ voluntary. Are the listeners obliged to listen to the teaching that takes place in this context? Can they be disciplined and corrected for failing to obey?
Constancy: habitual (ongoing) ⟶ occasional. Does this happen often and repetitively or infrequently?
Maturity: sister ⟶ mother. Does my age and spiritual maturity create a situation where I am speaking as a mother would to her sons.

I have a headache.

Genuinely, I have a headache.

When Christians spend more time fence-building to keep people out, or to keep people from, or to keep people in, you've missed God.

You've created an institution similar to the one that ultimately rejected the mission and purpose of Jesus Christ.
"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32). 
 A fixation on authority is a sign the Spirit has left.

New Covenant Christian leadership is based on spiritual giftedness and not sexual gender. 

"Racism in Rural America" by Pastor Chris Gordon

Pastor Chris Gordon and family
Today's guest post is written by a friend of mine, the wonderful pastor of First Baptist Church, Hennessey, Oklahoma. Chris writes of his own personal experience with racism in rural areas of Oklahoma. It's because of people like Chris, those who are not comfortable with status quo, that change can - and will - occur in the Southern Baptist Convention regarding racism. Chris is pictured here with his wife and children (one foster child not in the picture per legal reasons). I appreciate Chris writing this narrative, and I'd encourage you to read it through carefully - again, and again.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each
other’s eye for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

I’ve heard it said lately that what we need in the world is more empathy. If we could see life through someone else’s perspective, we could then understand what they are going through. If we have a
better understanding of what they are going through then we can solve the issues that might be causing pain in their lives.

Over the years I have felt empathy for my black brothers & sisters as they have fought against the systemic racism that not only plagues us today, but has been a stain on our society for many years. I had that same perspective as Thoreau until I experienced an indirect form of racism myself. I say indirect because it was God’s providence at work keeping my family safe, but it was the ignorance of others that showed me racism is alive & well in the church today.

I am a pastor in a Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma. My career has spanned 20 years and I have served in multiple capacities. My wife & I have served together now for 14 years in SBC churches in our state. I had the privilege of serving several years prior to our marriage as well. My wife & I found out pretty early in our marriage that we were not able to conceive. We were told that we were in the “unknown” category of infertility. Meaning it was unknown why we couldn’t, but that it was highly unlikely. Through many separate incidents, God led us to adopt. We had always thought we would adopt later, you know after we had our “own” kids. Well God had a different plan. Everyday I am more thankful He did. We now have four beautiful children. Three of which are half siblings, same birth mom but different dads. We are a multi-racial family. We have a Hispanic son and the three half
siblings are African American on their birth dads side, Native American on their birth mothers. Our daughter(youngest) is still in the process of adoption, but we have had her since birth. We have brought all of them home from the hospital, so they have been with us exclusively. My wife & I are Caucasian. White people with brown babies.

I was serving in a wonderful church as a Youth Minster when God called me to the Pastorate. I never dreamed I would be a Sr. Pastor anywhere, but God has a sense of humor I guess. I spent almost 2
years sending resumes to churches looking for a Pastor waiting to hear from one of them. I was stuck in that tough spot where churches were looking for a Pastor with Sr. Pastor experience, but I couldn’t get Sr. Pastor experience without someone first hiring me. But alas I plugged along.

As I was beginning to question God whether or not I had heard Him or if it was some bad burrito I had eaten for lunch, I received my first serious phone call. On the other end was a Deacon from a church in SW Oklahoma. I knew of the church as I had served near it while starting my Youth Ministry career. We had a nice conversation about his church & how they were looking for a Sr. Pastor. He had received my resume from one of my references who was a former Sunday School teacher at the church I had served near them. She was a school administrator who knew one of the ladies on their search committee who was an administrator at their local school. I was impressed with the conversation. It flowed easily & he asked all the right questions. He explained that they had two candidates they were interested in. They wanted to hear me preach as they had heard the other candidate. He asked for a video sermon because I wasn’t preaching every week. He told me I was his pick & to expect a questionnaire via email. I was naive in my thinking, but it was so good
to actually think it was a possibility. My mind began to race after that call. I received the questionnaire that night & I went to work immediately.

I sent the questionnaire back along with a video sermon. A couple of weeks went by when I received another call from him. He said they were impressed by my references & they loved my preaching. I of course was excited, who doesn’t love compliments? He encouraged me to speak to their former Pastor, he was a younger guy like myself who had made the transition from Youth Ministry to the Pastorate. I called the former Pastor & we spoke for quite some time. He told me of the challenges the church had faced, but that it was a good place with good people. All in all he had no hesitations about sending a young guy there for his first Pastorate. I called around the area, I spoke with the Director of Missions, I spoke with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director that lived close to them. Everyone had great things to say about how loving the people were. I was ecstatic.

The church was in a small country community of around 250. The church was the only church in the community. They were a few miles from a bigger, more diverse military city. It had never been a town, just a farming community with a church & a school. The community had grown over the years as people moved out there to commute in to the bigger city. They liked the small school & the rural feel I guess. Again, all I had heard was how loving these people were. Small town rural community churches are filled with wonderful loving folks. They are my kind of people, I thought. I grew up in the country six miles from town, in a church of 40 people. It was my dream church so I thought.
Never in a million years did I expect what happened next.

After a few weeks had passed I began to get curious as I hadn’t heard from the search committee. The chairman had assured me that I should expect a face to face interview. I was beginning to get
impatient. Was it something I said? Was it something I did? Something I didn’t say or do? All the while I was plugging along at my Youth Ministry position, but I was starting to imagine myself Pastoring these people in the rural community, yet not a word from them.

I called the reference who had shared my resume. She said she wasn’t sure what had happened, because from what she was told they loved me. Her friend had spoken highly of me & my preaching. She said they loved all the answers I gave to their questions. She offered to call her friend on the committee for me to see what was happening. I told her to wait a couple of weeks, if I hadn’t heard from them I would let her know. Three weeks went by, crickets. So I called her up & asked to make the call.

When she called me back she was livid. She was crying & she was mad. I’ll never forget her phone call. She started the conversation off with “YOU DIDN’T WANT TO GO THERE ANYWAYS!!!”. It sent chills down my spine, it does even as I write this. She went on to explain that her friend, former friend I might add, had explained they were going with the other guy. She told her that the church didn’t have any issues with my multicolored family, but that they were concerned the community would. They were entrusted by God to reach their community after all, and many in that community moved out there to “get away” from the color in the larger city. She was certain my kids weren’t “like” “those kids” in the bigger city, but how could they reach people that wouldn’t know that. It was best they moved on from me to protect us & reach their community. My friend apologized to me. She
could hear the anger in my voice. I responded angrily. I said things I shouldn’t have. I have since repented of those sins.

The church never told me they were moving another direction. Never heard from them again. They didn’t send a letter or even a phone call. They called the other guy. He was there 10 months. They fired him. God protected my family and for that I am eternally grateful.

So you see I used to feel empathy. I used to think I knew what it was like. But in reality, I didn’t. I didn’t know what it was like to have people spurn you because of the color of your skin. I didn’t know what it was like to have people stare at your wife in judgement when she’s at the
grocery store with her brown skinned children. I didn’t have a clue. But now I do.

I am not advocating against empathy, I am advocating for action. It is a both/and situation. When I read about Marcus Hayes being victimized by people of FBC Naples, my heart felt empathy, and my
soul was called to action. We must speak out and act out against the evils of racism. We must call people out for their sins. We must first dig deep into our lives to see if the problem could be in us. The roots run deep. They are not easily torn out. God commands us in Hebrews to lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely. We must act swiftly. We must remember that the enemy wants to steal, kill & destroy. We cannot defeat the enemy of racism, but we serve the Risen King who can.


Note (from Wade Burleson) - Other issues besides "race" were present at FBC Naples that led to Marcus Hayes not being called as Senior Pastor. However,  it's been confirmed to me that racism was present in some members. Even if racism was .001% of the reason 19% voted "No" regarding Marcus Hayes, it is necessary to confront the .001%.

And finally, it was announced at FBC Naples on Sunday morning, November 3, 2019, that the church is going to conduct a re-vote on Marcus Hayes as Senior Pastor at FBC Naples and that the announcement in the services received a standing ovation.

This time, if there are "other" issues besides racial prejudice, go ahead and call the African-American pastor that God has laid on the hearts of the Pastoral Search Team (and staff) and deal with those "other" issues separately. #MarcusHayes #GraceTriumphs

#WellDone #FBCNaples