“Follow the Leader”
From the replacement of Pete Nelson, to all the attempts to take Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and so much in between, it’s more than too much.
There is also a need to avoid unnecessary controversy for the sake of my health.
Last week, however, I was directed by a couple of brothers to a “sermon” preached by ‘”executive pastor” Neil Ortiz.
It is a textbook example of how a pulpit can be used to manipulate behavior and attitudes to further the kingdom of one man instead of the kingdom of God and His gospel.
There is no Gospel in the message, just a demand for unquestioning fealty to one man and his “vision”.
There is a biblical place for pastoral authority in the church…but it looks nothing like this.
This is an oft used template and perhaps if we review the template we can help people understand the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, and reject the machinations of mere men to put the church in spiritual bondage.
Ortiz begins the message by comparing CA to a football team, the 1982 Chicago Bears.
He compares Heitzig to Mike Ditka, then coach of the Bears.
He wants you to know that like Ditka, he wants you to “give everything you have” to the “coach” of the church.
He also wants you to understand that failure to do so means you are not needed or wanted.
Adopt to the “culture” or leave is the inference given.
Be willing to pay the price…not to the Lord, but to the “senior pastor”.
God is the “team owner’ and he’s “hired” Skip Heitzig to be the singular,unchallenged leader.
You can’t challenge Skip because he received his vision and position from God; therefore, to challenge Skip is to challenge God.
We are “privileged” to be able to follow and support him, declares Ortiz.
You must never lose sight of this, he says…
That’s just the first seven minutes…
Ortiz cites a text, a text that ends up warped to fit the work of tyranny.
“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
(1 Corinthians 4:14–21 ESV)
He claims that Paul here is an example of a senior pastor.
Paul was an apostle…Timothy was the “senior pastor” if there was such a position in the early church.
Ortiz then jumps out of scripture to again to bolster his point that Skip is the “point man”, as in a military sense.
He then goes on to describe the duties of the head guy in the most heroic terms possible.
At 18:54, after pounding home a description of what it means to be a “spiritual father”, he tells the congregation that though they may listen to other teachers, they only have one “spiritual father”.
Guess who that is?
That is followed up by a exhortation on authority and submission.
In reality, that is all this message is about…creating the authority of the senior pastor and demanding submission to him.
You will be judged, according to Ortiz, according to how well you obey.
God alone has appointed the great leader… and you’re not him.
If you don’t like your place in the church, you are a “whiny thumb sucker”…
Ortiz closes this interminably long suck up with “your responsibilities”…which are again framed around following the great leader and his “vision”.
Complaints betray a lack of trust in leadership.
You are to understand that God gives information to Skip that he may not share with you.
Trusting God means trusting Skip.
To do otherwise makes you a “punk” akin to Absalom.
Leave the team and you’ll be a loser like the coaches that left Ditka after the Super Bowl.
As I said, this is a template and it’s not unique to CA or Heitzig.
It is bondage as a new law is given, that of complete, unquestioning, submission to leadership.
There is no Gospel, no offer of the forgiveness of sin, and no remission of the same.
It is a chain to hold you and, if necessary, beat you with.
Run away from such, your soul was meant to be free in Christ.