Things I Think…

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57 Responses

  1. Babylon’s Dread says:

    The shunning is often systemic rather than systematic but it works the same. One cultivate church in our city uses either/or type manipulation. When a person refuses to obey every instruction of their ‘overseer’ they are warned about a ‘spirit of rebellion.’ Then they are fed a host of Biblical stories to imply their eternal destiny is at stake.

    When people leave these groups they are riddled with confusion, guilt, shame and fear. They often lose their ability to make decisions.

    I can go on and on about this but you have helpfully expressed your concerns.

  2. Michael says:


    Well said and thank you…feel free to go on about it as much as you want…

  3. Babylon’s Dread says:

    Ugh cultivate = cultic.

  4. Seminole Wind says:

    And of course the irony is these cult like behaviors practiced by these non denominations/evangelical churches are akin to those practiced by the real ” cults” i.e Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons etc. whom the evangelicals disparage for such actions.

  5. Donner says:

    One of your best…thanks.

  6. Em says:

    Sometimes these practices go on without the pastor’s knowledge…. sometimes the church body itself has a hidden rot – if it doesn’t come from the pulpit, rather from an insidious “in crowd” maybe one should try to make the pastor aware?
    If that pastor does nothing because he wants to keep the head count, he is as guilty as the others… time to find another place of worship
    We would see Jesus…. the real One

  7. bob1 says:

    Hidden rot — yeah — just like Trump and his idiots trying to establish a backchannel and nefariously change our relationship with Ukraine. Got it!

  8. Xenia says:

    Em, a Baptist church I attended for a few years had an in-crowd that made life absolutely impossible for a pastor to stay more than a few years and this had a very negative effect on the lives of the congregation. The group was led by two grumpy old men (with large, voting families) who intimidated the current pastor in order to promote their own projects. This is a case where the pastor was continually abused by the congregation. In fact, this behavior is what led my best friend and me to investigate Calvary Chapel, which really seemed like a breath of fresh air to us at the time. I am not a fan of the congregational style of church government. Rule by the majority only works if the majority of people are willing to deny themselves and follow Christ. But as you say Em, sometimes there’s rot in the congregation. If the rotters are big givers, Lord have mercy.

  9. Xenia says:

    No reason whatsoever to bring Trump into this conversation.

  10. Xenia says:

    More about that church: A candidate would audition for the pastor job, after the previous man couldn’t leave fast enough. We’d have an election. People would say things like “don’t vote for him, he’s too fat, we don’t want a fat pastor” or other reasons that seemed superficial to me. So the blandest guy would win. He’d come in, full of joy and plans to help us live our lives in Christ. Almost every plan he had was shot down by the 2 grumpy old men. The new guy would try to be humble: “This is a test of my ability to be obedient and not always get my own way.” But they could only stand it for a few years and one Sunday, to no one’s surprise, he announces his resignation. Then we’d sing a round of “When We All Get to Heaven,” and the auditions would start all over. Seriously, I would prefer a benign dictator over a corrupt congregational electorate.

  11. Steve Meyer says:

    “If your church has to shun you in Jesus name in order to practice “love”..Jesus left the church long before you did…” Michael, this is freeing. Thank you!

  12. Captain Kevin says:

    AAAAA-Freaking-MEN, Michael!! Been there, lived through that!

    Great comments in the thread too (with one noted exception)!!

  13. bob1 says:

    Rot is rot.

  14. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Xenia, you need to make fair fair. Would you prefer a corrupt dictator over a corrupt electorate?

    I find that most people who oppose a congregations voter assembly do so because they hold the power or they do not trust God to work his will through the masses – only through the devines.

  15. Xenia says:

    Corrupt dictator vs corrupt electorate…

    I think this is how the devil works, in all kinds of situations. He provides us w/ situations that with either choice, we are compromising. Only way to thwart the devil is to choose: None of the above. I would not belong to a church w/ either kind of corruption. Flee corruption, is my motto. Just like Martin Luther did, eh?

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    You miss the irony of your previous statement – benign vs corrupt.
    Everyone would prefer benign anything over corrupt. But those are not the 2 choices.

    Why do you think that your council of leadership (or whatever you call them) is less corrupt than the good folks of the congregation when it comes to decision making?

  17. Em says:

    interesting thread… amen, Xenia
    MLD, it isn’t the “good folks” of the congregation that are corrupted 🙂

  18. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em I know, but Xenia did not allow for corrupt dictators in her comparison – only benign.

    Hey, I constantly chuckle over these threads – corrupt leaders and corrupt congregants – to which I say amen, that is who we are while we are still this side of the grass.

    I am joining the Elks club here in town and I go tonight for my orientation and tomorrow for initiation. This has made me curious about the Exalted Ruler – benevolent, benign or corrupt? 🙂

  19. Xenia says:

    Hey, I constantly chuckle over these threads –<<<

    So happy we can provide you with amusement.

  20. The kids and I attended a local (3 blocks from from us) what turned out to be a Baptist church. It was a dichotomy between an older “white” congregation, and mostly much younger Filipinos. It was maybe 100 people. I think they survive by renting out space to host a charter school.

    It was a little different than what I’ve been used to in CC for the past 6 years, not quite charismatic, but leaning that way.

    MLD, not a good witness for LCMS…

  21. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The New Victor,
    I didn’t know I was making a ‘witness’ for the LCMS.
    I thought the concept that The Church is made up of woeful sinners on both sides of the pulpit was a common Christian concept. Perhaps I am wrong.
    That Christ can communicate his will equally to Christians, on both sides of the pulpit, to achieve his will and his work, if not should be a common Christian concept. But alas, perhaps again I am wrong.
    While the idea that some church magisterium is more directly connected to the will of God may be a common Christian concept – it should not be and it should be declared wrong.
    Believe me, this is not (or at least should not be) solely an LCMS view.

  22. Dave Rolph says:

    Great post! And great discussion afterwards too! (The ideal church governance would be where Xenia and MLD each have a vote. ?)

  23. Xenia says:

    Hi Dave! I’m always happy when you make an appearance. 🙂

  24. Duane Arnold says:

    “I find that most people who oppose a congregations voter assembly do so because they hold the power or they do not trust God to work his will through the masses – only through the devines[sic].”

    Not sure, but this would seem to argue that we find God’s will through a 51% vote. Not sure this always works out too well…

  25. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – I would say that we affirm God’s will through a majority vote – which in my last 2 churches (both Lutheran), we convert all majority votes to unanimous votes as the people realize they live in community and wish to remove all doubt and friction and live in brotherhood.

  26. Michael says:

    Good to see you, Dave…

  27. Duane Arnold says:

    Majority votes in the mainline denominations has led to disaster… Just sayin’…

  28. Michael says:

    “I thought the concept that The Church is made up of woeful sinners on both sides of the pulpit was a common Christian concept. ”

    It is…but there are standards for one side to qualify for positions. The only qualification for the pews is to be a sinner…

  29. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, is one of those qualities to discern God’s will better than the average Joe? That is the question before the house.

    I know my pastor doesn’t depend on his elevated spiritually to come to divine decisions. How about you?

  30. Michael says:


    That isn’t the question and the answer is obvious.

  31. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, the decision making of church magisterium doesn’t seem to work any better. Just look at those who made unilateral decisions to put pedophiles and same sex folks in the pulpits.

    My original point is that many don’t trust that God communicates and entrust the masses with his will and only gives it to the professionals to enact and pass it down.

  32. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, that is the question. Xenia raised why she does not trust the congregation to make decisions ( at least big ones) and will set aside to the professionals.

  33. Dave Rolph says:

    One of my seminary professors told us that, “In the beginning there were two people. They took a vote and it was unanimous, and the majority has been wrong ever since.” Corrupt leadership will destroy a church, whatever the church polity. Arguing church governance is like arguing whether it’s better to fall off the right side of the horse or the left. The real issue is the corrupting influence of power on the one who wields it. I think Lord Acton had it right. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I have seen churches destroyed by corrupt pastors, elders, denominational officers and congregations. Often several of these forces collude in a cooperative effort of church destruction. As long as we worship power and influence we will get the churches we deserve.

  34. Xenia Moos says:

    I trust “some” congregations to make good decisions but do not trust a congregation dominated by two bullying families to make good godly decisions. Once I got the lay of the land, so to speak, and realized that church was in the hands of 2 men with their own agendas, I departed. At the new place, which happened to be a Calvary Chapel, I did not find the same situation. I was happy there for nearly 2 decades until I had a change in theology.

  35. Dave Rolph says:

    Oh, and “hi!” Michael and Xenia!

  36. Xenia Moos says:

    All to say, the majority isn’t always right, even if it’s a majority of church members.

  37. Xenia Moos says:

    I know of a few Orthodox parishes which, if a vote was taken, would approve same sex marriage. They can’t get away with this because the hierarchy will not allow it.

  38. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Well I guess I should say that it depends on what decisions are to be made.
    As to what happens for word and sacrament, that is totally in the hands of the pastor and assisted by the board of elders. Pretty much off limits to the congregation as long as he stays within his ordination vows as to what to teach.

    But decisions that concern the church body, outreach, facilities, activities, missions – in these areas the pastor has no special insight. A pastor cannot dictate we are going to give to this outreach or we are going to boycott this chicken place etc.
    The physical left hand kingdom items of the church are overseen by boards, councils, trustees etc set up by the congregation and brought to the congregation for approval.

  39. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Xenia – so if some council of your bishops (or whatever they are called) votes are they automatically right? If not, what makes their weak decision any better than a congregation?

  40. Xenia Moos says:

    Well, we also have parish councils in the Orthodox world and some parishes are completely dominated by congregants who, shall we say, don’t have the Kingdom of God as their top priority. My parish has a small council that votes on stuff like paint jobs and new refrigerators. I don’t always think they make the best decision but they are not ungodly decisions so I mind my own business. Liturgical practices and church theology is completely out of the purview of the lowly parish council. So this isn’t so different than your church, MLD.

    My complaint is about bullying the pastor to teach the things you want taught and making life so miserable for him and his family that they have to leave or go nuts.

  41. Xenia Moos says:

    The idea is that the bishop will make decisions based on the canons of the church which are based on the 7 ecumenical councils and 2000 years of church tradition. It sometimes backfires but I think I can say that the Orthodox Church has held a steady course for a very, very long time.

  42. Duane Arnold says:


    “I have seen churches destroyed by corrupt pastors, elders, denominational officers and congregations. Often several of these forces collude in a cooperative effort of church destruction.”

    I’ve watched it for at least the last three decades… and, I might say, I’ve watched weak leaders (in my case, bishops) pander to the sociological bent of the laity out of the desire to be “popular” or, in other cases, going against their better judgement for “the sake of peace”.

  43. Xenia Moos says:

    I am not even sure what we are arguing about, MLD. We both belong to churches that have two levels of authority, the liturgical and the practical, I guess I’ll call it. We may draw the line in slightly different places but neither of us are talking about a 100 percent congregation-run church OR a 100 percent hierarchical-run church.

  44. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Xenia – it’s funny that your bad experience was in a baptist church. Baptist are much more congregational influenced than Lutherans although we follow the same governing style.
    That said, I was almost 15 yrs in 2 SBCs, served on boards and councils and the pastors were not chased away – both lasted over 20 yrs in the same locations.

    If you checked, I am sure there are plenty of Orthodox priest talking regularly to their bishops saying “ya gotta get me out of here – they’re killing me.” 🙂

  45. Jean says:


    I personally do not like a particular facet to the call process and congregational polity of the LCMS.

    In the LCMS, the congregation calls a pastor. However, once there, the congregation cannot remove the pastor, except for a small number of defined reasons, such as teaching false doctrine, adultery, and a couple others. On the flip side, the pastor is free to take a call from another congregation which calls him. This means that if you have a burnt out or lazy pastor, it’s very hard to remove him according to the church’s bylaws. On the other hand, if the pastor is offered a higher salary or some other perk from another congregation, he is free to take it.

    This has led to congregations using less than transparent or (officially) legitimate means to remove a pastor. As a result, there is a certain tension between clergy and laity, with each side having stories of how someone was mistreated. Typically, it appears that District Presidents are not particularly helpful in mediating these types of issues. Thus, I think there is a weakness in my system.

  46. JesusFreak says:

    #10 really hit home. Not three days ago I was having a discussion with fellow believers on whether pastoral training should focus more on teaching/doctrine or on effective counseling techniques.

    My contention is that the majority of pastors spend much more time counseling than teaching.

  47. Duane Arnold says:


    The same sort of thing happens in Anglican circles as well. In my experience, it really has to do with the relationship between the pastor/priest and the lay leadership. If it is open and healthy, the situation can be discussed. If not, resentments grow. When I had a congregation, it was a once a month lunch with the lay leaders for a discussion in which nothing was out of bounds. It was not a perfect system, but it allowed for honest “give and take”. The trouble is, this is not taught in seminary! Generally, if you are a smaller church and you have a really able clergy person… enjoy him/her while you can, because they will go on to greater opportunities most of the time. To be honest, most churches in America, regardless of their brand, are actually congregational in polity…

  48. Jean says:


    I think the monthly lunch would be a great forum. It would require mutual trust and respect to be effective.

    One of the things I picked up from my prior evangelical experience is a thirst for God’s Word, the encouragement to dive into it, and the confidence that deep Bible Study is available to everyone who puts his hand to the plow. I haven’t really seen this in the laity of the Lutheran Church (or Catholic Church), where I think there is some implicit understanding that Bible Study is only for the professionals or it’s too difficult for the laity. Whatever the reason, there seems to be some reluctance or intimidation that a lot of laity feel about whether they can study and understand serious theology. I think the clergy could do a better job of empowering laity and training laity in theology. I wonder if one of the reasons our youth are frequently picked off by evangelicalism is not only the entertainment factor, but the way in which evangelicals involve youth, and many youth wish to get involved to make a difference.

  49. Em says:

    Reading all here has me wondering….
    Would the Church – across denominations – be better served, if the rolls of pastor and of teacher were separated? Train as a pastor or, if your gift was teaching, train solely to teach… ?

  50. Muff Potter says:

    Reading all here has me wondering….

    It has me wondering too, if Scripture is as perspicuous as claimed, why would I need a teacher?

  51. MM says:

    “… perspicuous…”

    I had to look it up:

    “: plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation1”

    I know your question was rhetorical, but the answer is; because it isn’t.

    The problem with all teachers is they teach things in light of their personal understanding. With mathematics and physics as exceptions, things don’t always add up to four and precision is subjective.

    I like to say, “what we perceive is far more important than what is.”
    A saying I learned and have used over the years is, “We calculate it with a computer (used to say slide rule), measure it with a yard stick and cut it with an axe.”


  52. MM says:

    Oops, I left out “…mark it with a piece of chalk…”

  53. MM says:


    “Would the Church – across denominations – be better served, if the rolls of pastor and of teacher were separated? ”

    The question is how to define what the roles and responsibilities are.

    While I’m not a RCC, it is my understanding the primary role of the Priest is to serve the Mass and Eucharist. As Martin Luther (not MLD) pointed out, back in the day the local Priest did not even have to be literate, because knowing the biblical text was not a requirement of the position.

    So how does the individual see the role of their church’s pastor, reverend, priest, etc.? Are they someone who knows the bible, church doctrine and dogma, a more spiritual connection with God, a shaman so to speak or what?

    Personally I think a lot of what we expect from pastors and such really isn’t defined in the text. Could it be possibly based more on cultural ideas, traditions and expectations?

    I also kind of believe the story of Moses, Israel and the mountain tells us a lot about most of humanity. The people heard God speak to them directly and they were afraid, so they told Moses to speak to God and then tell them what He said. Nothing seems to have changed these days, most don’t seem want the responsibility of speaking listening to God.

    Just thinking out-loud with the keyboard.

  54. Michael says:


    That was a hell of a good comment…

  55. Em says:

    Thanks for answering the question, MM… defining the roles of a pastor and a teacher… not clear are they? Hmmm
    Responsibility to speak to or listen to God…. that is probably true and sad… Don’t we see Jesus Christ, our connection to God, as a privileged standing? again sad…
    Thank you for the ponders today, MM

  56. Muff Potter says:

    Great comment MM!
    I think that the Bible suffers from the same two ills as science, not giving it the credence it deserves at one extreme, and making way too much of it at the other.

  57. CM says:

    I think in the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, they have teaching elders, ruling elders (i.e., pastor or bishop), and deacons in the local church. The pastor (or bishop) can teach, but not all teaching elders are the pastor (or bishop) of the church.

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