Sunday, December 21, 2008

THAT'S The Kind of Pastor I want!!

The last 2 or 3 posts have been related and have spiralled from a Christmas newsletter I read back at my parents house. The comment that prompted this pattern of thought was directed towards Todd Bentley and; "his fall from grace". I hope I dealt adequately with how I do not believe that the term "fall from grace" can be biblically applied to anything or anyone other than individuals who have begun in the Spirit and by grace and have stepped back into law and are attempting to achieve some sort of standing before God by their own works. I just can't see it! My US friend Janelle Phillips has raised the question of church discipline and it is a post that is currently being written by both Pete Day and myself. She rightly noted that I didn't comment on church discipline in the most positive light - and the question therefore remainds - do I believe in it?

Well the Bible does - and therefore I do. But the way that current churches practice discipline does not greatly impress me - it seems to be done in legalism and from a desire to control rather than "gently restore". But before we finish that post - I wanted to make draw attention to Bill Johnson and the way he has made comments about Todd Bentley. It was after-all a comment about Todd Bentley that started this train of thought so it is well within context.

What is no secret is the Todd Bentley-haters who disapprove of the man and his ministry - we all know what they believe. They haven't stopped calling for his blood since he first walked on stage - tattoos and all. I am sad to admit that I think this moral fall was exactly what they were hoping for. A comment about Bill Johnson made by one of his fellow pastors caught my attention. Kris Vallotton said:

"The only trouble I have seen Bill in, in 31 years is when he refuses to treat people the way they deserve and he believes in them the way they don't deserve. And then when they fall, he refuses to treat them the way that their fall requires and he wants to believe in them again".

That impressed me! My first thought was: "THAT is the kind of pastor I want .. and have never had". A kind of spiritual father who acts like God Himself and refuses to treat people the way they deserve and in the style of 1 Corinthians 13:5 takes no record of wrongs. So here is what Bill Johnson said regarding Todd Bentley - it's in 3 parts:

It's well worth watching in entirety. I think the teaching component is awesome for everyone who has some form of responsibility in their churches - this is how a Christian CAN be dealt with. Why do so often we take it so personally if fellow Christians fall? I must admit my first reaction when I heard about Todd Bentley was "Oh no ...". Did that mean I was wrong to be hugely interested in Lakeland and what happened there? Not at all! I've heard and seen enough by way of testimony from personal friends and over the God TV to know that God was most certainly at work!

Todd Bentley certainly isn't the first Christian leader to fall into sin and do so publicly and I am sure he won't be the last. The thing that I am considering is this: what brings more glory to God and His Church? Christians gathering like vultures nodding their sage heads and saying; "Ah well - he had tattoos and piercings - what do you expect?". Or Christians who stand up like Bill Johson and weep over their brothers and sisters falls and yet KEEP on believing in them and are prepared to do WHATEVER it takes to see them restored to full fellowship and encounter with God?

Let me take a moment to comment personally. Pete's recent wonderful post: "Just get over it?" made some reference to my personal experience with church discipline. I haven't made a secret that I still believe that those particular church leaders were wrong and unbiblical to act the way they did. But I think God has brought me on far enough since then to appreciate what they did do - that they were courageous enough to attempt to do something they surely knew would be unpopular but because they believed it was right. I can see now that they did what they did because they were honestly concerned. But genuine motives can't be an excuse forever.

Bill Johnson sets an awesome example of what it is to be a real pastor - a real spiritual father. Let's learn and follow!


janelle said...

I love your humility, Dan (I know that sounds SGMish, but it really is true!) I think it is commendable that you can look back and see the grace in what happened to you and not be bitter and resentful. I don't know your story completely, so I can't judge what was "right" or "wrong", but thanks for being willing to appreciate what God was doing in your life then. Can't wait to read the post when you're finished.

Dan Bowen said...

Hee hee you're allowed to be "SGM-ish" Janelle! Thing is I feel I know you guys really well and I know it's not just "Christian speak" but it's true. And I really appreciate your encouragements. It means a lot. But what means so much more is that you've patiently and lovingly stood by me and not dropped your friendship even while I was struggling with bitterness and anger. That means loads to me! So thank you - its great to celebrate how I can now look back and see the hand of God at work, whereas for years (as you know) I struggled to understand why God even put me in Bristol. He's great!

I think I am probably going to share the whole story in the post - seeing what Pete thinks and whether he agrees - so the picture will be a lot clearer then. But I hope its clear that I do so, simply out of a desire to demonstrate that I understand what church discipline feels like. And maybe it will help some pastors reading it to stop and think before dispensing "swift justice" to hurting and needy people.