“The Pastor’s Burden”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
Over the last few days, there has been many responses to my posting (on my Face Book page) of a review by Challies of the little book entitled “Heaven is For Real”. Many of those responses have been very supportive. Others have honestly admitted that the review and my subsequent comments have helped them have a more balanced view of this book and its failings. Still others have responded with much emotion and in some cases (not all!!) have attacked the motives and heart attitude of those who have expressed concerns with this book and the professing church’s response to it.
I too, would like to bring this to a close. There is more to my life and ministry than this book. To be honest, this is just another of the many books, movies, or studies that sweep through the church every few months and causes such havoc. As a pastor, it is my responsibility to expose and refute that teaching which undermines God’s word and threatens to weaken and deceive His sheep. (By the way, the only reason this book keeps coming up is because I am still receiving tons of questions about it from people from both within and outside of the church. It is obviously a concern and must be clearly addressed. To avoid this topic because it may “stir the pot” and offend some would be nothing short of cowardice and a total abrogation of my responsibility as a pastor.)
As a pastor, I have been troubled by the content of the book which I have obviously explained elsewhere. But even more disturbing has been the response to my concerns about it. I, and others, have sought to show that this book is unbiblical in that it portrays itself as bringing forth new revelation from God. There are serious theological errors involved and I, as well as many others, have tried to point those errors out. We do so because of a love for God, His word and His people. Hours are spent reading the book, checking our facts, searching God’s word and prayerfully examining our own motives. Yet, as we bring forth our concerns, using the word of God as our sole source of authority, we are attacked; our integrity is questioned as is our love for others. Within the last couple of months I have had those who have disagreed with my observations about this book say things such as, “You are the reason I will never go to church again!!”, “Who are you to judge what is right and what is wrong?”, and “You are destroying my faith!”. Often-times, those who are so upset fail to realize that their response is far from gracious and biblical. While calling into question our character, they scold us for being judgmental. While heaping scorn upon us for biblically examining their opinions, they see no problem in calling into question our biblical concerns. That is the nature of an emotional and immature, response. Whenever truth is proclaimed it will “step on people’s toes” (I know that truth cuts deep into my heart when it reveals sin and weakness in my life) and some will respond in anger. While this does grieve those who are called to lead the church, it does not stop us from fulfilling the ministry to which we were called. We must teach the whole counsel of God’s word whether people will listen or not, and present it as graciously and lovingly as did our Lord. Our primary responsibility is to glorify God and faithfully represent Him here on earth. This is a huge responsibility and one in which we are painfully aware of our own weaknesses!!
As we have sought to warn people of the serious errors of this book by using God’s word to teach, reprove, correct, and train the saints, we have been met with an emotional response … not a biblical one. People have discounted our concerns and explained their appreciation for the book by saying things such as “I liked it”, “It helped me”, or “It brought comfort to me in a difficult time”. The problem is that our feelings are not the determining factor of whether some teaching is God-honoring and Biblically sound. Everything must be measured by God’s word! What is particularly disturbing to me is that no-one who has taken issue with my response, concerns, and comments has been able to show me where I have erred Biblically. If I am wrong and have manipulated the Scriptures in any way, show me! If my concerns are not Biblical, then refute them. My question is this, if you have been shown that this book (or any teaching for that manner) is unbiblical, are you willing to repent and forsake it? From the emotional responses I have received I have to wonder if there is a willingness to submit to God’s word. That in nut-shell is a serious concern I have with people’s response to this book (and other movies and books that have come through the church recently) … emotions override scripture, pragmatism overrides faithfulness, there is little or no discernment, and the desired end appears to be “What do I like/want” rather that “What saith the Lord!”
I harbor no ill-will towards anyone and appreciate the honesty of those who have both supported the concerns I have had with this book as well as those who have vehemently expressed their concerns. I trust that this discussion will be used of God to cause us to dig deeper into His word and move us to discuss it with others with grace and a steadfastness that will draw us closer together and bring glory to Him!! I trust that, bottom line, our only desire and goal is to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior and walk in truth!!
Shepherding the flock of God is a tremendous privilege and responsibility and I love and cherish my brothers and sisters in Christ .. even when we disagree on a point of doctrine. But let us reason together from the Scripture and deal with differences in a godly, Christ-like fashion. In such a discussion, character “assassination” does nothing to further our knowledge of God’s word and threatens the unity secured through the blood of Christ.
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. ” (2 Timothy 4:1–4)
“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14–15)