Recently, I saw a post in a reformed Christian group online lamenting the supposed dirth of the pastor-scholar. This particular individual was complaining that there seems to be very few pastors who are also drinking in heavily from reformed scholasticism. While pastors should be well-read and seeking to grow in knowledge and wisdom, what I lament is the absence of pastor-warriors. What I mean is that there seems to be a real lack of pastors who are willing to pick up the sword of the spirit and use it to engage in the battles of our day. Very few pastors are willing to rock the boat. We need pastors who want to sink the boat.
It can be a very tempting prospect to look at the world around us and to be overwhelmed. A week ago our church was in Indianapolis where 90 thousand people were celebrating sexual immorality. There were two pastors involved in our outreach. Then this past week the mayor of Louisville had a press conference celebrating pride, arrogance and rebellion to God on behalf of all Louisvillians. The month of June can feel oppressive and not because of the heat. God’s word says that Lot living in Sodom was oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men. It says "for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds." If you have your eyes open in our day you will have your soul tormented day after day. The temptation will be to close your eyes to it all.
In addition to the sexual perversion being paraded around, this past week the Southern Baptist convention voted to approve a resolution regarding the use of the Marxist and God-hating philosophies of intersectionality and critical race theory. Josh Buice gives a helpful definition in an article he wrote reviewing the action taken at the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes:
"Intersectionality was originally coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a political activist and radical feminist, in order to describe oppression against women on specific different points of intersection. Today, it’s used in a more broad sense. In short, intersectionality as it has been defined, is the study of discrimination based on overlapping layers of individual classes of discrimination. It’s when a person is subjected to discrimination for more than one classification such as a woman who is black and lesbian. She would classify, under this line of reasoning, for three basic discriminatory marks—being a woman, who is black, and is also a lesbian. According to the definition of intersectionality, where these three marks “intersect” is the focus of her greatest and most severe discrimination which places her at the greatest risk of oppression in our culture."
On the flip side of the coin, we would see that for every line of intersect not available, one is considered more privileged and therefore is more likely to be an oppressor. On one hand, we are looking for those who are most oppressed and therefore should be given the most favor and power to counteract their supposed oppression. On the other hand, we should see who is most likely to be oppressing and work to remove or counteract any supposed privilege they have. To be a victim is powerful. Victimhood becomes the ultimate weapon and therefore is a race to the bottom. All of this is foreign to scripture, yet the Southern Baptist convention adopted a resolution saying while intersectionality and critical race theory are insufficient alone, they are helpful tools. It is sly and sneaky. Hundreds of Pastors approved it, while very few brought out the sword of the spirit to destroy it.
Between sexual immorality, feminism, and now these social justice philosophies invading the church along with the constant stories of some Christian or another falling into sin and bringing great shame upon the church, it can be exhausting and oppressing. None of this is new, however. The Apostles in the first century of the New Testament church had to deal with battles and false teachers. And they had to work to equip other men for the ministry who would also do battle with false teachers. The Apostle Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every city because this was one of the things that had been left undone in the work of planting the church in Crete. And they needed elders precisely because the Church is a church besieged and besieging Church. It is a Church on the march against the gates of hell and yet also a Church constantly under siege. When Satan could not defeat Jesus Christ, the book of Revelation tells us that that old dragon in fury went forth to make war on the children of God. The Church is a Church at War. The Pastor is to be a Man at war.
Jesus came to bring peace between man and God. He came to reconcile the people of God with their God. In bringing peace from God to man he also came to bring peace between the children of God. In Christ Jesus, we have peace with each other. Jesus also said that he did not come to bring peace but rather the sword. That is while we have peace with God and are to strive for peace with those who are in Christ Jesus, we do not have peace with the world. We do not have peace with our sinful flesh. We do not have peace with the enemy of our soul, Satan. The church on earth therefore is not a church at peace. It is not a church in tranquility, comfort and ease. It is church that makes war. It is a church that has been given the sword of the spirit. It has been called to go forth taking dominion through the preaching of the gospel. It is a church with weapons far greater than carnal weapons. Its weapons are not the temporary weapons of earthly powers. Its weapons are powerful for taking down strongholds of the enemy. The Church is a church militant. It is at war.
Because it is at war, it has enemies who seek to destroy it all costs. It will face all kind of attacks. Some attacks will be head on assaults. The enemy seeks to eradicate the church by attacking it physically. Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith. They are spit on, mocked, tortured, and killed. If you dare to stand up, speak against sin and proclaim the gospel, you will see this type of warfare. If you want to see this kind of attack, Pastor lead your church to to the pride events and preach the gospel.
The enemy, however, is not satisfied to leave itself to the most blatant of attacks. The enemy is not content with shock and awe tactics. The enemy recognizes the need for espionage and stealth. The enemy will seek to enter in and undermine from within the church. It is these undercover attacks from within that do real damage.
In the 1960s, the Soviet Union had a plan called Operation Cedar. They spent over ten years in preparation (1959-1972) with the intention to seriously disrupt the U.S. power supply. The idea was to destroy giant hydroelectric dams, as well as the Hungry Horse Dam and Flathead Dam in Montana. This would result in the loss of power to the entire state of New York and all the regions nearing the dams. KGB agents used a safe house near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to coordinate the attacks, which would lead to unimaginable chaos. The plan also called for destroying oil refineries and oil pipelines between the U.S. and Canada. The ultimate goal for the operatives was to plant explosives in the Port of New York – a key harbor for commerce. This plot was discovered in what is called the Mitrokhin Archive. This was a collection of handwritten notes by a KGB spy who worked for 30 years before finally defecting to the UK. In that collection of notes, the spy mentioned that Stalin in 1943 installed the "Moscow Patriarchate" as a front organization for the KGB. That is he infiltrated the Russian Orthodox Church installed bishops and priests to be used as agents of influence in the World Council of Churches and in front organizations such as World Peace Council, Christian Peace Conference, and the Rodina ("Motherland") Society founded by the KGB in 1975. The communists sought to use religious organizations to promote their godless system. This is a pretty clear attempt to seek to infiltrate and use a church for one’s own purposes. It is not always so blatant as a communist tyrant seeking to infiltrate the church, though it does appear that the communists of our day have not given up this line of attack.
Our enemy wants to sneak in unnoticed so as to stir up division, destroy families, and lead others astray while hoping the church has forgotten it is at war. The enemy is hoping not to encounter any Pastor-warriors.
The problem is that we too often forget this to be true. We are good at seeing the big battles but close our eyes to the battles closest to us. We alsohave a habit of thinking once we have fought a battle that the war is over and we are finished. Not to pick too much on our Southern Baptist friends but within their convention is a push from some to promote women in the pulpit. This is a battle that the SBC fought in the late 80’s and 90’s. The conservatives were able to win that battle. The roaring lion does not give up so easily and is back working once again to undermine biblical sexuality. One of the men who helped lead the fight the first time tweeted that he never thought he would see the day that the convention would be fighting over this again. My question for him is: why not? We are in a battle and our enemy does not have a lot of new tricks. He constantly brings out the old tried and trued battle plan. It works far too often because we forget that we are not in heaven yet. We are not yet done with the battle and we cannot put our armor down.
It was when King David did not go out to war that he fell to sexual temptation. It was when he let his guard down. The church cannot ever afford to let her guard down. She needs guards who keep watch over the camp to protect it from without and from within. Therefore, if a local church is going to be established one of the most important components it needs is elders who have led their households well, who represent the people of God, who will serve as a steward of God not forgetting who the owner of the house is and who will be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. The church needs pastors and elders who will stand guard as watchman on the wall. Men who will not fall asleep or forget that they are in the midst of battle.
The qualifications of elders includes traits to be avoided. Someone who has the negative traits mentioned in Titus 1 for example, is someone who forgotten he is at war. A man at war cannot afford to be a drunkard or a man controlled by his emotions unwilling to bend his will in submission to the captain. The traits of an elder are the traits of a man who knows he is in battle. He is a man who is able to command a platoon or a company of God’s army. In order to do so he must be hospitable- able to care for those under his charge. He must be self-controlled and just.
He must be these things because he is expected to be on guard over the flock that he pastors
John Calvin says "It is not enough for a shepherd to draw his flock, and gather it together, and keep it where it is folded: but he must also have a voice to fear [frighten] away wolves and thieves, he must cry out when he seeth his flock set upon, the dogs must bark, to drive them away that would scatter the flock."
Ezekiel 33 describes this task “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’
A pastor is a man of war. In Titus 1, Paul says he must be able to exhort and refute. He has been given the sword for this type of work. Why? In Verse 10 Paul says: "For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision."
The reason we need pastors and we need to submit to the instruction of the pastors and heed their warnings is because we are at battle and there are many who would seek to destroy. Notice that is says there are many. Not just some or a few or a little. But there are many.
There are many who would seek to attack the church. We often forget that scripture warns us that there will be many who will seek to undermine the truth. We think about big named heretics like Pelagius or Arius in history. Or we think of big named heretics and false teachers in more modern history like Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, David Koresh, or some other well known cult leader. We might even think about well known hucksters and false teachers like Benny Hinn, William Brenham, and Kenneth Copeland. Speaking of Copeland, has anyone here seen his interview on inside edition. It was just creepy. They caught him in his car and asked him questions about why he needs a private jet. They asked him why he said he didn’t want to fly commercial because he didn’t want to be with all the demons. He was just creepy and the fact that he has made millions off of false teaching is so sad. Sometimes we think of it being all the false teaching being out there and being so noticeably creepy. But it is not always the guy who has the private jet or claims visions from God, it can be the down home southern gentleman who knows how to avoid answering the hard questions while sounding so loving and kind.
We need pastors who will keep their eyes open and will not move from the truth. We need pastors who are willing to lead the troops into battle. We don't need another pastor huddled in his office all the time fawning over the pastor-warriors of yesteryear. We need those who will exhort and rebuke. We need those who will rebuke the sins of their own people so that they will be sound in the faith. We need pastors who will warn against the false teacher.
Imagine if you hired someone to watch your house while you were on vacation and that person heard thieves breaking in to the barn out back and yet closed the blinds. They locked themselves in the bedroom and watched tv as if nothing was wrong. They didn’t call the police but feigned ignorance while thieves also broke into the home and stole whatever they wanted. Imagine this person is a really nice guy and just didn’t want to say anything bad about anybody, meanwhile the whole house is cleaned out. Would you not conclude that the person you hired was in cohorts with the thieves or recklessly negligent?
Join me in praying for pastors to become warriors again. If you are a layperson and wanting to know how you can help your pastor become this warrior, pray for him daily. Submit to his leadership. Be careful of doing things that undermine his authority in the eyes of others. Talk with him often, encourage him in his work, and seek to set an example in faith, speech, and conduct.