Koran Burning: The Madness Of General Petraeus

There is a movement among many Christian churches in America to adopt the Koran alongside the Bible! These churches are marching in line, exactly the way the new world order, one super church builders have outlined. They are drunk on the Masonic propaganda.

Fort Worth Tries to Forbid “Super-Bowl” Preaching

We have been street preaching in the same place in downtown Fort Worth, every Friday night for 11 years. This week, however, in preparation for the Super Bowl that is coming to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, we were met with a message from the police. The city sidewalks have been “rented” by the NFL. They are now considered private property, and thus, there will be no preaching, tracts, etc.

How Much Freedom Do Incorporated Churches Possess? KAU#178

HOW MUCH FREEDOM DO INCORPORATED CHURCHES POSSESS TODAY? -ORDERING INFO FOR THE ROD: WILL GOD SPARE IT? ================================================= HOW MUCH FREEDOM DO INCORPORATED CHURCHES POSSESS TODAY? This past Wednesday, October 2, the House of Representatives defeated a bill that attempted to remove “some” of the restraints the IRS has placed upon 501c(3), non profit organizations…

What’s Wrong with Faith-Based Funding: A General Chronology of Baptist Persecution on American Soil

“The first Baptist church in Boston…erected a meeting house in 1677, which was closed by order of the General Court of Massachusetts; after some time they ventured to use it again, when the doors were nailed up and a paper posted on them which read: ‘All persons are to take notice, that by order of the court the doors of this house are shut up, and that they are prohibited from holding any meeting therein, or to open the doors thereof WITHOUT LICENSE from authority till the general court take further order, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.” (William Cathcart, “The Baptists and the American Revolution,” 1876)

“I believe that every STATE home ought to have a license. I believe that every church that takes state money ought to be under a license…’” (Lester Roloff)

Notice the above quotes. Should religion be licensed by the state in any manner? What about religious duties and worship? Should churches and church work be funded by the state? If it is FUNDED by the state, is there any ground upon which to argue that it should not also be LICENSED and controlled by the state? Recently, the following article appeared in the news:

“‘Humble Sinner’ Bush Testifies to Power of Faith – LOS ANGELES – Declaring ‘I am just a humble sinner,’ President Bush on Monday drew on his personal experience with alcohol abuse to illustrate how faith can help turn lives around…’When we fund programs we ought not to discriminate against faith-based programs or cause the faith-based program to have to change its mission in order to receive any money.’” (Reuters, April 29, 2002)

Is faith-based funding a good idea? Is the idea simply a part of old-fashioned, humble, good ol’ boy, American patriotism? First, I would reply that the government has been funding “faith-based” programs, such as psychological programs, for many years. Psychology is simply humanistic religion based on blind-faith (not a grounded, Bible-faith). Therefore, is there any fair reason why Bible-based programs should not also be funded? To the contrary, I contend that the U.S. government should simply get out of the TEMPLE altogether, and leave welfare, charity, religious reformation of character, etc. to the various churches, and charitable and religious organizations. Otherwise, we continue to place our country in great peril before the Almighty God:

2 Chronicles 26:16 But when he [Uzziah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and WENT INTO THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD TO BURN INCENSE upon the altar of incense.
17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:
18 And they WITHSTOOD Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.
21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death…

Our country was founded upon the blood and scars of bold men that withstood a state-church. Citizens should not be taxed to support “religious” programs for which their consciences disagree.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. One of the MAIN, rational arguments that Christians have had in the past against government interference and meddling in Christian affairs and worship has been that Christians are NOT receiving any funds or support from the government, and that therefore, the government has NO moral or logical right to oversee, control, direct or limit Christian worship or duty. It is a fact that as churches continue to increase their dependence on government, they increasingly lose their ability to rationally protest the strings that go with such “privileges.”

The remnant of Christians that object to the government’s meddling in their religious duties and worship will be painted as “fanatics.” Persecution will therefore increase in fulfillment (at least, in America) of 2 Timothy 3:

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the LAST DAYS perilous times shall come.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer PERSECUTION.
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

In obedience to God, I believe in praying for and honoring all men in government with the respect their titles deserve. Those that RAIL on people in positions of authority are reproved in Jude, where it is shown that even Michael the archangel did not rail upon the Devil:

Jude 1:8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of DIGNITIES.
9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Nevertheless, Bible-believing Christians have always maintained that such honor should not include obedience to UNHOLY laws, which go against God’s commandments for His people:

Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Baptists have traditionally stood strong for religious liberty and have resisted the attempts to regulate, fund, or empower their churches through the government. To better understand where we are headed today, I have put together the following, general (incomplete) chronology of the persecution of Baptists on American soil. From this list, we can see that we are once again, unless God’s mercy intervenes, headed for troubled times. The open door of liberty is shutting. This is another sign that the Lord’s coming is drawing nigh:

1636 – ROGER WILLIAMS

“Roger Williams, for example, who came to Boston in 1631 to escape the persecution of Archbishop Laud, and who became teacher of the church at Salem, Massachusetts, was banished from the colony because of his views on the separation of church and state.” (Robert G. Torbet, “A History of the Baptists,” 1950)

1644 – THOMAS PAINTER

“…one Thomas Painter, of Hingham, refused to have his child baptized, and stoutly protested against such a ceremony as ‘an anti-Christian ordinance,’ whereupon he was tied up and whipped.” (Henry C. Vedder, “A Short History of the Baptists,” 1907)

1651 – JOHN CLARKE AND OBEDIAH HOLMES

Clarke was arrested and fined for his [Baptist] beliefs in 1651 when visiting Massachusetts. His friend, Obediah Holmes, was whipped unmercifully with a whip of three cords. In this bloody scourging, Holmes conducted himself so valiantly and meekly that some spectators ran up to congratulate him to the dismay of the authorities! Holmes testified before his persecutor, ‘Sir, I acknowledge only free grace&’

1654 – HENRY DUNSTER

“Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard College, was compelled to resign his office in 1654, after twelve years of service, because he had accepted Baptist views…When Dunster, in desperation for the care of his family during the winter months, appealed to the Overseers for permission to remain in the house which he himself had built…at least for six months while he was settling his affairs – they refused his request….in 1657 he faced two court trials for failing to present for baptism a daughter…” (Robert G. Torbet, “A History of the Baptists,” 1950, p.204)

1691 – BAPTISTS PERSECUTED FOR NOT PAYING TAXES TO SUPPORT STATE CHURCH

“Since the new charter granted to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691 had guaranteed only religious toleration, and had not exempted Baptists from taxation for the support of the state church, they refused to pay on the principle that NO MAN SHOULD BE COERCED TO SUPPORT ANOTHER MAN’S CHURCH. As a result, their property frequently was sold for tax costs, as at Ashfield, near Boston, where they suffered keenly.” (Robert G. Torbet, “A History of the Baptists,” 1950, p.234)

1765 – SAMUEL HARRISS

“…Baptists were subjected frequently to fines or imprisonment, usually on the grounds of ‘disturbance of the peace’ or having violated the restrictions placed upon itinerant preachers of the dissenting variety, whose only claim to ordination was from God…[Samuel Harriss] was driven out of Culpeper County in 1765, upon preaching his first sermon there, by a mob armed with sticks, whips, and clubs. In Orange County he was pulled down from a platform by a ruffian and dragged about by the hair of the head, then by a leg, until rescued by a friend…”
(Robert G. Torbet, “A History of the Baptists,” 1950, p.239)

1768 – JOHN WALLER AND OTHERS

“In June, 1768, John Waller, Lewis Craig and James Childs, three Baptist ministers, were arrested in Spottsylvania county, Virginia, on the charge of ‘preaching the gospel contrary to law.’ ‘May it please your worship,’ said the prosecuting attorney, ‘they cannot meet a man on the road without ramming a text of Scripture down his throat.’ On refusing to stop preaching in that county for a year and a day, they were forwith ordered to prison….William Webber and Joseph Anthony were imprisoned in Chesterfield county for preaching Jesus. And such poor reverence did they cherish for unjust laws of Virginia that they actually invited people to come to the walls of the jail that they might proclaim to them the good news of the kingdom…In New England they were frequently arrested for not paying taxes to support Congregational clergy, and women were honored with this privilege as well as men. Their property was seized, and generally sold for a mere trifle to pay the church dues of their neighbors of the ‘Standing Order.’…But our fathers submitted to robbery and loathsome prisons with foul associates rather than render willing obedience to iniquitous laws….when George III resolved on taxation for the Colonies without representation, the example of the Baptists became contagious…” (William Cathcart, “The Baptists and the American Revolution,” 1876)

“On more than one occasion, John Waller was beaten severely, as in 1771, in Caroline County, when the parson, his clerk, and the sheriff led an attack upon him. John Taylor, John Koontz, Lewis Lunsford, William Webber, James Ireland, David Barrow, John Picket, Elijah Baker, and others suffered similarly. While they were in jail, mobs would try to do away with them…The public hostility was based principally on what was regarded as parental cruelty to children in that Baptists refused to have their infants baptized, plus the customary prejudiced opinion that Baptists were social radicals.”
(Robert G. Torbet, “A History of the Baptists,” 1950, pp.239-240)

For about 200 years, the Lord used the Constitution, with its First Amendment, to bring a general liberty to ALL Christians in America. The persecuted Baptists, with the aid of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, were largely responsible for making sure true religious liberty was guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet, this open door was not to remain open forever:

1971 – LESTER ROLOFF

I have heard much about Roloff from friends of his that attended our church regularly. One man, George Geuea (who baptized me), was his right hand man in later years, and put up the sign that the girl’s home was shut down. He is now 97 and, until recently, attended Refuge Baptist.

Lester Roloff was born in 1914, in Dawson, Texas. He grew up on a cotton farm. At the age of 12, he was saved. Later, he attended Baylor University. He pastored various churches. He began the Family Altar Radio program in 1944. Roloff’s wife, Marie, writes:

“After the program had been on the air four years, we were told we were going to be put off the station because Lester insisted on preaching against definite sins. Actually he was preaching against the evils of alcohol while at the same time the radio station was accepting advertising from the liquor industry….the radio station issued an ultimatum – either keep quiet about the evils of drinking intoxicating beverages or take the radio program to another station. Lester chose the latter….in 1954, he was removed from the station KWBU because he was considered too controversial…the station was owned and operated by the Baptist General Convention of Texas…” (Marie Brady Roloff, Lester Roloff, Living By Faith)

He became a full time evangelist in 1951. Also in 1951, he founded Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises. He started many homes to help people, free of charge, depending only on the donations and support that would come in from the radio ministry and the church. Some of the works Roloff began included:

-The City of Refuge (for men)
-The Jubilee Home (for women)
-The Lighthouse (for younger men)
-The Rebekah Home (for teenage girls)
-The Anchor Home (for teenage boys)
-The Bethesda Home (for teenage girls)
-The Peaceful Valley Home (for retired Christians)

Parole officers wrote with praise for the work he was doing. His homes, by the Lord’s grace, were saving multitudes from a life of dope, prison, and death. One parole officer wrote: “Maybe someday the people of this country will realize what you are doing…” Another wrote: “Thank you for the fine young man you sent back to me…in all truthfulness I must say he greatly exceeded all my expectations. I wish all the boys who come my way could spend six months with you…”

But, beginning in the early 1970s, the State of Texas Department of Human Services attempted to regulate the Roloff Homes and to require licensing by the State. His wife writes:

“…in 1971 we were faced with shutting down our work unless we conformed to rules and regulations…We faced our first tragic crisis on this matter when we received a letter from the Texas Welfare Department advising us to ‘cease and desist’ because our rules did not conform to theirs. My husband looked at me in disbelief. We had saved the state millions of dollars during twenty years in our rescue ministries. Never had we received a penny of tax money from the government – it was God’s people who had faithfully supported the work. And yet the state felt they must set the rules and regulations for our work – a work for which they paid nothing. ‘Licensing these homes is as unnecessary and wrong as licensing a church,’ my husband contended. [He wrote:] ‘At issue is the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. This plainly is government interference with religion…Conformity brings deformity….I think the mother and father of Moses were lawbreakers in that they refused to give up their baby boy to be murdered by the state. They passed a law in Daniel’s day making it a violation to pray and he went to the lion’s den for contempt of court. They passed another law that you had to bow to the image of Nebuchadnezzar and the three Hebrew children went to the fiery furnace for contempt of court…Peter went to jail because of his stand for righteousness. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into the jail at Philippi when revival fires began to break out in Philippi and the devil’s business was injured…And without feeling sorry for myself or complaining, I face a fine and a jail sentence – and possibly a prison sentence – for doing the very thing God has told us to do….Why should we have to get a license to run a church home any more than we would have to get a license to run the church?…It actually means that we take God’s money and let the state, which is altogether unprepared to run a Christian home, run the home. There are thirty requirements in the little brown book prepared by the welfare department, most of which are unreasonable. They do not approve of our diet, even though we’ve had healthy girls and boys and never had a death. They do not approve of our discipline, even though it has worked. They do not approve of our staff, even though they have done a job that is unmatched and unparalleled in this nation. Our superintendents would not meet their requirements – fifteen hours of social study every two years and a college degree. And only the Lord knows the changes that would be brought about from year to year. They are not satisfied without psychological and psychiatric help which we’ve never needed. The intake studies and records would take three or four secretaries. The number of workers they require is one to every eight girls…there is no need to waste God’s money and beds on a bunch of unnecessary workers. A long-haired, cigarette-smoking welfare worker said to one of our boys at the Anchor Home, ‘We’ll soon fix it so that you can wear your hair as long as you want to.’ The conspiracies to wreck these three homes are unbelievable. One newspaper said that we are as crooked as the stock market…and yet the Internal Revenue has checked us twice and given us the best report that could be given…The paper said we hired a fund raiser, which we have never done and never will…The welfare department took advantage of a little girl that we took in twice. She left in bitterness and I had said to her, ‘When you need help, call me.’ And she did…when she came back, the welfare department and a television station got a hold of her, put this girl on television to expose her sin and shame, and got her to say that if we had taught her sex education, this probably would not have happened…The tactics of the welfare department cannot be our tactics. They have taken the authority away from the dad and the mother…Now they have invaded the sacredness of the church as much as to say, ‘You haven’t got sense enough to operate your home without our help.’ It’s a Christless program they have because they do not present Christ as the only hope for defeated children…I believe Jesus is King and His Word is true. I have no right to go by the welfare department’s little brown book so long as I have the big black Book.” (Marie Brady Roloff, Lester Roloff, Living By Faith)

Marie Roloff observes:

“The general misconception of many people is that any statute passed by legislators constitutes the law of the land. But the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any valid statute must be in agreement. It is impossible for a law that violates the Constitution to be valid. The Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Second Section, page 177, states: ‘No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.’ The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees complete religious liberty and separation of church and state. The Fourteenth Amendment says: ‘No state shall make a law that shall take away these privileges.’…If the state takes upon itself the licensing of Christian charity, then it also takes upon itself other powers that do not belong to it. Christian charity has saved taxpayers millions of dollars and will continue to do so. Christian charity is not supported by the state…Our lawyer friend made this observation: ‘Because Christian charities are the actions of worship, and are therefore a part of their inalienable right to worship Almighty God, and because Christian charity is supported by the giving of Christians rather than the treasury of the state, government has neither the moral right nor the spiritual right to enforce by legal might its regulations upon Christian worship in deed.’…My husband has repeatedly emphasized…’I believe that every state home ought to have a license. I believe that every church that takes state money ought to be under a license…’” (Marie Brady Roloff, Lester Roloff, Living By Faith)

“Brother Roloff believed strongly that the State should not regulate any Church or its ministries in any fashion. To agree to allow the State to regulate the Homes would have meant that the residents could not legally be required to attend church services, among other things.” (Roloff.org)

“What we would also have to submit to, however, was allowing state agents to interview any child or staff members in private at any time they chose. We had already seen what could happen when a few rebellious girls were singled out to be interviewed, and at any given time you will find new girls in our homes whose rebellious spirits are evident. These girls have not been with us long enough to benefit from the consistent discipline, the interaction with the other girls, and the help that inevitably takes place…A full-scale war developed when newspaper, radio, and television media distorted information. Everything was slanted to destroy our image, to make us appear cruel and unloving and in need of the kind of supervision the welfare department was capable of giving. Our finances were called into question and my husband was ridiculed and called such names as ‘a hell and damnation preacher,’…A great Freedom Rally was held in Austin, Texas, on October 16, 1972, the day following the judgment….One of the girls told of the horrors of state mental hospitals where she had been confined until coming to us…Dramatically she contrasted the repressive treatment received from so-called mental health experts with our pleasant surroundings and the loving care and concern received from our people…This radiant girl was not the exception; she was the rule. Where mental hospitals and psychiatrists fail miserably, the regenerative power of Jesus Christ miraculously succeeds.” (Marie Brady Roloff, Lester Roloff, Living By Faith)

“Between November of 1973 and February of 1974, in answer to the desperate pleas of parents, we allowed girls to be sent to us for help…Finally, on January 31, the case went to court again and Lester was found guilty. He was fined $5,400 and sentenced to five days in the county jail on contempt of court charges….The senators questioned Lester on the problems and accomplishments of the Rebekah Home. As a result of that meeting, his jail term was limited to one day….pending appeal. [Lester wrote in response]: ‘…it began thirty years ago, when mercy through this preacher began to throw a line to perishing souls by building rescue missions, cities of refuge, and homes for boys and girls. We’ve enjoyed nothing but victories and a healthy growth until the state welfare department picked up our keys and locked the doors to these homes in the face of emergency, and this in spite of the fact that we never asked for or accepted one penny of tax money and had never made a charge for any boy or girl, man or woman, who ever came to one of our six homes. It was not because of our facilities, because they’ve been declared to be the finest in America. It was not because they were not loved, because they certainly were, by the finest people on earth. It was not because they were abused or neglected. It was because of rules and regulations designed to cut off the access road to the River of Life. I’m not in violation according to the Word of God. I’m not in violation according to the Constitution of the United States. I’m not in violation according to the Declaration of Independence…I’m not in violation according to our pilgrim forefathers. I’m not in violation according to the wishes and desires of parents and young people across America. I’m certainly not in violation according to the teachings and practices of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ….One year ago, we had three hundred girls….Now we are allowed only six girls under eighteen….Preachers and churches, we need to get the keys back. The state was never trained and never will be trained to run our churches and our church homes and schools. When the chains go on the pulpit, the pew will lose its liberty. And when the church loses its liberty, the nation will go into captivity and final destruction. I can wrap myself every night…in Old Glory and sleep with a clear conscience, knowing that I’ve not violated the wishes and the desires and even the blood of those that soaked that flag because of their love and loyalty for the cause of liberty and freedom…I may be the first to go to jail, but I’LL NOT BE THE LAST…’…The year 1976 was to go down in Roloff Enterprises history as a decisive year. On January 1 of that year the new law went into effect, making it illegal for unlicensed homes to take in children under the age of eighteen…My husband was faced with contempt of court and another five day jail sentence. We faced penalties that could range from $50 to $1000 per facility for each day we operated without such a license. [Lester was a few days away from his sixty-second birthday]” (Marie Brady Roloff, Lester Roloff, Living By Faith)

“Although some victories were won, some of the judges, commenting that the Homes were being well run, ruled that the State did have a right to regulate the Homes which were serving the younger boys and girls. Later, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case, which allowed the lower courts ruling to stand. This forced the closing of the two childrens homes, Rebekah and Anchor. This move broke Brother Roloffs heart.” (Roloff.org)

Brother Roloff was killed in an airplane crash, a few years later on November 2, 1982.

1986 – W.N. OTWELL

“October 7, 1986 – At the time of our battle with the state of Texas, nearby Fort Worth had the second highest crime rate in the nation. Yet the Attorney General decided to prosecute and persecute a church-run boys home with no complaints of abuse, and a high rate of success in rehabilitation….The night before the pre-dawn raid on our boys home, we got a tip that we would be raided. So we removed all women and children from the property – even our own staff children, who also lived there, because officials threatened that ALL underage children would be taken into Child Protective Custody, and placed in foster homes. Sure enough, at 5:05 AM, headlights came rushing toward the church property, from all directions at once. In just a matter of minutes, every entrance was covered by DPS, and the place was ‘crawling’ with people from 5 different government agencies. The Attorney General’s office was embarrassed to find no boys under age on the property. Thank the Lord for forewarning us and giving us a great victory! But in effect, that was the end of the home…Shortly after the pre-dawn raid, this reporter states that… ‘Rev. Otwell’s followers told us facetiously that the children were on an ‘overnight picnic.’ The authorities went away empty-handed.’ But they were not on a picnic: the children were fleeing for their (spiritual) lives. But it wasn’t just overnight: they would never see the home again. The boys no longer had a safe haven from the influences of the world, since the state had effectively closed down the home…We soon had to sell the church property to help pay enormous utility and food bills that were piling up because of the three month siege we had been under. – October 24, 1986 – Excerpt from Dallas Morning News: ‘On Wednesday, state District Judge Paul Davis ordered all buildings except the sanctuary, church and the private residence of the church’s fundamentalist pastor Rev W.N. Otwell, padlocked. He also ordered state officials to periodically inspect unpadlocked buildings on church property to prevent them from being used as a boys house.’…After about one month of traveling around Texas and other states, gaining support for our cause, Pastor Otwell surrenders to the sheriff in a widely broadcast news conference, held in the church auditorium…seven officers approach the gate to our 6 acres to arrest 19 men who had blocked the entrance to our church building. We offered no resistance, but we weren’t going to just invite them in either. This was GOD’S property!…After he had been jailed, and brought to court, Pastor Otwell had agreed not to open the home until he had tried to get the 1975 Child Care Act changed. When efforts failed, in spite of a permanent restraining order forbidding our OPERATING A HOME WITHOUT A LICENSE, he reopened the home. We notified the Governor, all legislators, the Attorney General and the Dept. of Human Services as to what we had done and why….Since we were, and still remain until this day, under a permanent restraining order against opening another unlicensed home, they brought with them, the Texas Rangers and the Dept. of Public Safety. Though our men told them this was church property, they simply cut the lock with bolt cutters, and walked right on in. We had one boy in the home, who was 17 yrs. old. His father, who was a sheriff’s deputy, had placed him in our home, and had utmost confidence in us. After processing the boy at HQ, the DHS released him to his father, who brought him back to our home, at the boy’s request.” (http://www.godsaidministries.com/)

1997 – WILEY DRAKE

In 1997, Baptist pastor, Wiley Drake, was convicted of four counts of breaking zoning ordinances and faced a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each violation. His crime? Using his church property to aid the homeless. (http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester/homeless/vazquez.htm)

2001: GREG DIXON AND I.B.T.

Greg Dixon and the Indiana Baptist Temple (50 years old) lost their building for following their consciences concerning the independence of the local church from government control. They did not view their ministers as employees, and therefore, since they were not a non-profit organization, they believed it was their Constitutional and moral right to meet together and worship God freely – without having to be treated like a business with standard employees. Dixon writes: “The truth is our case is not about the validity of the income tax system. Approximately 60 of our ministers have been audited by the Internal Revenue Service since 1996 and passed. I personally have been audited twice and have passed both times.” (http://www.indianapolisbaptisttemple.org/index2.html)

CONCLUSION

Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

The reader may or may not presently understand every detail for which these bold, persecuted Baptists have taken a stand over the years. But one thing is for certain: they were all WILLING to suffer great loss for their convictions! Is the reader willing to bear the cross to win the crown? There are times when we should go the “second mile” in obedience to God. However, there are times when going the second mile is simply an excuse to avoid persecution and settle on our lees in compromise. The Judgment Seat will expose all hypocrisy and misguided zeal.

If Christians in the U.S. cannot help the homeless without a license, cannot help orphans without a license, cannot help troubled children without a license, cannot run a school without a license, and must run their churches as a business corporation, how long will it be before we cannot preach door to door, or preach on the sidewalks without a license or permit? How long before we must have a license to hold a religious assembly? Based on the above history, I do not think MORE government involvement in our RELIGIOUS DUTIES AND WORSHIP is a good thing. I am opposed to the whole idea. Please pray for our leaders in America in these perilous, confusing times.

Totalitarianism Prophesied Before the Antichrist Takes Power

“The Next Act in the Drama” (By D.M. Panton, 1936):

Revelation 17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

“One huge storm-cloud – probably the greatest now on the horizon – blackens the heavens. We are confronted with a startling revolution in the great powers of the world…The Dictators who have suddenly sprung upon the horizon…In 1917, Stalin; in 1922, Mussolini; in 1925 Kemal; in 1926, Pilsudski; in 1933, Hitler and Schuschnigg; in 1936, Metaxas and Franco…The Apocalyptic dictatorships are mentally one; so also are the modern totalitarian States: they ‘have one mind’ – one philosophy, one mentality, one outlook. In the words of Mr. Christopher Dawson (“Religion and the Modern State,” pp.106, 129): ‘The modern State aspires more and more to govern the life of the individual, to mould his thought by education and propaganda, and to make him the obedient instrument of its will. The old individualist ideal of the State as the policeman whose business it is to clear the field for individual initiative is a thing of the past. The State of the future will not be the policeman, but an all-powerful, omnipotent, human god – and a very jealous god at that. We see one form of this ideal in Russia and another in Germany. It may be that we shall see yet a third in England and America. The sun sets later in the West, but it must set at last.’ That which creates modern dictatorship can spring up like lightning. ‘The sudden rise of ‘Rex’ in Belgium,’ says the Manchester Guardian (weekly ed., Oct. 30, 1936), ‘should be an object-lesson for England. In Belgium, as in England, there is no defeat in war to avenge, no Communist peril, no widespread depression, no general anti-Semitism, not one, in fact, of those conditions which theorists say are necessary for the success of a Fascist party. Yet in Belgium a Fascist party in twelve months has risen from obscurity…’…The Apocalypse implies that the power lodged in the Crownless Kings is pure despotism; for when the last crises comes, ‘they GIVE’ – apparently without any authorization but their own – their power and authority unto the beast. This absolute despotism is a mark of all…The Ten Autocrats act alone. Mr. O.W. Reigel (“Mobilizing for Chaos,” p.167) sums it up thus: – ‘The world is moving rapidly into an era of universal obstruction of the free flow of information and opinion. In the name of Nationalism freedom of speech and the press has already been denied to nine-tenths of the world’s population.’ But the Apocalypse reveals them as a league acting together. In Lord Allenby’s words: – ‘Man has become a world-citizen’; and the Apocalypse discloses exactly that League of Nations toward which the world strains…it is an international league…In the summary of The Times (Sept. 26, 1936): – ‘We need an international order which shall finally supersede the arbitrament of conflict between States. Many attempts have been made to find this order and they have not succeeded, but they must be continued. Civilization has to find a means of putting the promise into practice or it must perish.’ So the Apocalyptic Kings accomplish the very solution of the world-problem which is inevitable. Mr. H.G. Wells (‘The American Magazine,’ Aug., 1934) says: – ‘A world-state is in the making. A time is coming when we will say ‘to the devil the parties and nations.’ They do not meet the needs and aims of this new humanity, with its preposterously enlarged powers and scope…’ And if these be the Apocalyptic Dictators, the NEW WORLD ORDER is to be produced by criminals committing all power to a super-criminal…Criminals, endowed with colossal power, will create the new world-state…The ideal of all opposition stamped out, all thought State-born and State-controlled, all religion centered in the State…the Ten Autocrats…hand over their combined authority to the Dictator in Rome, so producing the world-state at last. In the jungle of wild beasts there is no solution of the war-problem except the enthronement of one Beast as absolute over all…Even a purely infidel world-leader such as Professor Julian Huxley says: – ‘The coming conflict is not one between religion and the secular civilization but rather between the God-religious and the social-religious,’ – in other words between the worship of God and the cult of the State…’…how close must be the ‘escape,’ [Luke 21:36] and how urgent its conditions!”

Spiritual Adultery: Yoking with Rome and the State

Hosea 2:5 For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that GIVE ME MY BREAD and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

“…Rome is called a harlot, never an adulteress; for Christ has never owned her as His Bride…” (D.M. Panton, “A Federated Church,” 1922)

As we make our way to the final moments of history before the Tribulation Period, we know that the lines between the State and the church will continue to become increasingly blurred. The final result will be the rise of the Roman Catholic Harlot (with her many daughters) in fulfillment of prophecy. This will consist of all so-called “churches” under the control of the city of Rome (Revelation 17), which will then be in control of world government. The “Woman,” in control, will be carried and supported by “the Beast” (i.e. the Antichrist and his world government), until the time comes that he no longer needs her Romanist-Theosophical version of “Christendom”:

Revelation 17:3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman SIT UPON a scarlet coloured BEAST, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

A “beast” in prophecy is always a KING and a KINGDOM (Daniel 7:17, 23). Therefore, the Bible predicts a soon return to the DARK AGES, where the State has totalitarian power, and religion is controlled and regulated by the State. People will be driven and controlled by the State-Church, headquartered at Rome:

Revelation 17:15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore SITTETH, are PEOPLES, and multitudes, and NATIONS, and tongues.

Before this HARLOT, imitation-church (with her many daughters around the world) can entirely rise to power, many true churches will commit spiritual ADULTERY to prepare the way. They will become increasingly yoked with the State, and thus, finally with Rome herself. They will be fed and nourished by the State, which will first appear as a friend and partner, but will end as a tyrant, attempting to regulate fundamental Bible preaching as a “hate crime.” Rome will then be in the driver’s seat again:

“…Catholicism to-day is one of the enormously growing forces of the world….historically, it was from Rome that the Protestant communions divided; re-union, therefore, is re-union with Rome….Anglo-Saxondom will awake one morning to find itself Roman…”

Do we see any stage-setting signs for this in our day? In many non-Muslim, non-Communist European countries, the media is nevertheless controlled; Christians are forbidden to openly preach that witchcraft or the occult are dangerous, or that sodomy is sinful. In America, Catholics now out-number other denominations and sects in the government. Since we are now well past the year 2000, it is only logical that have heard proposals for cooperation between the State and religion. This grants public funding to churches and other religious groups to provide social services. But government always REGULATES what it finances. The landmarks and roadblocks that our fathers have wisely set are being rapidly removed (Proverbs 22:28).

The “faith-based initiative” even goes a step beyond the traditional snare of, “We will give your church non-profit tax status and your members tax deductions if you promise to stay away from certain issues in the pulpit and vow to uphold public policy.” But how can faithful preachers promise to abstain from preaching against abortion (infanticide), sodomy, gambling, false religions, etc.? The things that appeared benign to some of the fathers, will certainly not be benign when a government arises that knows “not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). Since we know WHAT IS COMING, we must begin now, before the rapture, to reject all offers to yoke with Rome or the State, and in repentance, begin “cleaning the house”:

“All or present action in respect to a federated church must be carefully regulated by our knowledge of the future.” (D.M. Panton, Ibid.)

We must begin now to return to the older wisdom of reliance only upon Jesus Christ as the Head of the church. Notice these wise words of Charles H. Spurgeon:

“We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the Reformation, we were the reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the Apostles themselves….Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, BUT WE ARE NOT READY TO ACCEPT ANY HELP FROM THE STATE, TO PROSTITUTE THE PURITY OF THE BRIDE OF CHRIST TO ANY ALLIANCE WITH GOVERNMENT, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men.”
(Charles Spurgeon, “Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,” Vol. 7, 1861)

The following facts from Baptist history are also very enlightening:

“Some serious questions have many times been asked concerning the Baptists: Would they, as a denomination, have accepted from any nation or state an offer of ‘establishment’ if such nation or state had freely made them such an offer? And, would they, in case they had accepted such an offer, have become persecutors of others like Catholics or Episcopals, or Lutherans or Presbyterians, or Congregationalists? Probably a little consideration of such questions now would not be amiss. Have the Baptists, as a fact, ever had such an opportunity? Is it not recorded in history, that on one occasion, the King of the Netherlands (the Netherlands at that time embracing Norway and Sweden, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark) had under serious consideration the question of having an established religion? Their kingdom at that period was surrounded on almost all sides by nations or governments with established religions – religions supported by the Civil Government. It is stated that the King of Holland appointed a committee to examine into the claims of all existing churches or denominations to see which had the best claim to be the New Testament Church. The committee reported back that the Baptists were the best representatives of New Testament teachings. Then the King offered to make the Baptist ‘the established’ church or denomination of his kingdom. The Baptists kindly thanked him but declined, stating that it was contrary to their fundamental convictions and principles. But this was not the only opportunity they ever had of having their denomination the established religion of a people. They certainly had that opportunity when Rhode Island Colony was founded. And to have persecuted others – that would have been an impossibility if they were to continue being Baptists. They were the original advocates of ‘Religious Liberty.’ That really is one of the fundamental articles of their religious faith. They believed in the absolute separation of church and state….So strong has been the Baptist conviction on the question of Church and State combination, that they have invariably declined all offers of help from the State. We give here two instances. One in Texas and the other in Mexico. Long years ago in the days of Baylor University’s babyhood, Texas offered to help her. She declined the help though she was in distressing need. The Texas Methodists had a baby school in Texas at the same time. They accepted the State help; that school finally fell into the hands of the State. The case in Mexico occurred in this wise: W. D. Powell was our missionary to Mexico. By his missionary work he had made a great impression for the Baptists upon Governor Madero of the State of Coahuila. Madero offered a great gift to the Baptists from the State, if the Baptists would establish a good school in the State of Coahuila, Mexico. The matter was submitted by Powell to the Foreign Board. The gift was declined because it was to be from the State. Afterwards Madero gave a good large sum personally. That was accepted and Madero Institute was built and established.” (J.M. Carroll, “The Trail of Blood”)

And did not Abraham, in type and principle, suggest this truth when he refused goods from the king of Sodom? God forbid that the Lord’s churches grow rich through yoking with Sodom in our day:

Genesis 14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

Elders: Singular or Plural?

Alexander Strauch in “Biblical Eldership” argues:

“…when Paul and Peter directly exhort the elders to do their duty, they both employ shepherding imagery. It should be observed that these two giant apostles assign the task of shepherding the local church to no other group or single person but the elders. Paul reminds the Asian elders that God the Holy Spirit placed them in the flock as overseers for the purpose of shepherding the church of God (Acts 20:28).”(1)

This type of argumentation uses language to create a straw man. The argument is often phrased this way: “Do you not admit that churches had plural elders in the New Testament? Where do you find evidence for ‘single-elder congregationalism’ in the Bible?” The Christian is then directed to such passages as Acts 20 where multiple elders are seen in the church. The argument is then considered to be over. The question has been decided! But wait just a moment. It is easy to win a debate if you start out by asking the wrong questions.

This method of debate was used against Paige Patterson (Southern Baptist) in a book titled, “Who Runs The Church?”.(2) The book is a debate between four men. Each contributor defends either Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Plural-Elder Congregationalism, or Single-Elder Congregationalism (i.e. Patterson). Patterson (perhaps not foreseeing the trap) was chosen to defend “SINGLE-elder congregationalism.” After his opponent (a plural elder advocate named Samuel E. Waldron) took advantage of the language to create a straw man, Patterson wrote:

“Even when multiple elders were necessary, one of the elders remained the decisive spiritual leader of the flock….There are few cases of prospering congregations not led ultimately by a primary pastor figure….Waldron mistakenly says, ‘As noted previously, it is gratifying to see that Patterson has given up any attempt to defend single-elder congregationalism. He has chosen rather to defend primary-elder congregationalism. In so far as this reflects movement toward plural-elder congregationalism, this is, from my perspective, encouraging.’ Waldron here falsely assumes that there has been some alteration in my position. This is understandable in that the editor may not have made it clear to him what I took to be my assignment in the book. I have no problem with multiple elders in a congregation when necessary. Clearly churches in the New Testament era often had more than one elder. It was my agreement with the editor that I could support single-elder congregationalism only if it was understood to denominate what Waldron calls primary-elder congregationalism. Therefore, Waldron’s hope that I have changed is destined to disappointment, and he will be sad to learn that I remain quite unconvinced by his arguments….it is important to me because some want to make plurality of elders mandatory when there is no such command. Waldron is exhibiting the trait that makes this position an issue for me.”(3)

Most of the churches with primary pastors define any other pastors as assistants (i.e. associate pastor, etc.). Therefore, it would seem that many plural-elder advocates are taking advantage of the language that is used in our culture. Among modern Christians (especially in America), the Biblical words “overseer,” “bishop,” “elder,” have taken a backseat to the word “pastor.” This is why it can be confusing to some Christians when someone approaches them with Bible verses that mention plural “elders.” A plural-elder advocate might ask, “Does your church have elders?” An informed Christian might answer, “We are thankful that we DO have many, wise, aged-men in our church.” The plural-elder advocate would then respond by saying, “No, I mean do you have men who are functioning in the office of an elder?” Again, the informed Christian would answer, “Yes, our church has a pastor, bishop, elder, or whatever Biblical word you would like to call him. And we have recently ordained two other assistant pastors in our growing church.” However, a young Christian (unaware that “elders,” “bishops,” “pastors” all refer to the same thing) might easily be confused by a plural-elder advocate. He might see his thriving church with a senior pastor, assistant pastors, and music minister, and ask, “Where ARE the elders?” He would be unaware that the ordained pastors in his church are functioning as elders (or bishops) under a different name.

Plural elder advocates have not been able to establish that having only one elder (pastor) in a church (especially a smaller one) is wrong. Unable to find any direct commandments on the issue, they simply utilize what they deem to be the New Testament pattern (i.e. churches in the New Testament have multiple elders, therefore, every church in every age needs multiple elders). One problem with this argument is that they can only establish that EVERY church in the New Testament had plural elders by beginning with great assumptions. They must assume that the grammar in certain Bible verses demands plurality in every church. However, some passages do not demand this reading. For example, notice the following verse:

Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

First of all, notice that in this verse, the churches were considered churches before they had elders. They were simply in an undeveloped stage. If we are to assume that the above verse must mean that each church had plural elders, we must then ask whether or not there is not also a stage of development after the appointing of these plural elders. In other words, we must ask whether or not the next or final stage of development would be to appoint a primary elder among the other elders. Many commentators believe that this progress in church government is indeed seen in the Bible, reaching its final stage of development in the primary elders (i.e. angels) of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and other passages (Govett, Panton, etc.). It cannot be denied that there are many transitional elements in the Book of Acts and in other Epistles. On one hand, we can make too much of these transitional elements; but on the other hand, we might also fail to notice them. For example, some might erroneously conclude that since Apostles are seen throughout the Book of Acts, we must possess them today, etc. Others might conclude that certain words must be said at baptism (other than the phrase in Matthew 28:19) because of Acts 8:16. Others might argue that all offices in the church should be decided on the basis of drawing lots (as in Acts 1:26). And still others might argue that private ownership is sinful on the basis of Acts 2:44-45. There are obviously numerous examples that could be mentioned. While I certainly do not deny that some early patterns revealed in the Book of Acts teach enduring truth for this age (e.g. the disciples meeting on the first day of the week in Acts 20:7, etc.), there are other patterns that are amended or changed in later Epistles.

Yet, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Acts 14:23 represents churches in a completed stage of government. There are still two major assumptions that are made by plural elder advocates. First, they assume that simply because there are plural elders, this must mean that there is no distinction among them (i.e. that one is not a primary elder). We will deal more with this issue below. Next, they assume that the grammar in Acts 14:23 demands plural elders. However, the phrase “ordained them elders in every church” does not demand this view. One elder in every church would still meet the grammatical demands of the plural. For example, notice the following verses:

1 Timothy 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

This does not mean that there should be plural deacons for every singular wife.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

This does not mean that each husband should have multiple wives.

1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with ALL that in EVERY PLACE call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

“All” are not in “every place” in the sense that if there were a million Christians, EACH PLACE would have one million. No, the “all in every place” means that the million are divided among these various places.

Acts 26:11 And I punished THEM oft in EVERY SYNAGOGUE…(see also 22:19)

The plural “them” does not mean that every individual synagogue necessarily had multiple Christians. Some synagogues may have had only one Christian. In the same manner, the language in Acts 14:23 (and other verses), does not necessarily demand that there is more than one elder in each church. We might argue that the “elders” are in “every church” because each church has at least one. Patterson writes:

“…uncertainty about who is being addressed in Hebrews and James opens just as much the possibility that the plural ‘elders’ accords to the plurality of churches addressed and not to the number of elders in any given congregation. This is surely the case in Acts 14:23 where Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe are all in view, and in Titus 1:5 where new churches on the island of Crete needed an elder for each of these congregations.” (4)

It appears that the plural elder advocates (defined here as meaning that every church MUST have plural elders with no primary elder leading them) have simply pounced upon the plurality in passages such as Acts 20, and have used this to read plurality in every other verse, regardless of how much they have to overcome to do so (i.e. trying to make the “angel” of Revelation 2 and 3 represent a plurality of leadership).

Primary elder advocates do not believe that assistant elders (pastors) are an absolute necessity for every church. But the issue here is that if plural elder advocates will seize upon the plurality is some verses to argue their case, we might just as easily do the same with the verses that reveal (or appear to reveal) singularity. The example of the angels in Revelation 2 and 3 will be dealt with in greater detail in another article. The “angel” of each church certainly argues for a single (or primary) elder. But there are other cases of singularity. Notice that in Timothy and Titus, the bishop is always singular, while the deacons are always plural:

1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of A BISHOP, he desireth a good work.
2 A BISHOP then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
4 One that ruleth well HIS OWN HOUSE, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if A MAN know not how to rule his own house, how shall HE take care of the church of God?)
8 Likewise must THE DEACONS be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
10 And let THESE also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
13 For THEY that have used the office of a deacon well…

Titus 1:7 For A BISHOP must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

It is certainly just as legitimate to argue that the Bible in these verses is demanding that plural deacons be managed by a singular bishop than it is to use plurality in other verses to argue that each church must be led by a plurality of elders, who are equal in authority. I fail to see the logic that would demand that plurality be used as an enduring pattern, but that singularity must be explained away as simply a grammatical quirk.

Notice another case of singularity:

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, YE younger, submit yourselves unto THE elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Here the younger is designated by the plural “ye,” but the elder is singular. We know that Peter (like Paul in Hebrews 13) is not just writing to one church:

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

There is also the example of the multiple singulars in Revelation 2 and 3:

Revelation 3:1 And unto THE ANGEL of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know THY works, that THOU hast a name that THOU livest, and art dead.

Plural elder advocates do their best to argue that the Book of Revelation is symbolic and mysterious, and therefore it should not be used to establish doctrine, etc. Waldron appears to make this argument. But this is exactly what amillennialists tell us about the “thousand years” in Revelation 20. They say that the book is so symbolic and mysterious that this evidence for a millennial reign of Christ should not be used to correct the rest of the Bible concerning the eternal kingdom. However, we do not maintain that Revelation 20 corrects the Bible. But it does provide us with added details. The angels in Revelation 2 and 3 do the same thing in regard to the debate concerning primary elders that Revelation 20 does concerning millennialism. It is a great error to argue that “angels” is Revelation 2 and 3 are symbolic. They are not symbolic. They are the literal interpretation of the symbol (stars). The only question is whether or not the word “angel” can ever be used for earthly rulers, ministers, etc. The context establishes that these are earthly rulers, who bear responsibility for their congregations. And there is abundant evidence that the word “angel” can be used in this manner (which will be examined in a future article).

The real question is whether or not it is right to have a primary leader among any other leaders. Plural elder advocates will argue that we have no right to take a passage that reveals plural elders in one church and conclude that some are assistants and that one is the primary leader. As already noted, they assume that the government of such churches is in its final stage of organization (even though Timothy is found in Ephesus after Paul meets with its elders in Acts 20). They also assume that words such as “elders” or “bishops” necessarily demand equality without distinctions. However, Paul writes that children should obey their PARENTS (Colossians 3:20). Both father and mother hold the same office of “parent.” However, this does not mean that one is not the head. In the same manner, the high priest and the priests together are sometimes referred to as simply “priests.” And as we have already shown elsewhere, one may address a letter to “the pastors” of a certain church without concluding that such language demands that all pastors are equal in authority or leadership in that church.

Gene A. Getz (senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church North in Plano, Texas) authored a book titled, “Elders and Leaders: God’s Plan For Leading the Church” (2003). While there are a couple of things that I, as a fundamentalist Christian, would disagree with in this book, the testimony of Getz is very enlightening concerning this issue of plural elders. Getz began as a radical anti-head pastor advocate. He later learned that he had overreacted:

“The year was 1968….as I faced the ‘winds of change’ that were whirling and swirling across our nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, my students challenged me to take a fresh look at what God intended the church to be. One of the great principles that grabbed my attention during this process was ‘plurality in leadership.’….Let me be perfectly honest. I was initially so committed to the principle of plurality in leadership that I, at times, downplayed and, in some respects, denied how important it is to have a strong primary leader….James, the half brother of Jesus, was the primary leader of the elders in Jerusalem. This will become increasingly clear as we continue to unfold this Biblical story….The New Testament definitely teaches and illustrates that when there is a plurality of leadership, someone needs to function as the primary leader of the team….It’s God’s design – from the time He chose men like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and Nehemiah in the Old Testament, and Peter, Paul, and Timothy, and Titus in the New Testament – to always have a key leader in place to lead His people. Why would we think differently when it involves elders/overseers in a local church?….For years, I served with a very dedicated and qualified pastor on our staff who previously had served in another church as ‘senior pastor.’ Unfortunately, many of his elders were not godly leaders. Several men particularly thwarted my friend’s sincere desires to lead the church to become a community of love and witness in the world. Sadly, this man used to come home after board meetings literally sick to his stomach….Unfortunately, as Paul warned the Ephesian elders, some ‘wolves’ had become a part of the leadership in the church, and the ‘primary shepherd’ was their target….A team that supports each other will strengthen the ministry of a primary leader. Clearly an unsupportive team can undermine his ministry….It’s clear from the total biblical story in the New Testament that God did not intend for a group of men to function without a primary leader. Neither did He plan for a church to have coleaders….Though utilizing coleaders may appear to work initially, it normally leads to serious inefficiency and potential conflict….Frankly, in my early years…I attempted to practice a co-leadership approach….In terms of our own roles, the other leader and I found ourselves tentative in leading for fear we were being inconsiderate of each other….Recently, I received the following letter…: ‘…Even in a co-leadership situation that works well, like the one I’m in, where the two of us share a similar philosophy on ministry, we still have different ideas and slightly different views on where the church needs to go strategically. This means that both pastors are held back from really leading the church forward. There is no primary visionary leader, and I believe our church has suffered because of that….the pendulum has swung too far the other way, to where the idea of teamwork and co-leading is so overemphasized that no one can give primary leadership to the church…’.”(5)

Getz goes on to give an analogy of a full-time pastor being invited to rule on a board at a banking corporation where the CEO must report to him. He shows how unrealistic and cumbersome this would be to the CEO. Yet, he notices that this is how many pastors, out of some sense of necessity or humility, have entangled themselves:

“I’ve never met a pastor who operates under these circumstances who isn’t terribly discouraged….Unfortunately, some primary pastors have orchestrated themselves into this position. They believe so firmly in being servant-leaders that they unknowingly have given up their authority.”(6)

I have made the same point a few years ago in my book, “The Biblical Husband.” Fathers and husbands who use the humble-servant commands to passively ignore the responsibility to lead in their homes have gone off the deep-end on the other side of the boat! It is the same way in regard to head pastors (1 Timothy 3:5).

There appears to be some variations among the views of the advocates of plural-eldership. Some hold that the whole congregation has authority to dismiss or accept members, and appoint people to offices in the church. Others hold that the elders have total authority in such matters. Yet, all would decry congregational rule to some degree. It is here where I will call the reader’s attention to one last argument. There is much heat generated by plural elder advocates against the (supposedly) horrible, shameful, popish idea that one elder lead and pastor the others (i.e. a head-pastor leading his assistant pastors). But they do not think it is at all horrible or popish that three men (plural elders) rule a church and decide every issue! A promise of “liberty” does not always lead to greater liberty (2 Peter 2:19).

The claim that some pastors with the primary elder model might abuse their authority is no argument against the model. The same claim is being made today in regard to husbands and fathers. Yet, such abuses do not disprove the ordained right for husbands and parents to rule in their homes. Excesses and abuses should never be made the grounds for accepting opposite errors. Plural elder advocates often ask what rights or means congregations have to deliver themselves from abusive head-pastors. But before answering, we might ask what rights or means do elder-rule churches have to deliver themselves from three men who have decided to “swap wives” or otherwise abuse their authority? As already noted, often, congregations have more authority in primary pastor-led churches than they do in elder churches. Therefore, the question is no real objection at all.

The most important question is whether or not the Bible teaches that a church should have a primary pastor/leader. I believe that there is more evidence for primary pastors than there is to the contrary. The example of James in Acts, the singular angels of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, the singulars in other passages, and the over-all teaching throughout the whole Bible (i.e. God raising up single leaders to accomplish His will), all argue for the truth of primary pastors. And this is before looking at the history of Christian churches barely a decade removed from the time John wrote the Book of Revelation.

The response of plural elder advocates to the fact that Ignatius writes to so many churches with primary pastors (not long after these churches are addressed by the Lord Jesus Himself) only reveals what a great obstacle this history is for them to overcome. Like the “angels” of Revelation 2 and 3, the history (at so early a date) stands as a great obstacle to their view. In response to the epistles of Ignatius, Waldron (a plural elder advocate) writes:

“It may be that the churches in Asia had ‘primus inter pares’ (first among equals) systems and that Ignatius assumed that they were ‘primus’ systems…Such a mistake would be easy for the passionate Ignatius to make.” (7).

I find it easier to conclude that the passionate plural-elder advocates are the ones making the assumptions.

NOTES:

1. Alexander Strauch, “Biblical Eldership: Restoring the Eldership to Its Rightful Place in the Church”

2. Paul E. Engle and Steven B. Cowan, “Who Runs The Church? Four Views On Church Government” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004).

3. Ibid., p. 134, 283-285.

4. Ibid., p. 284.

5. Gene A. Getz, “Elders and Leaders: God’s Plan For Leading the Church” (Chicago: Moody, 2003), p. 17-18, 60, 217, 223, 242-243, 252-254, 256.

6. Ibid., p. 258-259.

7.Paul E. Engle and Steven B. Cowan, “Who Runs The Church? Four Views On Church Government” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), p. 197.

(Joey Faust, Jan. 8, 2005)