Dedicated to the leadership of Immanuel Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia...
The SBC Today blog shares exerpts from an article originally published in January 1922 edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology by Dr. L. R. Scarborough Poisoning the Fountains of Truth
In Part One, Dr. Scarborough highlights the critical role of churches and the impact of false teaching:
"...far worse is it for false teachings to be carried on in the churches which are “the pillar and ground of the truth...These churches are the very fountains of the life of the Kingdom of Christ."
"...poison in the fountains of truth in our churches cause spiritual death and dearth and drouth to the life of the people. If we poison the spiritual waters that flow from our churches into the lives of the people, we cause death to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ."
"...It is far easier for us to correct false teaching in our schools, because the schools are under the control of our conventions, than it is to correct false teachings in our churches, because the churches are independent and sovereign and you cannot reach the false teachers, even though they be the pastors of the churches, except through the members of the churches themselves."
In Part Two, Dr. L. R. Scarborough illustrates how CEO-style pastors poison the life of the church:
There are a number of ways by which we can cast the poison of erroneous teaching into the very fountains of truth and life among our people. I mention some of them:
1. By allowing the pastor of the church to assume the control and the management of the functions of a church...
...or when he or a committee of the church issues letters to members desiring to remove their relations, or when he himself or through a committee dismisses them from the church fellowship, or commits other acts of maladministration contrary to the Word of God.
This is an assumption of authority and partakes of the nature of a self-appointed ecclesiascism and this conduct greatly poisons the life of the church."
Scarborough’s following statement is near prophetic…”you cannot reach the false teachers, even though they be the pastors of the churches, except through the members of the churches themselves.”
Over the last ten years, the advent of the church growth movement has yielded hundred if not thousands of examples of church members privately pleading with their pastor to give up the merchandising of the pulpit to attract the “unchurched” and return to Biblical teaching and worship. These people quickly find out that they are marginalized, asked to leave, removed from positions of service, etc, at the hand of the CEO style pastor.
The Purpose Driven Church growth model advocates the concept of showing those who resist the “new way of doing church” to the door.
All without allowing the church member the opportunity to address the concerns to the church body.
Local church autonomy has been the excuse these pastors use for justifying “losing a few to gain more” in their “vision” of numerical growth.
One member resisting the pragmatism in the 21st century church doesnt stand a chance against such a pastor. But if the congregation was given the opportunity to hear the darkside of church marketing, the pastor would not stand a chance. But the CEO style pastor will use peer pressure, intimidation and manipulation to ensure that there is no public hearing on the matter.
Yes, Scarborough was absolutely correct. In the absence of elder rule and accountability, the false teacher is in control of the enterprise as long as the congregation is willing to go along for the ride.
Discernment is the responsibility of the church member. Paul exhorted Christians to test the teaching, he warned of tolerating false teachers, etc.
Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit, but if the Christian fails to put it to work, it will only grieve the Holy Spirit. Christians are charged to contend for the faith.
In Scarborough’s second article, he provides examples of how this CEO style leadership manifests itself.
“This is an assumption of authority and partakes of the nature of a self-appointed ecclesiascism and this conduct greatly poisons the life of the church.”
The CEO style rule not only poisons the life of the church, it puts the church on a slippery slope of compromise. Just as is the case for any sin, if left unchallenged or accepted, it will only lead to death.