Is There A Way We “Ought to Act” in the House of God?
After explaining the criteria of holiness expected of church leadership in the second chapter of his first epistle to Timothy, Paul explained why the godliness of our leaders was important…
“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that,  if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)
Those words in bold, or at least the presupposition upon which they stand, would be among the most controversial in all the Bible – that is, if evangelical Christians knew they existed. I submit to you that the premise of these words, that there is a way one “ought” to behave in the household of God, would be soundly rejected by most within the modern evangelical church. Our modern lasciviousness denies there is a hypothetical way we ought to behave in the household of God. That we ought to act a specific way in the household of God is seen as Pharisaical, Fundamentalist, or legalistic. The very notion is antithetical to our ungodliness that has come to so characterize our churches.
And yet, this verse presupposes there is a specific way in which we behave in the household of God. And the way we ought to behave in that household is highlighted for us in the criteria for church leadership in the first thirteen verses. Church leaders and servant-leaders (elders and deacons, respectively) are to fit the qualities of godly men. And thus, Paul lines out for Timothy how godliness is defined. Afterward, Paul here exhorts the church to consider their leaders, and to imitate them because this is how they are to behave in God’s household.
Paul’s criteria for godliness includes: sober-mindedness, self-control, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, and dignified, just to name a few. The leaders of the church need these qualities, not because they have higher standards than the congregation, but because the congregation is to follow their lead and imitate them as tangible, visible representations of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).
The household of God to which Paul refers is not a building of bricks and mortar, but is “the church of the living God…” Behavior required in the household of God doesn’t mean behavior required in the four-walled building on a church campus. Therefore, the descriptions of godliness in 1 Timothy 3 are not criteria for behavior on the Lord’s Day, but behavior to be exhibited among all those that consider themselves a part of God’s household, the church.
As children, many of us were told “Don’t run in God’s house!” We grew up (hopefully) to understand that our parents weren’t so much concerned with treating a building as sacred, but being respectful of others within the body; the elder sister that you may knock over, the younger toddler you may plow through, or those spiritual siblings gathered for prayer in rooms off the hallway. And although bricks and mortar don’t make a church, I can promise you this; disrespect or ungodly behavior while the saints are gathered together in the meeting house (as the Puritan’s called it) is likely an indication of even more ungodliness when no one is watching.
This is why ungodly behavior while the saints are gathered in the meeting house is indicative of a much deeper problem. What is done in moderation without blushing in the meeting house, is typically done to excess and with embrace in the home. To be clear, there is no tangible spiritual benefit to cleaning the outside of the cup (Matthew 23:25-26). There is no point and neither am I suggesting that we fake our holiness in the meeting house to gain the approval of the Saints while living like the devil out in the world. What I am suggesting, rather, is that when sin is on display in the meeting house, it’s far worse in the home.
Again, the notion that certain behavior is expected of believers is quick to receive the gnashing of teeth and charges of legalism. There is no doctrine so despised by false converts as that of personal holiness. If it could be said that the mid-nineteenth century fundamentalist church was legalistic, it’s equally a fair assessment that the church of modern evangelicalism is unashamedly antinomian. I’m fully convinced that if you were to ask many professed Christians the question of Paul in Romans 6:1 (should we continue to sin that grace may about) their answer would be far from “God forbid!”
Fundamentalist tendencies in Southern Baptist churches and institutions (including my Alma Mater) forbade dancing, even until recent years. Such a policy may ignore Scriptural approval of dancing as a part of worship (Exodus 15:20, and many others). But to be fair, these policies weren’t addressing worship-oriented dancing (although would probably and happily forbid that, too), but a display of worldliness that the majority of Christians associated with revelry and ungodly behavior. Even though we may not go so far as to enforce an outright-ban on dancing, for example, does it mean that any and all dancing in any and all settings for any and all reasons is acceptable for the Christian? Or is there a degree of wisdom in recognizing that certain kinds of dancing (in public), particularly that which is sexually provocative or enticing to the opposite sex, is unbecoming of a Christian striving to meet the criteria for godliness in places like 1 Timothy 3?
In the above video, in the foreground, we see the “significant other” of student minister Chad Reeves, both of whom displayed their dancing skills to the x-rated lyrics in Friday’s post on this website. Behind her in the green dress is Gina Franzke, Director of Women’s and Girls Ministries. This is a building on the church campus.
Just a few decades ago, Christians around the nation (and particularly within the SBC) would stand with gaping mouths and bewildered stares that this was within the church, let alone that this was a woman given the spiritual stewardship of youth. Today if we make this observation, we are labeled as fundamentalist. The fundamentalists of a half-century ago might have taken their assertions too far. But isn’t it safe to say that we have over-corrected the wheel and removed all standards of decency and godliness altogether?
A lack of standards for godliness and holiness in conduct seems to be pervasive at Cross Church. The abundance of comments I’ve received from those who have made an exodus from Floyd’s enterprise all say similar things. Consider this, from someone who was once very close to the rest of Cross Church leadership:
Once an insider at Cross Church, I never realized how lost I was until I left and found sound, biblical teaching at another church. At Cross Church I was never encouraged to read the Scriptures, never held accountable for anything, and never asked by leadership about my relationship with the Lord. I almost lost my family, and almost ruined my life. By the Grace of God have I found a body of believers that isn’t afraid to talk about sin and commands repentance.
And another comment…
“During my time there, I saw multiple staff and ministers fall in sin. In just the last few years there have been, by my count, five moral failures among the staff. There seems to be a pattern of sin among the staff, and subsequently, a lack of authority to command repentance among the body. I never witnessed church discipline, and even the public failures of the men we called ministers were dealt with in secret. What a great opportunity to show the love of Christ through church discipline as outlined in Matthew. But no effort to bring this sin to the light results in the sheep continuing to live in darkness, where there sin can continue to thrive.”
Let me speak to this particular comment from a former member (and much more than a member, but I refuse to say more). This type of comment, referring to the moral failures of Cross Church leadership (for full disclosure, not Ronnie Floyd in particular), has been pervasive and most troublesome. When referring in both the program and the previous post on this topic, to more information that I would present, it included a detailed debriefing on each of the moral failures of staff at Cross Church in the last five years – and they are numerous. I could name names, recall how Cross Church leadership passed their staff people on to other churches without explaining their sins, addiction and problems as a quiet way to play “hot potato” with staff personnel failures so as to not have to deal their sin, and how this led to the spiritual harm of those individuals and others. I could provide this information in great detail. After seeking counsel and speaking to some of the individuals involved, I’ve decided to forgo that because (A) some of these individuals have been reconciled to wives post-adultery, and even more importantly, have been reconciled to Christ and been forgiven and (B) giving the information would hurt the healing process of so many suffering collateral damage from a church that refuses to deal biblically with sin.
For anyone who’s interested, nothing that has been brought to my attention via those who’ve exited Cross Church to find churches that emphasize personal holiness has been terribly private. Most of this is information that “out there.” Just like the video the Pulpit & Pen posted Friday with the x-rated lyrics that had been on the church’s Facebook page, the problem is that many simply have no problem with it and see no cause for concern.
This is why many have left, like this comment left on the website:
This behavior is common at Cross Church…I was once a part of Cross Church (formerly First Springdale) and I am glad I am no longer. Wonderful people, but lousy leadership that never confronts sinful behavior. Lots of sermons on giving and prosperity. Very little about holiness and discipleship. Everything is about the numbers.
Many, like this man, have left. Many more than those, however, have swelled the ranks of a church that attempts to entertain people to the cross. A children’s church set designed by Disney professionals, a baptismal confetti cannon, and church campuses that sprawl like a small town’s business district are all impressive in their own right. But the impact of the Gospel is determined in souls conformed to Christ and lives transformed to eschew the lusts of our former passions.
As Paul Washer tells the story of a pastor from the third world touring wealthy American church houses, an attempt by his host to impress him with the state of Christianity in our country, the host asks his guest, “What do you think?”
The man responds, “It’s amazing…what you can accomplish without God.”
[UPDDATE: Ms Franzke, the Director of Women’s and Girls’ Ministries who is seen in the above video, has deleted all references lauding this video in social media since this post went up. Thankfully, Ergun Caner has taught us to screenshot everything. If it’s a big enough deal to remove references to the video (or remove the video, as Cross Church removed the previous video) which she hashtagged “#stopwhitegirls2014,” it’s a big enough deal to make a statement concerning it]
Category: The Pen