I guess it had to happen. I am no longer an elder at Reformation Alive Baptist Church. In fact, I am no longer a member of Reformation Alive Baptist Church. I resigned as the Last Elder Standing a couple of months ago. I resigned as a member of that local body on 21 May 2014. I have decided I need to move on. As one man from whom I often seek counsel put it: I should probably find a place “where my gifts can be better used.”
As many of you know, I was affirmed as an elder by the congregation of Reformation Alive Baptist Church about a year and a half ago (somewhere around the first of December, 2012). This was a result of (or perhaps in preparation for) the imminent departure of the vocational elder (that’s the pastor to you people at First Baptist Church of Glenarden on the Kettering (FBCGotK)). He taught at the college and they weren’t paying them on a regular basis. I have an article on that here. When the “degreed” elder left, I became the last elder standing.
I was quite excited (and I must say sobered) about my role in the development and growth of a Reformed church. It represents an incredible responsibility, and an incredible “opportunity” to screw up.
I suspected there was going to be trouble when the church insisted they had to find a “pastor” as soon as possible. A couple of the leaders panicked and unilaterally called in a fellow to pastor us temporarily. Fortunately, rather than me becoming resentful, he became the “one man whom I often seek counsel from.” And we worked together to try to pull the church through.
And it was during this “pulling” I learned an uncomfortable truth. Not everyone understands what the church is. While I was privileged to preach the word to them for over a month and a half (not an easy task, by the way), and while I kept emphasizing that we, the members, are the church, where ever we meet; most stayed stuck on the idea that unless we met at the Lutheran facility and unless we had a man we could call pastor, and unless that man had at least the makings of a Master’s degree in something religious, then we couldn’t survive as a church and we wouldn’t really be a church. Both the fellow they called in and I tried repeatedly to help them understand the fallacy of this approach. But it was not to be.
We limped along with the aid of the fellow called in by the informal leaders of the congregation. We didn’t grow in numbers. Instead, we slowly shrank.
Eventually, the fellow they called in, the fellow who is now one of my counselors (I hate to use the word “mentor”. It seems so pretentious.), had to leave. He could no longer work for free. The informal leaders wanted to govern the church with something called a Leadership Team. At that point, I had to object. If they were going to do that, I pointed out, I could not keep the title of Elder, especially since I viewed being an elder as a huge responsibility. I had to explain, as politely as I could, that if I didn’t have the authority of the elder, as laid out in Scripture, then I was certainly not willing to take up the responsibility for their souls.
The church held a meeting several months ago to discuss the constitution and to try to identify changes needed for the constitution. In that meeting, several people made known their objection to a Reformed approach to theology and governance. With few exceptions, the rest of the members agreed. They weren’t interested in the 1689 London Baptist Confession. They weren’t interested in Calvin, Luther, Augustine, and they didn’t know the constitution was filled with so much Reformed references. They just wanted to read the Bible. Period. It became apparent at that point I should find a place where “my gifts can be better used.” I then tendered my resignation as a member and let them know that my last day would be the Wednesday night I finished the Bible Study series on the Tabernacle as a type of Jesus Christ. That fell on May 21, 2014.
I have to admit I learned a lot. The challenge of serving as an elder was huge. Working with the man the informal leaders brought in to replace me was actually very good for me. I was able to watch him and learn (he had about twenty-five years as a pastor/missionary/church planter/etc.) as he dealt with the congregation and as he tried and failed (just like me) to direct them to a good understanding of what a church actually is. I have to admit I don’t feel so bad after watching him and trying to help.
At the moment I’m just depressurizing. I attended another church last week. It was great to just sit there and listen to an outstanding exposition of the word. I didn’t have to work the sound board or set up the projector, or make sure the microphones had good batteries, or make sure all the sound levels were good, or put all the equipment away after service. I didn’t have to think about preparing for Wednesday night Bible Study or worry whether or not Movie Night, featuring a really good dramatization of the Book of Daniel, was going to go well. All I had to do was sit with my wife and listen to (I’m promise you I’m not making this up) a sermon on the significance of the Tabernacle as a type of Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross.
At this point, all I can do is quote Superman, quoting Bizzaro Superman: “Life am good.”