Danger in the Pulpit

It takes more than authoring books and acquiring titles to be a good pastor. It takes integrity.

Trustworthy leadership is hard to find. Inside and outside Christianity, men and women with fancy letters behind their names are doing nasty things to innocent people – and children. It’s becoming more and more apparent that academic degrees (while important) and achievements (while admirable) are not the measure of success for a leader. Integrity is.

These words were written by church planter Costi Hinn who serves as the president and founder of For the Gospel. He recently published a list of the signs of a dangerous pastor in a series on Spiritual Abuse. Prayerfully consider these signs and decide for yourself if Midway Presbyterian Church is under the direction of a “dangerous pastor”.

Hinn warns that such “autocratic rulers” do not represent the “kind of leadership that Jesus had in mind when He promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18)“.

1: The Pastor Insulates Himself:

This is the pastor who surrounds himself with a system of layers; making it nearly impossible to get valuable time with him. Still, he makes sure to appear personable and approachable in public settings. He insulates himself because he’s CEO-minded and deeply believes that the best way to grow the church is to be distant from the people. This pragmatic approach gives him a sort of “holy-aura” as he attempts to make himself a novelty to his followers. Like the Pope waving from an ivory tower in the Vatican City, the pastor who insulates himself can remain god-like in status while doing whatever he pleases out of sight. You won’t find him doing a whole lot of discipleship. This guy is the show-and-go type. You see him Sunday – then he’s gone!

Costi Hinn: www.forthegospel.org/read/5-signs-of-a-dangerous-pastor

While it is unlikely that David Hall believes that distance from the people is how you grow a church, if you are a member at Midway ask yourself how often you see the Senior Pastor participating the ministries and life of the church? Is his participation in church events to invest in the lives of the flock or is it to pursue some aspect of his agenda? Is he there to campaign for certain elder candidates of his choosing? Is he there to dismiss the seriousness of ongoing concerns in the congregation and politic that everything is just fine? Is he minimizing real problems in the church? Is he absent, when as the Senior Pastor, he should be leading the charge for reconciliation not leading the charges as a prejudicial moderator?

The Midway Guardian has documented in the past how the Senior Pastor David Hall at Midway is very different than the one at the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. Does the pastor have one standard for himself and his allies and another for the congregation? Are there layers of “Yes-Men” (so called “good elders“) who insulate you from seeing the real problem of hypocritical leadership running the show at Midway?

If this is not an insulated pastor – what is?

2: The Pastor is Threatened by Smart Individuals:

This is the pastor who can’t stand educated and discerning people who ask tough questions. He will tolerate some question-asking because he’s smart enough to appear fair and tolerant. However, you won’t find men with a high degree of theological knowledge hanging around for very long. This threatens his pride. Instead of receiving constructive wisdom from those who may even be wiser, or being open to feedback from people within the congregation, he patronizes those with less experience and demeans those with less knowledge. This pastor draws influence and power from knowing more than others do – or appearing like he does. He maintains a long term following by drawing unsuspecting people he can manipulate.

Costi Hinn: www.forthegospel.org/read/5-signs-of-a-dangerous-pastor

One does not have to interact with Midway’s Senior Pastor for long to see clearly that David Hall cannot be wrong. In fact, he has claimed special discernment for himself and his fellow “good elders“. Under his leadership, the Session of the church has ruthlessly waged a prejudicial war against the “bad elders” and others who have used the constitution of the church to challenge his actions. Complaints rooted in constitutional questions will be mishandled, and open messaging to the congregation is misleading, untrue, or only tells half the story. What is David Hall afraid of? It is clear that certain opinions are not allowed.

If Senior Pastor David Hall was open to correction, barriers might come down, repentance might be possible, and the church would be a healthier place. But alas – instead fear, confusion, control, and exclusion reign in David Hall’s kingdom.

If this isn’t a pastor who seems intimidated by other individuals who have suggested he’s in error – what is?

3: The Pastor Punishes Those Who Disagree:

This is the pastor who creates a punitive culture within the church. This church becomes a place where it’s the dogmatic pastor’s way or the highway. Should you or anyone else even think about gently pointing out inconsistencies in the theological positions he holds, you run the risk of being privately shamed. Think about addressing something unbiblical or unethical within the church, and you run the risk of public retribution. For staff members, this means the loss of livelihood. For church members, this could mean the loss of reputation in the community as the pastor publically or privately paints an opponent in a negative light.

Costi Hinn: www.forthegospel.org/read/5-signs-of-a-dangerous-pastor

The primary weapon deployed in the war mentioned above is misused church discipline. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the judicial proceedings against Ruling Elder Philip Dudt and his colleagues Ruling Elders Clay David, James, Scott, and Don Barnett. Each persecuted for manmade offenses not found in Scripture and subjected to secret trials against their will. At Midway it is David Hall’s “way or the highway“. Ruling Elder Philip Dudt simply sent an email requesting a substitute motion at an upcoming meeting, and Ruling Elders Clay David, James Scott, and Don Barnett signed a credible report, that in part, exposed David Hall’s written false attestations. Never mind the fact that the highest court of the PCA has declared that such an action is a protected right.

Their punishment? Loss of reputation as David Hall and his Session prejudicially declare the men guilty before the congregation and restrict their ability to defend their good names through abuse of executive session. The result if he is successful is false unity and compromised purity.

If this is not punishment for disagreeing – what is?

4: The Pastor is Obsessed with His Own Vision:

This pastor knows exactly what he wants and his will, ahem…I mean God’s will be done. You may hear this pastor say something like, “I started this church and this is how it’s going to be!” or “This is my church and no one is going to take it from me!” Those exclamatory statements may seem shocking but they are not uncommon. So is all “vision” bad? No. It’s actually beneficial when a leader has a plan for the future of a church but all a pastor needs to say about “his vision” is that his vision is to do what the Bible says to do. Unfortunately, many churches only hire people if they sign on to serve “Pastor Steven’s vision” (or Mark’s, Jim’s, and Greg’s). Guess what? The church has nothing to do with a man’s vision. It’s about Christ’s. No church growth book can change that, no advice from a pragmatic guru can change that, and no amount of pastoral kicking and screaming can change that. The church belongs to Jesus.

Costi Hinn: www.forthegospel.org/read/5-signs-of-a-dangerous-pastor

Long time members at Midway have seen the pattern of David Hall’s control over the Session. Under his direction as the supreme “play actor“, his “Yes-Men” are to be promoted as having special discernment while those who disagree are disciplined as a matter of policy. He attempts to spin division as a good thing and celebrates the pruning of the congregation and the purging of the leadership from the pulpit as the desire of the Holy Spirit. The highest court of the PCA had to step in to halt Midway’s unconstitutional church officer vetting process – designed to keep the “bad elders” off the Session.

Does this sound like a pastor stewarding Jesus’ church or what he thinks is his own?

5: The Pastor Twists the Bible to Fit His Own Rules:

From elders who aren’t really biblical elders, to using money for whatever he deems noble and necessary, this pastor views stewardship and accountability systems as very fluid concepts. In other words, stewardship is really about what he wants to do vs. what he must manage on behalf of the church. Accountability, to this pastor, is about putting “yes” men in key positions. In most cases, this pastor will boast about his high level of accountability and adherence to Scriptural authority in order to appear trustworthy. He will claim them to be his deepest convictions until those things infringe on his decision making process, then the twisted game begins. Instead of admitting a mistake or facing the difficult pain of owning a poor decision, he twists (even ignores) the Bible to fit his own rules and make excuses for his decision making.

Costi Hinn: www.forthegospel.org/read/5-signs-of-a-dangerous-pastor

Hinn draws us back to the familiar term “Yes Men” once again. Ambiguity and many words from the pulpit and in conversation are used to self-justify the Senior Pastor’s actions and those of his handpicked “Yes-Men”. The themes of submission and the authority of the Elders is prominent.

Multiple times in the past year presbyters from the Northwest Georgia Presbytery have found that not only David Hall, but his Session have erred in violation of the constitution of the church. They even declared that apologies were due to their congregation. Has the congregation ever received such apologies? Can not the Senior Pastor humble himself and repent rather than play “twisted games” in the church courts? Can he admit a mistake and face the “difficult pain of owning a poor decision?” But alas – instead twisting and ignoring the church’s constitution and Scripture itself to fit his own rules is how David Hall’s kingdom is operated.

Under the aforementioned circumstances, Midway Presbyterian Church could use a little less teaching from authors with titles and degrees and a lot more shepherding by humble servants. The latter isn’t possible without integrity.