“Deus Vult!” (God Wills It!) Cried the Pastor!

Senior Pastor David Hall seemingly tried to spin the increasing division in the church as a good thing…

In a morning sermon on the persecuted early church and the martyrdom of Stephen, Senior Pastor David Hall seemed to equate the contemporary troubles at Midway Presbyterian Church as “God weaving a beautiful tapestry.” The author can think of different words other than “beautiful” to describe the persecution of Ruling Elders Dudt, Barnett, David, and Scott. These words may have reminded many of his recent celebration of “God’s pruning” of the congregation, in which hearers were expected to embrace the divisions among us as God reforming the body. That is really stunning considering that the Session at Midway codified their resistance to reformation at Midway in their unBiblical and unconstitutional motion of September 2020 that promised discipline against any dissenters on the Session. The prominent theme that has emerged is that it is God’s will that Midway divide and purge leaders from the church. After all, like the church crusaders of old would shout to justify their position – “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!).

Submission by the Midway Session is demanded, reformation is resisted, and yet we are told from the pulpit that in effect “God wills it!”. Pastor Mic Knox’s words on the eve of his departure from Midway come to mind “Repent. Just repent. Repent of your self-righteousness. Repent!”

Central to Senior Pastor David Hall’s sermon on October 3, 2021 was the concept, as he put it, that “the persecution of the church becomes the propulsion of the church, the disruption of the church leads to the dissemination of the good news.” Certainly it is true that the early church was persecuted, and that God used that as His sovereign plan to spread the Gospel across the known world. Relating that reality to Midway in modern times as David Hall seems to do is a stretch.

At Midway, the church is not persecuted from outside authorities, but rather men of renowned character are being persecuted from within the church itself, and with the approval of the pastoral leadership. Senior Pastor Hall was very likely equating the persecution of the early church to the disappointment and even anger that may exist at Midway over the recent charging of Ruling Elders Barnett, David, and Scott saying “God Himself conceived, planned, and brought about this persecution – even persecution is instigated by God, then and now, and we must not misplace our dependence on human leaders but we must rely on God instead.”

David Hall attempted to reason with the church that the rotation of leadership, while painful and confounding for a time, is a good thing.

“…it is exactly what God wants to come about, I want you to see that even though the apparent situations are appearing to be terrible and tragic, God is weaving together His will like a beautiful tapestry. Learn to see the work of God in the events of our life, in this week, have any of us had something lately happen that you would at first would define as a tragedy, a total loss. And if so then learn even in those things God is working together His will and rest assured it may take a while to see what it is that God is actually doing.”

Senior Pastor David Hall, October 3, 2021 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GngHl6LIWK0

David Hall continued to attempt to justify the removal of church leaders as a good thing even though it may not seem like it in the moment. “Don’t overlook, don’t minimize that this seemed to them, to be a gigantic tragedy from which they might not recover.” Of Stephen, David Hall labeled him a “charismatic leader respected by the people as being wise, full of the spirit and endued with grace” theorizing “wouldn’t he be unreplaceable?” Many at Midway Presbyterian Church might use such terms to describe the Ruling Elders Dudt, Barnett, David, and Scott, whose decades of faithful service to Midway is deeply felt. Hall reminded the church that “Often God takes such leaders, either if we are depending on them too much, or if the church is growing too comfortable, and in this case God took Stephen away and scattered the church.” Apparently this is pruning at its finest. Remember, “God wills it!” Hall continued:

“Often we need new leadership and we don’t even realize it. Sometimes we grow comfortable with the same leadership and we don’t recognize the growing giftedness of those coming up through the ranks. When God removes the bulk of leadership, the church here is forced to develop new cadres of leadership and often that is a Good and necessary thing and God equips her church to do that, and we often overlook much giftedness until the Lord leads us to new leaders….

God wants His church to expand. What if God calls us as church, what if you all took this seriously that God seeks to have every elder and deacon reaching out to unbelievers to being them into His church and then to equip believers to be proactive in witnessing. What if you went out more rather than wasting precious time on silly, childish things?”

Senior Pastor David Hall, October 3, 2021 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GngHl6LIWK0

Certainly a major bulk of the leadership has been removed at Midway. On this point of “wasting time”, Senior Pastor David Hall may be quite right. Although the things that he and his Session have focused on are not simply “silly” or “childish” – rather they are playing with the dangerous sin of bearing a false witness against the brothers on their own Session. It is sin that Puritan Thomas Watson once expounded upon saying “It is bearing false witness against another, when we accuse him in open court falsely. This is to imitate the devil, who is the ‘accuser of the brethren’… ‘Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow—is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor.’ Proverbs 25:18.” Surely to equate the gravity of this sin to God’s will of rotating leaders within the church or “pruning” the body is a heinous fault.

Being Calvinists, accepting God’s ordaining of all things that come to pass is no justification sinful persecution. God’s sovereignty should not be hidden behind to justify persecution of the brethren at Midway Presbyterian Church or anywhere else. One cannot appeal to God’s sovereignty as justification for running good officers out of the church because God wills it as part of His plan (Romans 6:1-2).

What if the Session at Midway Presbyterian Church spent less time studying charges against their brothers, defending past missteps in higher courts of the church, pruning their congregation, and instead more time spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in West Cobb? If the current leadership of the church is incapable of this then perhaps, as Senior Pastor David Hall stated, “we need new leadership and we don’t even realize it.”