“Indicators of an Unhealthy Church”

Senior Pastor David Hall claims special discernment and redefines Presbyterianism in recent sermon…

On December 12, 2021, Midway Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor David Hall preached a sermon titled “Indicators of a Healthy Church“. In it, he shared what he has identified as the symptoms of a healthy church. The timing of such a sermon is interesting given that anyone who is paying attention can see that Midway is far from a healthy place at this time. In fact, under David Hall’s leadership, the congregation is more divided than in any other time in its history.

Using a cancer patient as an example, David Hall said it was important to check the symptoms to determine the health of something. Others have documented extensively the “Mortal Malady” that Midway suffers from and how to cure it – what has been described as an “insolent pride” amongst the leadership that has been connected properly to destructive patterns of spiritual abuse.

There’s a certain irony in Midway’s Senior Pastor David Hall preaching on a healthy church when it is he that has misused his position as Moderator, presided over multiple secret proceedings, approved of secret reports condemning church officers for man-made offenses, has made provable false attestations, has been dismissive of proven violations of the church’s constitution and ignored apologies due, improperly handled lawfully filed complaints, manipulated processes at the local Presbytery, authored rulings to apply to others and not himself, and recently was exposed for holding secret meetings with subsets of the church leadership to “circumvent the regular function of church government.”

Somewhere Mark Driscoll is blushing.

Diversity of Fellowship (as long as there are no differing opinions…)

David Hall identified “diversity of fellowship among a common people” as a symptom of a healthy church as he lauded the cross cultural nature of the early church in Acts. Hall said that “the church includes those of different backgrounds” and applauded the racial diversity of the early church leaders. This is strange given the complete lack of ethnic diversity on Midway’s Session.

It is concerning that at Midway, apparently diversity is a positive thing to talk about and has been identified as an attribute of strength, but diversity of thought is forbidden. The dangerous conscience binding motion that David Hall’s Session passed that promises church discipline for any officers who express opposition to Session policy has been documented extensively. Readers may recall the author has written elsewhere that:

Senior Pastor David Hall called on Midway to look to the next 50 years and to carry on the Reformation so that a faithful generation can look back in 2071 and see how it unfolded. This is not possible if the men elected as elders by their congregation are restrained from expressing free thought, exposing error wherever it be found, calling one another to repentance, and using their God-given intellect to judge matters righty according the Scriptures.”

David Hall must surely agree that Midway has a major diversity problem. There must be too many Ruling Elders with different opinions, which is why he has failed to intervene to stop the ongoing judicial processes based on the aforementioned motion against four members of his own Session. In his sermon he praised the different “gifts”, “backgrounds”, “personalities”, and “experiences” of God’s people in the church. Observers can only surmise that the same diversity has no place on his Session where submission to his agenda of control is not to be opposed.

There’s a certain consistency in David Hall’s zeal for eradicating dissenters. His preaching on pruning the congregation while purging his Session has been thematic for some time. He lauded the way in which “God uses the common people to advance his church” and yet quite confusingly, certain common people are to be dispensed with – pruned “by the Holy Spirit”. What kind of shepherd thinks this way about his own flock? Surely one who fears and drives the flock by fear and force.

The suppression of alternative perspectives not forbidden by Scripture is a symptom of an unhealthy church. It is also quite frighteningly one of the signs of a cult and can lead to very dark places if left unchecked.

Redefining Presbyterianism, Violating the Confession…

Senior Pastor David Hall used his sermon to redefine Presbyterian polity conveniently to fit his past practices of screening officers and suppressing congregational input in selecting their own leaders. Foundational to Presbyterianism is the members of the church body selecting and electing their leaders. Judicial commissions at the Northwest Presbytery have repeatedly ruled against David Hall and his Session for their suppression of congregational input on the church dividing pastoral election of July 2020.

Readers should recall that the church constitution (BCO 20-2) defines the purpose of a pulpit committee as the congregants determining who “in its judgement, fulfills the Constitutional requirements of that office and is most suited to be profitable to the spiritual interests of the congregation.” Contrast that with David Hall’s version of pastoral selection. Does it sound like the PCA’s constitution or as a maneuver to “circumvent the regular function of church government”?

“…For the purposes of imitation notice what this church did…These were called prophets and teachers. Somehow or another the church had come to recognize these men’s gifts. They were known, they were trusted by the church, they were proven in their gifts of teaching and prophecy. These were the recognized leaders, much like the modern day Session is recognized as the leaders of the church…”

“…the Holy Spirit then leads, the Holy Spirit then speaks through the leaders of the church, the leaders of the church then recruit specific individuals for specific tasks based on proven character and ministry, and then the church sets them apart by the laying on of hands which is ordination.”

Senior Pastor David Hall – Indicators of a Healthy Church, December 12, 2021

Despite David Hall’s assertions, it is and always has been the rights of congregations to select those who are to serve over them as pastors in the Presbyterian form of government. Note how he conveniently leaves out any congregational involvement in the selecting of their leaders – and some have surmised he’s about to do it again at Midway!

David Hall went on to cement his belief in the special discernment of the elders in the church and stated explicitly that the congregation does not possess this discernment saying:

“…it is the direct and unmistakable direction of the Holy Spirit. In this case, the Holy Spirit speaks, and gives a specific command calling definite people to these tasks through these prophet and teaching leaders…the Holy Spirit speaks through these leadership men which doesn’t seem to be a very large group, 5 or 6 at this point. There may be a few more, and that is not meant to be a put down of the whole congregation but the Holy Spirit according to the New Testament doesn’t necessarily speak to the whole congregation. This is given to us to reinforce our understanding of the governing format of the church – that is, it is through its Elders and ordained leaders that is, as you know, one of the differences between Presbyterian government and Congregationalist government.”

Senior Pastor David Hall – Indicators of a Healthy Church, December 12, 2021

It is an extraordinarily frightening thing for the Senior Pastor to claim a special channel to the Holy Spirit to choose for the people what is best for them. This claim directly violates Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith when it states that the special revelation of the Holy Spirit of the apostle’s time is “now ceased”, quoting Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” The book of Revelation also warns in chapter 2 of those “who call themselves apostles”, but “are not.”

Readers might conclude that David Hall does not want church members to be Bereans (Acts 17) and examine the Scriptures daily to determine if the instruction of their teachers is true. Not only is David Hall’s incorrect dismissal of congregational rights to select their leaders as “Congregationalist” narrow, but it violates the idea of the Priesthood of All Believers – the tenant of the Reformation that asserts that believers have access to God through Jesus Christ as high priest, and therefore have no need of a human priestly mediator (I Peter 2:4-5).

It is an extraordinarily frightening thing for the Senior Pastor to claim a special channel to the Holy Spirit to choose for the people what is best for them. Readers might conclude that David Hall does not want church members to be Bereans and examine the Scriptures daily to determine if the instruction of their teachers is true.

While David Hall was correct to condemn those who self appoint as church Elders in his sermon, it outrageous for him to take a position that so emphasizes the power and special access to the Holy Spirit of ordained men when he has been known to campaign for his “Yes-Men” that he’d like to see on the Session to protect and advance his agenda.

Is it the Holy Spirit picking the leaders or David Hall? His Session was ruled against by the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA in the past for unconstitutionally controlling who was to be considered as an Elder.

David Hall’s “governing format of the church” is not Presbyterianism. It’s authoritarianism – and it’s a symptom of an unhealthy church. One can only wonder if the special access to the Holy Spirit of a Ruling Elder is lost when he is suspended from office…

“All Kinds of Deceit and Trickery”

David Hall closed his sermon praising Paul’s “ministry of confrontation” where he called out false teaching and error with the words “you are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery.” Praising this confrontation David Hall expounded:

“…That is an indicator of the health of a church. The fashion in which a church passionately protects the church from error and clearly denounces what is wrong. If we love our church and fellowship, we will of necessity do this until the Lord comes again with a perfectly purified bride. Paul didn’t tinker with this. He severely rebuked it…”

Senior Pastor David Hall – Indicators of a Healthy Church, December 12, 2021

Remember the motion forbidding church officers from expressing opinions contrary to the majority of the Session referred to above? It sure seems that such a motion prevents the type of “ministry of confrontation” David Hall is promoting. Perhaps such confrontation is only proper when his Session calls others to submit and repent to their perspective.

If David Hall truly believed that a church is healthy when error is confronted, then why has he and his Session so aggressively persecuted those who signed a credible report to the Stated Clerk of the PCA alleging missteps of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery (which also exposed David Hall’s false attestations about a pastoral election where the congregation’s input was suppressed)? Especially since the signers were ordained men, which he has declared have special discernment having been under the laying on of hands.

It is sad that such a double standard is permitted in Christ’s church. This is a symptom of an unhealthy church, and is the triumph of falsehood.

David Hall doubled down saying:

“One indicator of a healthy church, never forget, is its will to confront evil and falsehood. In contrast a sure sign of a dying institution, is its cowardly fear and morale dearth of courage to call out falsehood – and in that case falsehood triumphs…should we model our church after this church?”

Senior Pastor David Hall – Indicators of a Healthy Church, December 12, 2021

Apparently it is only laudable to expose error if it does not involve David Hall or his allies. Even Pope Francis, who many in the Catholic faith tradition believe is above correction, stated earlier this year that “criticism always helps, always. When someone receives criticism, that person needs to do a self-critique right away and say: is this true or not? To what point? And I always benefit from criticism… This is clear: a fair criticism is always well received, at least by me.”

The humility to accept criticism in this manner would do the leaders at Midway Presbyterian Church well. Instead the congregation is subject to “all kinds of deceit and trickery” to maintain the power of the status quo.