In a recent daily email devotional from the pastoral staff at Midway titled “It Doesn’t Work Without TRUST”, Teaching Elder David Barry highlighted the importance of trust among churchgoers.
A troubling exhortation found its way into this devotion which in part read:
“By this point, Jesus had told his disciples on several occasions that he was going to the cross (Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22), but they didn’t understand. Now that it was happening, Jesus instead of explaining things again, asks them to TRUST him. He asks them to believe in HIM. When they trust him––IF they trust him––they’ll be comforted in their trouble. That illustrates a basic principle of spiritual life: without trust, there will be much trouble of heart. We can also flip that principle: if we are troubled in heart, we should first consider whether we are trusting the Lord. That same principle is true in the church today. Where there is much trouble, there is little trust. The church community is founded upon trust. Trust, after all, is part of love. When Jesus asked the disciples to TRUST him, that came on the heels of commanding them to love each other (see John. 13:3–35). When Jesus said, “Believe in God; believe also in me”, he was telling his disciples the remedy for their troubles. With trust came comfort. But, Jesus was also giving a model for how church relationships work.
Every pastor, every elder can look to a fellow church member and say, “Believe God, believe also in me.” When a church trusts one another, that is a church with fewer troubles. When a church does not trust one another, that is a church of many troubles.”
This devotion relies on the words of the Lord Jesus Christ from John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” This is the same passage (v6) in which Christ identifies himself as “the way, the truth and the life” and declares that “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Members of Midway should be deeply troubled that one of their Teaching Elders has equated their pastors and elders in the same office as Christ, as the solitary way, truth and life. The broader point may well be trust in one another, but that is not what was written. Rather, Christ’s own words regarding His Lordship as the only way to eternal life were adopted by the pastor and used to characterize the relationship he desires to see between Midway church members and their leaders. Note it is not members called to trust one another, but members called to submission when their leaders look at them and say “Believe God, believe also in me.”
Acts 4:11-12 is clear saying “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It here we see the most important of the five solas on display – solus Christus (Christ Alone). Without this anchor there is no salvation, no church–no basis for the trust called for in the devotional above.
Teaching Elder Barry ended his devotion stating:
“Dear Christian, do you love your church? Do you TRUST your church? It doesn’t work without trust, but when you believe in God and believe in Christ and church he established, then your heart can be comforted from much trouble.”
While there is no doubt Christ is our comfort, and we should not neglect the fellowship of our covenant family, we should not now, nor ever, “believe also in” our Ruling Elders and pastors. Such a clear deviation is not only forbidden by Scripture but is characteristic of the dangerous path to cultism.
Sola fide (Faith Alone) makes clear that faith unto itself merits nothing but only faith in Christ has redemptive power. We know Christ is the sole mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Christ secured our pardon without the aid of fallible human priests or leaders. Dear reader, “Believe God” and reject the exhortation of Teaching Elder Barry in this matter. Rather, take heart in the words of Psalm 118 and know that is is “better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
The PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) makes clear in 12-5 that it is the responsibility of the Session to ensure the correctness of the instruction at the church. In his commentary on the BCO, Morton Smith states “The Session is responsible for the soundness of instruction” ensuring that “all instruction is in accord with the doctrinal position of the Church, and thus both teachers and materials should be compatible with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, and with the Book of Church Order of the Church.”
Members should consider asking their Session how it was possible that such an errant statement could have been written and distributed to the entire congregation and request a retraction or clarification be issued.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Midway Guardian.