I have been thinking and praying for weeks (maybe months now?), trying to find an easy way to write what is in my heart. This is a sensitive post, I know. I know many will agree and many will not, but it is burning deep within me, and I have decided to click the “publish button”.
I will use a few examples of one of the men who has been a very important and strong influence not only in my life, but in the lives of many of us, to try to explain what is in my heart, the man is Charles Spurgeon.
What would you think of a preacher today whose chief project at a certain time in his ministry would be raising money for a new church building? Well, Spurgeon did this. The estimated cost to build the new Tabernacle was very high, so he started to accept more invitations to preach in many different places to receive more offerings.(1)
“Just before the building was ready to be opened, since the entire costs had not yet been met, a great bazaar was held to raise the remaining amount. This action caused questioning in many evangelical minds then, and it will do the same today.” (2)
I am sure, that if this were happening today, the next day we would see many, many bloggers pointing harshly at him.
The Tabernacle was a huge building with seating for about 3,600 people.(3) Yes, that is the number; a big one, right? Please, just imagine what many of us (and me too, probably) would be thinking of this today. We love the local church and most of us do not believe in mega-churches. Spurgeon, the man we all love to quote, however, pastored one.
OK, if by now you are surprised, read the next:
“People who wished to attend regularly paid for a seat on a three-months’ basis and were admitted by ticket. Others remained outside till five minutes before the beginning of the service, at which time the restriction was removed and the crowd rushed in and filled the rest of the building.” (4)
I dare to say I don’t agree at all with Spurgeon on these practices. However, I must also admit that he has been a man that through his written word has influenced my life tremendously. I have learned so much from him, his teachings have been, without a doubt, a blessing to the Church of Christ.
So what is it that is in my heart?
I want to be free in this space to say, for example, that John Piper’s teachings have been (and still are) a strong pillar in my faith. Do I agree with everything he does and with all the friends he has? No. But I would never dare to say that he is not a godly man. God forbid.
Mac Arthur, Carson, Horton, Tim Challies, The Pyro-Team, The Gospel Coalition, The Resurgence, my beautiful friends on the blogsphere, the Puritans, my dearest friends in another country, my sister, all of them have taught me something, and no, I don’t always agree with every one of their words; but I am willing to learn from them, and even change my points of view when Truth demands so.
My family has been blessed greatly by Douglas and Nancy Wilson, by their ministry, their books, and the Church he pastors. We have not seen, anywhere, a church that practices the gospel in such a vivid way as theirs. They are an example to us on how to live the Christian life in obedience to the Word, with joy, practicing hospitality and living in community. Do we agree then with every single word we have read in their books/blogs? No, not necessarily; but we count it as a wonderful gift of the Divine Providence that our son is a member of their church.
I love Ann Voskamp, she is my friend, and has been a blessing to me many times; I always give thanks to God for her. I don’t agree with some of the things she has written, but again, I cannot, no matter what, dare to say that she is not a child of God. Each one of us is still short-sighted; each one of us is still in the process of Sanctification, and each one of us will give account of our own words before the Lord.
I have a few friends who are passionate about contending for the truth, and I love them and respect them very much. I too was in the wrong church under false teaching for many years, but I do not always agree with their tone of voice. Does that mean that I love them less? Not at all; I need them as part of the body of Christ in which we belong together.
Let me come back to our dear Spurgeon again. He knew that none of us in infallible, and he dared to say,
“I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible…” (you may read the rest here)
Note please, that I am NOT, NOT, NOT (yes, I want to make this clear) advocating for pluralism or relativism. Certainly not. I love doctrine very much and I believe in contending for the faith. At the same time, I pray I will grow in discernment every day, because the Bible says that the days in which we are living are evil. I read the Word, study it, memorize it in order to have the Truth well planted in my heart; I long to live by it and be obedient to it. Borrowing the words of Erik Raymond I say: “While I believe that in some cases controversy is not only helpful but essential (see the recent Rob Bell firestorm), I don’t believe a steady diet of it is.” (emphasis mine)
Friends, I, too, once read the wrong books. I, too, listened wrong teachings for many years, but God had mercy on me when I did not expect it. His grace reached my stubborn and prideful heart and granted me the gift of repentance. It is my prayer that God will reach deep into my heart even now, and change me more and more. I pray I will always have a teachable heart, humble enough to say, “I am still learning, I do not have it all right.”
We are still of this fallen world, and that is one of the reasons I long for Jesus to come. I long for the New Creation, because on that day, the children of God will be sharing one table. We will be able to see clearly, and we will feast and rejoice in the One who is the Author of our Faith. And those wolves who have deceived many while hiding among the sheep will be judged by the Only One worthy to open the seal of the Book, and He will cast them out into the eternal fire.
Meanwhile, let us be ready, abiding in the Word, spending more time in the Word than anywhere else; the only book that is infallible is God’s Word.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” I Timothy 3:16- 17
God help us,
(1) Spurgeon, A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore, Banner of Truth p.94
(2) ibid. p.97
(3) ibid. p.98
(4) ibid p.98
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Becky, this is excellent! My Mom used to say, “Everybody's poop stinks.” (She was from NY after all . . .) She knew everyone needed to grow, including herself. When she died, person after person came to me to tell me how much her love for them impacted their lives because she didn't care what their background was, how well spoken they were, or how right their doctrine was. Your post reminds me of her, her love for the Church, her recognition of the need for every part of the Body, and her thirst and hunger for God. Cheers!
“Over the years I have learned that the only person who needs to be examined under my microscope is me.”
Amen. Then, and only then, will we be able to take the speck out of our brother's eye.
Thank you, Becky. Well-spoken and clearly from the heart.
Beautifully and well written. I agree with you Becky. Spurgeon can be a blessing in many ways but even him has his downsides!
Thanks for sharing.
I JUST started following you and you had to go and write this….
….because I needed to hear it, because it resonates exactly with the convicting word of the Holy Spirit in my heart right now.
You, my new friend, have been used. Praise God.
Thanks to all for taking the time to leave a comment; you are an encouragement to me.
My few thoughts back: 😉
1. You are right,I am saying that doctrine is vital as well as the manner in which we address error. Choosing Spurgeon's examples was something that I carefully considered, because he is a man who preached the true gospel, and whose doctrine was healthy. I think this help us relate more easily to what I intended to express.
2. I know my audience 🙂 that is why I did not mention the “loving and unloving” way of doing / saying things. Somethings need to be said and so be it. HOWEVER, I do believe that public doctrinal differences, should be dealt by men in authority, not women. I cannot imagine “Priscilla” sending a letter to the Church in Corinth to admonish them.
If we are having coffee with a friend, like Teresa was saying, and we are teaching her on a one to one basis the story is different. We could then, point directly to her errors, and of course, never jumping over the authority over us in the church.
3.Yes, I love that verse too. And that is why I ended my post urging my readers (and myself first of all!) to abide in the Word of God, to study it diligently, so that we may be able to grow in all discernment and at the same time be prepared to “make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us…”
Thanks for your input!
Becky this was beautifully written and you obviously spent a lot of time in prayer before you wrote and posted it. God bless you for your thoughts and for being open and honest sharing these things. I have also be the second fly in the ointment in a way.
As Jules stated here” I think what we're seeing (and, what I myself have been guilty of) is conveying disagreement or concern without gentleness and respect -and- some of us have had our consciences pricked because of it. And, that's a good thing!”
I have to agree that I have been guilty of this same lack of patience and gentleness, and I have been the recipient so I understand completely what she means and what you are trying to convey in your article. I hope that in any comments I have made over the past year or so I have not been one of your friends with the harsh tongue. I pray if I have that you can find it in your heart to forgive me, but I have to add that some times friends who were brutally honest with me in years gone by (and were not afraid of the consequences) had the greatest impact on me when I began to understand and embrace the doctrine's of grace. Honestly with me one of my best friends telling me I was flat out wrong really made me mad, and forced me to examine scripture. I ended up humbled and thankful and I will always thank her for her courage in doing that. I understand totally where you are coming from and it's horrible to witness someone merely being cruel or going overboard with criticism. Your thoughts are the very reason I deleted my first blog, most of my articles focused on discernment issues. Over the years I have learned that the only person who needs to be examined under my microscope is me. Thank you for posting this, it's helped me greatly and I will be in much prayer regarding it. Love you Sister!
Okay, I'll be the fly in the ointment 😉 A few thoughts:
1. I understand and agree with the thrust of your post. I believe you're saying, in essence, that right doctrine is vital, but the manner in which we address error is also just as vital.
2. I also think it depends, to some degree, on how we define loving and unloving. As an example; when I discipline my son he would be inclined to describe me as “unloving”, when in fact I love him more than my own life. Addressing error, especially egregious error regarding essentials of the faith, i.e. the trinity, is not unloving.
3. Rather than using the words loving or unloving, could we be more precise in our language? I would submit that what we're really talking about is the manner in which we voice disagreement or concern. 1 Peter 3:15-16 tells us, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
I think what we're seeing (and, what I myself have been guilty of) is conveying disagreement or concern without gentleness and respect -and- some of us have had our consciences pricked because of it. And, that's a good thing!
Thank you, Becky.
This is a difficult path to tread – to love truth and to love one another even when there is disagreement.
What a wonderful post! This is an issue I've struggled with over the years as I tried to reconcile wonderful teachers and disagreement with some of what they said or wrote. It's easy to forget sometimes that the only infalliable teaching of God is the Bible. The rest of us are all flawed, but God uses us, and I think that's beautiful.
I cannot thank you enough for writing this. This has been weighing heavily on my heart for about two weeks. I used to be one that pointed out every false doctrine I could find and did so very unlovingly. I know now I was only a loud, clanging symbol. God has used a recent event to humble me in this area and show me the sin in my previous ways.
Thank you so much for this post!
I appreciate you very much, Becky, and thank the Lord for your influence in my life. Your love for the Lord and His perfection is a hope I share and anticipate as well. United in the Spirit is the Church of Risen Christ. In Him alone must we be found. Thank you.
Yes and amen! Beautifully and humbly expressed. Thanks for posting this…
A good post, Becky. Well thought out and well put. I don't know of any of my “heroes” of the faith that I agree with 100%. And I have no doubt, that should any of them read anything I ever write, they would disagree with far more of me than I do of them!
Won't heaven be wonderful, when all the edges and spurs, snags and glitches of our flesh will be gone; when we'll gleam for our Master alone; no man or woman will be admired for being a greater servant than another, instead, we'll only have eyes for Jesus?
Dearest Becky, you have just explained my heart completely! If I were to meet 'me' when I was still reading the wrong books, listening to the wrong teachings, and saying the wrong things, would I be insensitive enough to brand 'me' as unsaved or not a child of God? God forbid! This reminder keeps me humble! We, who believe in God's sovereign election and His free, unmerited gift of grace, would do well to start believing what we so vehemently claim to believe!
While I understand your point, you should have a look at City on Our Knees by Toby Mac. Spurgeon didn't just use that money to provide a new building for services. He also used it to build an orphanage that was much-needed in London at that time. I agree that he wasn't infallible, but I think that there is rarely a man who allows God to guide his heart so. If you should like to discuss this further, my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your thoughts, though. I always like to hear another viewpoint.
I amen this post all over the place!! I just wrote a response to you that I had to delete, but perhaps I'll post it on my own blog at some point, for this has been on my heart very much as well. Let us have hearts to pray for one another. Love you!
Thanks for writing, Becky!
Beautifully written, Becky. I do think that line is a very fine line and often difficult to distinguish.
A good word, Becky, thanks.
I haven't encountered this in a while, but I've seen arguments for “mega-churches” that rest on the logic that “Spurgeon did it, so it must be okay.” No one is infallible, That's why we need Jesus. 🙂
Outstanding! Once again, you have spoken to my heart.
Becky, I so needed to hear this today. In fact, you have me weeping over the longing for Jesus to return when “we will all be able to see clearly”. Oh dear God, for that day to come! Until then, dear friend, yes, let us remain in humility, with teachable hearts. God bless you!
Beautifully written, Becky. Thank you for sharing this in a way that completely honors our Lord.