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Letters to the Editor (Consecutive Exposition, Funerals, Provoking Children, Hymnals, and ABWE)

Letters to the Editor

A long weekend in mid-summer seemed just the time to share another collection of letters from readers of this site. This week’s deal with consecutive exposition, provoking children, hymnals, and the awful news from ABWE.

Letters on Consecutive Exposition is Not the Only Way

My pastor uses the consecutive exposition method, therefore I may be biased, though I hope not. I want to state up front that true exposition is essential whether one is preaching topically or through a specific book.

The major advantage of preaching topically is it allows the preacher to address issues that may be facing his congregation at a given time. The potential problem with this method is that it allows one to easily avoid passages that may be deemed controversial or unpopular, such as Romans 9 or passages dealing with gender roles in the church.

This brings me to what I feel is the biggest advantage of consecutive exposition. When this method is used, the preacher will eventually be forced to address the types of passages mentioned above, thereby exposing his church to the whole counsel of God. The use of consecutive exposition does not, however, prevent the insertion of topical sermons in the middle of the series. Our pastor frequently does this for special days such as Mother’s/Father’s day, or Sanctity of Life Sunday, returning to the series he was expositing the next week.

While I acknowledge that there is no right or wrong way to exposit God’s word, I feel that going systematically through a book and dealing with hard texts is advantageous for our growth.

—Stanley B, Dothan, AL

I am reminded of something I’ve heard MacArthur say about his study and I thinks its a key to the depth of his preaching, writing and overall ministry. He said something to this effect: “I’ve never studied to prepare a sermon outline in my life… I study because I want to know what scripture means then I just get to teach it to others.” The question that has to be asked by every teacher and Pastor is: Why am I studying this?” Is it to know God more so I can have a deeper faith in Him, to worship Him, obey Him and love Him more?

Powerful preaching is born out of a kind of pursuit beyond studying sermons to be practical or even relevant. You can tell when one preaches how they approached the text to begin with-either a pursuit to know God or simply to prepare for a sermon. I would say that consecutive exposition born of studying a book in the Bible guards one from approaching scripture for outline and subject purposes. Though certainly possible to teach singular texts, I see how a preacher like MacArthur allows me to walk with him in the path to discover truth. In MacArthur’s preaching you see the joy of a discovery process that satisfies a thirst to know God while also creating a thirst to know our Lord Jesus more. You begin to get caught up in the pursuit that Paul had in knowing Christ.

I am using consecutive exposition to teach the Gospel of John in Sunday School. When going through this Gospel, I was surprised by a story tucked in between Jesus’s encounter with Nicodemus and Samaritan woman. John the Baptist answers his disciples that seemed to be a bit jealous or concerned at best that Jesus was baptizingmore followers than their teacher John the Baptist. John affirms we are not in rivalry or competition in ministry with Jesus. In fact all “real” ministry is given from heaven above. John says I’m a friend of the bridegroom and my joy is in Him. He must increase, I must decrease. In my study I came under great conviction to avoid the sin of rivalry in ministry and focusing on knowing Christ and being faithful to the ministry God has graciously given me. I am not in competition with others but part of the body of Christ for his service.

God have mercy on us as teachers and preachers when we don’t realize we can fall into the trap and temptation of rivaling Christ who is the very one we are teaching about. Preacher, teacher, professor, laymen, what are you studying for? While I am biased toward consecutive exposition, regardless of what mode or style, the critical part is who your pursing-God or an audience of men.

—Jimmy G, GA

Letters on I Forbid You To Say These Things at My Funeral

Our church has had quite a few funerals, many of which I’ve had the opportunity of officiating, and sadly, many survivors’ comments and wishes for the services of their loved ones reflect so much incorrect theology. The ones that I hear most often are “he became an angel,” “he was good,” and “celebration.” Why is it that people often miss the whole point of a funeral, namely, death? We die physically and are by nature spiritually dead because we are not good.

One thing I’ve been indirectly fighting since beginning pastoral ministry is renaming a funeral a “celebration of life,” and/or “memorial.” Memorial doesn’t sound too bad, it still implies one has died. But still, are we only here to memorialize this one as a great man? And, usually that’s what is wanted. I call them all funerals, even if the body is not present.

I do wonder if a good biblical theological write up of funerals and mourning over death might be a wise exercise for us pastors to complete. I might do the research and write something like this for the church. Something that says everyone in the Bible is sad over death, they mourned much longer and better than we do. They were not afraid to speak of a funeral as a funeral.

—Christopher C, Prineville, OR

I am a chaplain at a retirement community and do many funerals and memorial services every year. Like you I have heard about every cliché and off the wall things about leaving this life and going to Heaven. I know people mean well, but they don’t know what the Bible says about Heaven and about what our relationships and place in Heaven will really be about. Thanks for the article and voicing what I have said to myself over and over again when I hear one of those trite, feel-good clichés that are flat not true about going to Heaven.

—Michael R, Augusta, GA

Letters on 7 Ways Parents Unfairly Provoke Their Children

As I sat in my home office staring out the window I thought about the tongue lashing I gave my 16 year old daughter last night. After reading her the riot act for over an hour last night I told her to finish up the dishes and go to bed. This must’ve been the thousandth conversation I had about her undercover disobedience and I was at my wit’s end. As I talked and lectured and pressed I could feel the Holy Spirit telling me to back off but I would not be denied. I gave full vent to my frustrations even as I saw her shoulders sagging deeper and deeper in discouragement and she fought unsuccessfully to keep waves of tears from falling. I set my face like flint and determined it would be about me this time and not her; as if it was ever about her during these talks.

After she went to bed I laid in my bed staring at the ceiling. The uneasy feeling I was trying to push back slowly edged its way to the surface of my heart. I had gone too far. I didn’t just lecture her, I beat up on her with my words. I didn’t swear or say she was worthless but I might as well had. Suddenly grief filled my heart as I realized what I had done to my daughter. I walked down to her room and leaned over her. She was laying on her side, eyes wide open, crying softly. I laid on her shoulder, pressed my face against hers and put my hand over hers. I could feel her hot tears streaming from her eyes, down her nose and onto her pillow. What have I done? I whispered that I was sorry and kissed her a few times and then I just laid there while she cried. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

This morning we exchanged our routine goodbyes and hugs and she went off to school. The uneasiness had settled too far up for me to push it down. Taking a break from work I happened on your article. Halfway through it I started crying. That turned into a painful sobbing as the weight of what I had done hit my heart and the sights and sounds of my daughter crying held fast before my eyes.

Provoking my children is not something I do occasionally, it’s a besetting sin I struggle with all the time. I had never admitted it fully to myself how big of a problem this is and how much I have ignored the consequences of this sin.

I intend to ask for my daughter’s forgiveness as soon as she gets home from school. I thank God for loving me enough to show me my sin in such a way that I cannot ignore it. I thank him for softening my heart to feel the pain I caused her and for the gift of repentance he’s giving me. I thank him for using you to write this article and I pray for godly sorrow and not wordly sorry to overtake me. I pride myself on my accomplishments at work but I am ashamed how I neglect the weightier matters of love, patience and kindness. It is unfair to accept the grace God gives so abundantly while metering that grace out to others.

—Felisha S, Roxboro, NC

Letters on What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals

This is one of the most inflammatory articles I’ve read in recent memory and it serves nothing but to inflame an already roaring dumpster fire that is the worship war within our churches. If Christian authors spent half as much time writing about what we lost when we lost our care for the lost as they do writing about musical tastes, maybe baptisms, church attendance, etc. wouldn’t be dropping like a rock. I have enjoyed some of your articles in the past but this one is simply sharing your opinion as fact and it serves no one but yourself and the small minded yet loud group of church folks that are more interested in their own comfort than spreading the Gospel and reaching the lost. I beg you as a brother in Christ to consider the effects of your powerful position before putting out articles like this one.

—Kevin C, Mobile, AL

Letters on The Silence of the Lambs, posted in A La Carte (June 23)

First, to give a little background about myself, I attended The Master’s College where I was first exposed to ABWE. After completing medical school and residency my wife and I committed to going with ABWE in Africa to work in medical missions and church planting. We arrived in France in 2016 to begin language studies and will be leaving in December of this year to start our work at a hospital in an African nation.

Making a decision to go with ABWE required much thought and prayer. One issue for us was this history of child sexual abuse by Donn Ketcham and ABWE’s failures in properly dealing with us. First, as a Christian who wants to see Christ glorified, I could not partner with ABWE if I did not have the confidence that going forward their leadership would properly address sin issues. Second, as a father of 3 young children, I would never commit to going with ABWE if I thought the culture that would put my two daughters and one son at risk of sexual abuse. Having never even been a member of a Baptist church, I can assure you that I have no prior allegiances to ABWE. Thus, our commitment to serve in this agency stems from a conviction from a few key things, namely 1) their conviction to use medicine to plant churches best allows us to use our gifting to serve God in missions, and 2) the patterns of failure in dealing with sin and sexual abuse by Don Ketcham have been thoroughly dealt with and will not be an issue in the future.

It is on this latter point that I feel that the article failed. I believe that truth is important and glorifies God, which is why I am glad that the truth of Donn Ketcham’s sin and the cover up/failure to properly deal with it by ABWE leadership came out. There is no excuse for that. From what I know of the incident, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this article’s details about the abuse and ABWE’s handling of it in the years to follow.

However, in the same concern for truth, I believe the article failed to report significant portions of ABWE’s thorough and significant response that has taken place over the last 6 years. I do not know why this was not done by the author. However, this information is readily available as I will summarize below. Thus, whatever the cause for this omission, the author did not fulfill her responsibility to fully investigate the truth about the topic she discussed.

First, ABWE’s discussion of the situation and their response can be easily found on their website. It includes a thorough discussion about the incident, including the executive summary and the full 280-report of the investigation done by Pii, which clearly delineates Donn Ketcham’s repeated incidents of sexual abuse, ABWE’s failure to properly remove him from the organization long before the victim mentioned in the article was abused, and ABWE’s mishandling of the abuse incident spanning several decades. These failures are fully acknowledging in several places, from the video by the current president at the top of the page, the statement below this video, links to further statements, etc. I list these things to demonstrate that ABWE as an organization is not hiding from there sin, but confessing it and repenting.

Furthermore, ABWE has responded by removing and replacing the ABWE leadership and Board of Directors during the time of this misconduct (this was done several years ago). Because of the report released last year, further consequences were given to those who mishandled the situation. ABWE has a strict child protection policy and a training program, which I can personally attest to since I have completed it. In short, they have initiated significant changes to minimize the chance of future abuse and ensure that if such a thing happens again it is properly dealt with.

This is why I have a concern with the article you linked to. It fails to mentions this response and change. As a result, one is left with the impression that ABWE continues in this pattern of behavior instead of realizing that God has worked to bring about repentance and change. I have already seen this article referenced by others on Facebook and Twitter. I have other colleagues who have been approached by friends who are questioning the integrity of ABWE after reading it. In short, this article is having a damaging effect on an organization and people in the ministry who are committed to spread the kingdom of Christ, a damaging effect that rises from its failure (even if not purposeful) to share the whole truth about this situation.

Which leads to my motivation in writing you directly. A significant number of my fellow church members and friends read and trust your blog. So, when you post an article like this, it carries a significant weight. And unfortunately, I am concerned that by posting this article without any mention to ABWE’s response, you are unwittily propagating this incomplete disclosure of truth.

Imagine there was a large church where one of the pastor’s committed sexual abuse (as we know, this has happened way too many times). Despite a lot of God-glorifying ministry that happened through others at the church, some of the leaders did not fully deal with it. It leads to more abuse. We agree this is awful. But suppose it comes to light and the church deals with it in a God-glorifying way. There are consequences for sure, to the name of Christ and the reputation of the church. But if they have removed those who have failed and confessed their sin and repented and moved forward, is there any reason that church should forever be defined by that sin? Can God never use them in ministry because of that failure? Must the new people and leadership and those who were never involved be considered complicit in the past failure? Or, in God’s grace, can He use their obedient response to move his kingdom forward? Can they actually be defined in God’s grace by their humble response to their sin?

In conclusion, I would ask two things. 1) Please go to ABWE’s website as mentioned above. Read the statement, watch the short video, take a look at their response. 2) If you believe that they have responded in an appropriate, God-honoring way that doesn’t pass over sin, please consider making an additional post to balance out the impression given in “The Silence of the Lambs” by its omission of this response.

—Stephen W, Albertville, FR

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