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Dear Paul, Love Demas

I found the following letter at David Cloud’s site and it tickled my funny bone. It is a fictional (obviously) letter from Demas to Paul and was written by Pastor Buddy Smith of Grace Baptist Church in Malanda, Queensland, Australia. Before you register offense, please note that it is merely satire, and hence is deliberately exaggerated in order to make a point.

Dear Paul,

As Convener of the Greater Corinth Ministers Fraternal, I have been asked to write you regarding your coming visit to our fair city. Since you were here last we have made impressive gains in many vital areas. The greatest advances are in our Ministerial Training Programme. Ten years ago the Corinth Bible Institute was upgraded to Bible College status. Then, just five years later we added Seminary level courses. And two years ago we received accreditation from the Department of Education in Athens. This is a real feather in our laurel wreath. We are honoured to have several professors on our faculty (three Stoics and two Epicurians) who remember you from Mars Hill. The graduating class this year will have more than fifty men and women whose accredited degrees will be recognised throughout the Mediterranean nations.

This brings me to the purpose for this letter. We want you to know we appreciate your previous ministry in Greece. After all, the gospel might never have come to us if you had not heard “the Macedonian Call”. But I must be very candid and tell you that we have reservations about you speaking at our annual Minister’s Retreat. This event is one of the highlights on our religious calendar. Someone even said the other day, “We retreat every chance we get!” (Ha, ha, I am sure you will enjoy the little play on words.) You would be aware that our Retreat draws men from a wide range of denominational and theological backgrounds.

And this is where the rub comes in. I was given this week a copy of your recent letter to the church at Corinth. And I must say I was shocked at what you said to our dear brethren.

Let me be specific,

1. You wrote, “Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” And then you went on to say, “God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” I must convey to you the fact that the Board of Regents at our Seminary was deeply offended by your criticisms of their wisdom. How could you insult these learned men by statements such as “The world by wisdom knew not God?” Don’t you realise that a good minister must avail himself of the wisdom of the ancients? Our seminarians study the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, and are delivering very well reasoned and sophisticated sermons. We are so proud of the honours they receive from the literati and intelligentsia of the land.

2. Everyone knows the days are past when a minister could say, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called…” or “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…” Those sentiments may have been appropriate for the old days, but these days we simply must have more dignity in the ministry. Dear brother, if you were to stay in your office more and not be forever going on those preaching tours, you could keep up with the latest developments in the religious world. You should read Dr. Diotrephes’ glowing description of the Mensa club in the seminary, of our Olympian athletes, and of the patrician scholars that fill our classrooms. Incidentally, I have enjoyed immensely his new book on leadership (You Can Control Your Church !) It is a runaway best seller.

3. Paul, it hurts me deeply, but I feel I must tell you that your preaching is just too simplistic. You are reported to have said, “I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom…I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified…and my speech was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom…that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Such words are naïve and lack sophistication. How will we ever be able to reach the people who matter if we use words that pre-schoolers can understand? We do live in an age of technology, you know. We simply cannot reach doctors, lawyers, scientists, and philosophers with such a simple message. (And I would remind you that they are the ones with all the money!) We have found that our psychology courses in seminary equip our students better than the courses in theology. Surely you realise that we cannot abandon our counselling courses just because you despise the non-biblical origins of Dr Galenius’ Four Temperaments course. Why must you be so narrow? You really ought to adopt our Seminary motto, “The end justifies the means!” (You would not believe how much income is generated for the Seminary by our graduates who specialise in dealing with repressed memories and multiple personality disorders.)

Bro. Paul, I am sorry, but we must withdraw the invitation for you to speak. At our last Fraternal luncheon it was decided that we should invite Dr. Sigmund Dobson instead. All the churches in Corinth are using his videos and books. If you would still like to attend the Retreat, you are certainly most welcome, and I am sure Dr. Dobson would be able to spend a few moments with you to help you overcome your neuroses. I have recently had a counselling couch installed in my office and you are welcome to use it if it will help. We might even consider an emeritus professorship for you at the Seminary if you could just pull in your horns a bit.

Sincerely,

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Demas


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