Heartbreaking emails; Confronting the church cowed as sheep are led to slaughter.
Yesterday CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan ran a segment he’d been assembling for quite a while — Qanon is Spreading in Churches; These Pastors are Trying to Stop It. Donie interviewed me in my church sanctuary just over a month ago after CNN producer Richa Naik contacted me seemingly out of the blue. She had found a tweet about something — I cannot even remember what! — and then called me to see if I would be interested in talking about Qanon and the church.
I pointed her to this sermon of mine after the January 6th attack in DC. That sermon is the lead for the CNN story.
The past 24 hours since the story dropped on CNN.com have been interesting. Some new twitter followers. Some facebook likes. Several direct responses. The direct responses have been heartbreaking but hopeful. Here are a few, edited to remove all personal information:
I’m losing my husband day by day over his irrational thoughts and delusions tied to this cult. Please pray for our family.
Several Supportive Messages
Hello Pastor Marsh. I just saw the CNN video and wanted to send support your way. The Q Anon conspiracy info source is in no way historically, politically, economically accurate, or even half way intelligent. You are 100% without question, doing the right thing by preaching the Bible and the Truth. Great work.
I wanted to be sure to let you know of the impact you have had with people you aren’t even aware of. And also to let you know that you are in my prayers for God’s strength, protection, and wisdom as you continue to teach His word.
Some Who Have Walked Away Because of Politics
I am a former christian now. Would it be possible to schedule a face to face with Ben Marsh to talk about his CNN piece? I am very interested in where the Church is these days, especially politically.
The Gospel Coalition published and essay from Andrew Wilson on gender and complementarianism. Take of the essay what you may, but I saw an important reminder on the fundamental function of being a church leader:
Elders are fundamentally guardians of the church… The primary reason a shepherd (or “pastor”) exists is to protect the sheep from harm.
Functionally, growing up I was taught to keep any eye out for attacks from the outside of the church: leftism, liberalism, the occult, etc. The enemies were always out there in the world. As I wrote in “To My Christian MAGA Friends,”
I was raised in an era of conservative evangelicalism whose primary concern was threats from outside of the church. The focus was on Islam, atheism, new ageism, secular philosophy, and postmodernism. I was trained by the books and videos that I would watch and the conferences that I would attend on how to perceive threats to the faith that came from those sources. I dove into apologetics until I was neck deep in all the many defenses of the faith that we could offer written by the very finest minds in evangelicalism.
Seemingly all of Christian politics and public leadership focused on defending against external threats. From Bob Larson teaching us to watch out for demonic activity in secular music to the 700 club pointing to this or that political activity as being of the devil to Franklin Graham’s repeated posting about liberals destroying the soul of America, the big money-making enterprise in evangelicalism is pointing out the flaws of the world.
So much of this stuff is intertwined with politics: the idea being that anything that seemed remotely liberal was anathema. I was also told that if Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, or Barack Obama became president, the world would end and America would fail. All of liberal politics was lumped together with all of supposedly liberal theology and all of supposedly demonic activity and called “the world” or “the enemy.”
Problem being, the most pernicious threats to the church come from the inside.
Jesus himself spent no time dealing with Roman threats to Judaism and all day every day hammering on the Pharisees and teachers of the law. As he said in Matthew 7:15,
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Jesus built on the tradition of the Old Testament prophets whose mission it was to call people back to God. The prophets were excoriating, comparing Israel to whores and filth. Jesus never comes close to the language of Ezekiel or Jeremiah, who rip the leadership of Israel apart.
New Testament authors constantly hammered on the internal threats to the church — division, quarrels, fights, hypocrisy, legalism, lies, etc — and only spoke of external persecution as being a blessing. External persecution is never, ever listed as a cause for eternal concern: instead, we are adjured to keep an eye out for false teaching, false prophets, hypocrites, Pharisees, judaizers, people who follow specific calendars and holidays, divisive people, greedy people, belligerent people, and on and on. When it comes to keeping an eye out for the horrors that can destroy a church, the call is coming from the inside of the house
Just pause to consider the manifold sins destroying souls in the church: sexual abuse, child porn, unrepentant hubris, idolatry, cultish conspiracy theories, unrepentant anger, false prophets, obscene wealth, adultery, and resounding silence on most (or all) of these issues from some of the loudest voices in evangelicalism.
Romans 1 is often used against homosexual practices, but give the end of the chapter a fresh read with the past years of evangelical scandals in mind:
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Ongoing silence about the wolves in the church is tacit approval, especially when you are incredibly loud about the purported threats from outside the church.
My reason for speaking out about Qanon and accepting the attention to my beloved little church (who really does not want attention and should’ve have to deal with such a loudmouth pastor) is that few others are. Yes, TGC has excellent resources. But have you heard it preached? Al Mohler spoke on it way back in August of 2020, but what about after January 6? Crickets. Meanwhile families are being rent apart as Facebook groups dedicated to the spouses of Qanon addicts report divorce after divorce.
Why are folks so silent on these threats from inside the church? What have we stopped guarding the flock from the wolves within? Why such moral cowardice? Why are we the church cowed?
I think a few things:
- People get so wrapped up in the divisive narratives the news media needs to drive viewers that they cease to care about the more proximate issues in their own congregations and families.
- People would rather deal with the distant issues than the ones closer to home, because the ones closer to come entail some risk. You can get fired as a pastor for rebuking your own wayward church: you will never get fired for rebuking a Democrat. You can get fired for stepping up to an Elder abusing his wife and kids; you will never get fired for posting a meme mocking Joe Biden.
We are left with guardians from outside church leadership because the ones within really don’t seem to care about abuse within the church.
The abuse scandals are being uncovered by intrepid journalists, not church elders. The false prophets are being rebuked by an unbelieving world, not by other pastors within it. The Mark Discolls of the world suffer twitter mockery but no formal rebukes from significant Christian leaders around them. The ruthless Dave Ramseys never apologize and give glory to our Lord Jesus with public repentance because nobody cares enough to tell them. Enough good money and fame is out there that these folks can keep finding sheep to shred.
If it is true that “Elders are fundamentally guardians of the church… The primary reason a shepherd (or “pastor”) exists is to protect the sheep from harm” then it is time for some elders to step up. The sheep are being led to slaughter. Who will save them?