One of my biggest concerns since Brent Detwiler released his Sovereign Grace Ministries documents back in July is that we would become a movement that is filled with suspicion. And in some ways that has happened. We’ve become suspicious of each other, suspicious of leadership, and suspicious that there might be some sort of elaborate cover up taking place that we’re not aware of. I’m concerned about the effect that this is going to have on each of us personally, as well as the effect that it’s going to have on our churches.
Here’s why I’m concerned. Love doesn’t flourish in the midst of suspicion. The affection of Christ Jesus doesn’t bloom in the midst of suspicion. The gospel doesn’t move forward in the midst of suspicion. In some ways, suspicion is like bitterness – it eats us from the inside out. It’s like a parasite. Personally, I don’t want to live a life dominated by suspicion. That sounds like a really unhappy way to live.
Now, I can imagine what you’re thinking. “Stephen, did you take stupid pills this morning? Haven’t you read Brent’s documents and what people are saying about Sovereign Grace Ministries? Are you trying out for the role of Captain Naive?” Yes, I have read most of Brent’s documents. Yes, I’ve read the blogs. And the truth is, I have concerns and questions just like everybody else. I’ve spent many hours talking with various pastors and leaders in SGM, raising questions and voicing concerns.
But I think what’s crucial in the midst of all this is the way that we raise our questions and the way that we speak about one another. In fact, I believe that our attitude toward one another matters to Jesus just as much as the actual questions themselves. Do we extend the grace and love of the Lord Jesus to one another? Do we extend the grace of the Lord Jesus to the leaders within Sovereign Grace Ministries? Do we mock and bite and belittle and criticize, or do we extend the grace and patience that we would like to have extended to us?
Here’s the truth: we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been bought by the precious blood of Christ. To angrily criticize and lash out at someone is to lash out at someone who is precious to Christ. Does that mean we shouldn’t disagree? No, of course not. Does that mean we shouldn’t raise concerns? No. Does that mean we shouldn’t voice our disagreement? No, definitely not. Is raising questions and concerns being divisive? Nope.
It does mean that all of our criticisms, critiques, questions, and concerns should be wrapped in the love of Christ.
I find the example of the Apostle Paul to be convicting. The Corinthian church was an absolute nightmare. There was a man sleeping around with his step-mother. There were people getting drunk during communion. The church was like a crazy spiritual gifts circus. Folks were dragging each other off to court. And yet in spite of all this, Paul could say:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge?even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you?so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The reason that Paul could give thanks for the Corinthians was because he was confident that God is faithful. That’s my ultimate confidence as well. I respect the guys on the board of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I believe that they are seeking to follow the Lord through this difficult situation. But ultimately my confidence isn’t in them. It’s in Jesus. The King of Kings. The ruler of the church. He cares about my church and your church and Sovereign Grace Ministries more than we do.
That’s what can keep me from being dominated by suspicion.