May I please have a little space in the Standard Bearer to express a deep concern which I have in regard to a grave error which seems to be gaining a large foothold in our churches.
First of all, I feel certain that among Reformed church circles, we are considered to be strict, if not the most strict in seeking to uphold sound church government. We believe that Christ rules in His church through the offices of consistory. We have consistently taught that the local consistory is the only ruling body in the church. By way of Classis and Synod all matters of church government are decided, or at least should be.
However, of late there is much departure from this rule among our people. Due, no doubt, to the controversies of the last few years, many of our people are ‘taking sides’ which in itself may be good, yet if not properly applied simply tears us apart as churches. Let me explain:
When a certain minister (or ministers) is asked by the consistory to preach for us, members of the congregation who do not like this minister simply go to another church for this particular service. They say “I don’t want to listen to him.” They disagree with him. They do not follow the rule ofand speak to him. They do not care whether or not the consistory has asked this minister to preach. Above all, they do not care about the calling which this minister has received from God to preach. They simply take matters in their own hands.
Now surely, if a member is in disagreement with this minister, he should be able to tell this man of his wrong. In fact, he must do this. Or, the member should tell the consistory. . But this is not done. So now, what do we have? Democracy in the church—each and every member doing as he sees fit? And this under the pretense of piety?
Without ever once appearing before the consistory with any objection whatever, members of our own congregation asked for their papers to a sister congregation and they tell other members that they leave because the pastor is not Prot. Reformed. One group wants the pastor to preach their way—another group wants the preaching their way. It’s not a question of TRUTH—it’s simply a question of personal opinion. The one is of A polios, the other of Cephas, etc.
Surely, in case of error, we should seek to save the pastor—not destroy him, to save the congregation— not leave it to its misery. Christ never used these tactics. He testified of the TRUTH. He never ran away no matter how great the opposition.
In 1924, our leaders fought for the truth until they were ‘kicked out.’ They did not leave the church. After 28 years we are still seeking to show the Christian Reformed churches their error.
In conclusion, this much I feel is sure—unless we come back from this evil way we are doomed as churches. We cannot expect a blessing in this way. I am not advocating a policy of ‘love at any cost’, not at all—but we must seek one another in truth. We must uphold the principles laid down by our Savior. We may not just take things in our own hands.
If we walk in God’s law and precepts, we can rest assured that He will make all things well. Otherwise not. When the individual member and not the consistory rules in the church, we are lost as churches. Each one of us must exercise the office of believer to be sure. But all things in the church of Jesus Christ must be done in good order.
May God give us all grace to war against this evil, both in our own heart and in our church.
Arthur H. Haan
Grand Rapids, Mich.