"When it feels like the ship is sinking, everyone needs to grab a bucket."—Ronnie Floyd President of the Southern Baptist Convention, explaining why he appeared at at IHOPKC (cult) One Thing conference on Dec 28, 2015.We are to be urgent in Christian action, redeeming the time spent for our Lord in His work. But do the times demand blind panic, partnering with darkness, and other pragmatic man-made moves that display our urgency, misguided though it may be? Should 'the times' be the prompt for action instead of the Gospel? No.
I spent a good deal of ink in another blog post explaining the context of the situation. This essay which follows is what they call in writing class an 'explode the moment' or honing in to focus minutely on a particular aspect of the context. In this case, it's the biblical scene on the boat when the disciples asked if Jesus cared or not that they might be perishing. Let's use this for a discernment lesson. Sadly, it's a reverse lesson, as Mr Floyd's actions unwittingly teach us what NOT to do.
|Peace Be Still, Arnold Friberg|
Mr Floyd, have you so little faith? The boat is not sinking. (Mark 4:37-40, Matthew 14:31, Luke 8:25). Did the disciples grab a bucket? We know the answer.
carest thou not that we perish?—Unbelief and fear made them sadly forget their place, to speak so. Luke has it, “Lord, save us, we perish.” When those accustomed to fish upon that deep thus spake, the danger must have been imminent. They say nothing of what would become of Him, if they perished; nor think, whether, if He could not perish, it was likely He would let this happen to them; but they hardly knew what they said.These were seasoned fishermen. They knew when a storm as raging enough to swamp a ship. In their case, the waves actually were overtowering the ship, and they rightly knew conditions were the foundering sort. Paul knew when the ship was in peril, Jonah knew. I've been in a mighty storm on a small yacht. Seamen know when the storm imperils lives. We don't blame the men for fearing.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?—There is a natural apprehension under danger; but there was unbelief in their fear. It is worthy of notice how considerately the Lord defers this rebuke till He had first removed the danger, in the midst of which they would not have been in a state to listen to anything.
how is it that ye have no faith?—next to none, or none in present exercise. In Matthew (Mt 8:26) it is, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Faith they had, for they applied to Christ for relief: but little, for they were afraid, though Christ was in the ship. Faith dispels fear, but only in proportion to its strength. (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)
But when fear comes, especially when it is a fear based on what man's eyes can see, the proof in the pudding is how you deal with the situation.
I know of a small, rural SBC church that hired another pastor after their long-term pastor left. The new pastor made lots of exegetical mistakes in preaching. Some left. The new pastor had an unfortunate (and disqualifying) tendency to rough anger. More left. Sunday attendance numbers couldn't be explained away any longer by "those who are sick with the flu going around" or "those who are traveling this holiday weekend". Attendance was declining and it showed. So, events were held to grab more people and get them in. Evangelists were hired. Inflatables were inflated. Hot dogs were eaten. Those pragmatic approaches did not work. So more left. Panic set in. Tithes dipped below healthy levels, and the wild eyed panic turned to fear. The smell of desperation caused more to leave. Therefore, anger abounded and it was taken out on staff. Staff left. So more people left with the staff. Sermons now focused on tithing, or on rebuking those who stayed. So even more left.
You see the circle-the-drain pragmatic approach does not work. The disciples in the boat could have furiously bailed. They could have tossed one of them overboard like Jonah. They could have hove to or gone under bare poles. They could have prayed. Instead, they panicked.
Jesus rebuked the sea and then rebuked the men. But notice that the fear they had of the storm was replaced in spades by fear of what they had seen Jesus do. He has power over the weather and sea and waves, and instantly they obeyed Him. The men became exceedingly terrified. I'd imagine that if the IHOP people were ever to see a REAL miracle they would not only become terrified, they would drop dead of heart attacks on the spot.
Jesus IS the calm. Always rely on Him.
He knew a storm was coming. He knew. But He had no concern. It was the sleep of fearlessness. It was the sleep of trust. It was the sleep of sovereignty. It was the sleep of omnipotence. He knew He could awaken at any moment and stop the storm. (source)When it feels like the ship is sinking, one does not run around in a panic, begging those with theological unorthodoxy to join in bailing the boat. That displays lack of faith and is an action motivated by fear.
And then once He stilled the storm, verse 25 says, He said to them, "Where's your faith? "Where's your faith? I'm sure they were hanging their heads. That was embarrassing. That was shameful. Oh, we saw Him raise the dead, we saw Him control the fish, we saw Him cast out demons, we saw Him heal all those people. This is embarrassing. Where's your faith? Couldn't you believe Me for this? (source)Can't we believe Jesus that He is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it? Is the ship foundering? No.
Yes, there is excess water in the ship because false teaching brings it. Yes there is excess baggage in the ship, weighing it down because the sin within false doctrine is heavy. (Psalm 38:4). Mr Floyd's action to partner with those who weigh down the faith is counter-productive and a bad example of what to do in discernment situations. When the waves threaten to overpower, you don't pragmatically look for hands to bail the ship, you look to the one who calms the storm. It is not a situation of "any port in a storm" but the One who creates the port. And the storm. And the calm.
When we see our church local or global seems to be faltering, as Mr Floyd did, he was seeing through man's eyes. Jesus' church is not foundering. But sometimes a local church does die. Or sometimes as a church is diminishing in numbers, Jesus makes a move through the members' prayer. I know of another small, local SBC church where the members had died or drifted away. It was a long-term church, it had been existing a long time in that spot. But it was small now and it was dying. The leaders prayed. Along came a contingent of pastors and leaders who wanted to plant a new church, and felt led to ask the dying church to rent their space. It was the answer to prayer, and a new church was planted inside the old church. The old church hadn't panicked. They hadn't gone around to the Mormons and the Seventh Day Adventists and the Catholics, false 'christians' all, and asked to partner, giving the excuse that the times warranted drastic action. No, they kept their eyes on Jesus, were patient, and they prayed.
When the storm comes, discernment is all the more needed. Panic, fear, and distress will make a person want to make bad decisions. Even the fervency of a person like Mr Floyd who seems to love the faith enough to want revival and want people to pray, can perform wrong-headed actions if motivated by fear from seeing things through a man-made perspective.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (Philippians 1:9-10 )