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Sunday
Nov042012

Sovereign Grace Ministries Aborts Simplicity of New Testament Polity

Eph 4:7-8, 11-13 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. [8] This is why it  says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”… [11] It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, [12] to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [13] until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 

After Christ ascended into heaven, he continued to give apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to the Church so that she could become mature.  These were not temporary gifts that ended with the First Century.  They are permanent gifts that continue until we all reach unity in the faith…attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  These five gift ministries are vital for the proper equipping of the Christ’s Church in every age. 

That is why I included these affirmations when I wrote the Sovereign Grace Statement of Faith. 

“All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first-century are available today, are vital for the mission of the church, and are to be earnestly desired and practiced.” 

“The ascended Christ has given gift ministries to the church (including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) for the equipping of Christ’s body that it might mature and grow.” 

Any study of church polity MUST begin with a thorough study of apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers – not just elders.  The Polity Committee has utterly failed in its assignment to come up with a governance structure modeled after the New Testament.  Instead they have proposed a denominational structure whose complexity exceeds the Federal Tax Code.        

1 Cor 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. [28] And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. [29] Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? [30] Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? [31] But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Apostles, prophets and teachers are one, two and three on Paul’s list of ministry priorities.  The Polity Committee talks about teachers but not about apostles and prophets.  They skip over this critical passage.  That is dishonest scholarship because they were assigned to do a biblical study on polity.  All seven men on the Polity Committee are well aware of this text.  They just excluded it. 

They differ with Paul when he says that apostles and prophets are to be eagerly desired.  Not in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  But wait a minute.  That is in direct opposition to the Statement of Faith.  These men are in non-compliance!  Therefore, let every elder act immediately and contact the SG Court of Appeals.  Ask the High Court to censor (strongly rebuke) and remove from ministry the Board of Directors, Leadership Team and Polity Committee for their divisive doctrine and not adhering to The Statement of Faith!  They must be silenced and purged from the denomination for such insubordination! 

In their introduction to the Sovereign Grace Book of Church Order, C.J., Phil Sasser, Paul Buckley, Bruce Chick, Jared Mellinger, Jeff Purswell and Matthew Wassink make the following statement. 

“The Polity Committee of SGM desires nothing more than to be faithful to the Word of God and to God Himself as we seek to recommend a polity that serves the well-being of our churches and aids them in the fulfillment of their mission together.” (p. 1)  

This is an empty boast for many reasons but suffice it to say that any attempt “to be faithful to the Word of God” must encompasses a thorough going examination of apostles and prophets.  You cannot understand biblical polity unless you understand how apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers functioned and interacted with each other.  But even before you do that, you must determine whether or not apostles and prophets are a continuing reality in the 21st Century Church.  

In other words, do we get to pick and choose which gifts and gift ministries continue like Cessationists do in the Reformed and Baptist tradition?  Take for instance Roman 12:6-8.  Can we reject prophecy from the list while embracing serving, teaching, encouraging, helping, giving, leadership and mercy?  

[6] We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. [7] If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; [8] if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

The same is true with Ephesians 4:11.  Can we reject apostles, prophets and evangelists but accept pastors and teachers?  If so on what clear exegetical grounds is this distinction argued in the New Testament?  Where does Paul teach that the ministry of the apostle and prophet ended with the death of John the Revelator or the completion of the New Testament?  What biblical basis is there for rejecting prophecy and prophets?  For doing away with apostolic ministry? 

The Polity Committee utterly fails to address these crucial issues.  Instead they construct a theological bureaucracy that rivals Obama Care.  The Polity Committee does not even raise, let alone answer, the SINGLE most important question regarding polity in the New Testament.  Do apostles continue in our day?

In this regard the Polity Committee made just two comments. 

“Additionally the extra-local unity, cooperation, and government of the NT churches is especially apparent in the ministry of the apostles.  Although contemporary apostles play no role whatsoever in the proposed polity of SG, the ministry of NT apostles tells us something about the nature of the church.  (SG BCO, p. 5)

“Apostles and elders governed the churches of the NT.  SG Churches recognize the office of elder as continuing today.”  (SG BCO, p. 13)

From these statements, one must conclude that apostles no longer continue today according to the Polity Committee and the Board of Directors who adopted the proposed SG Book of Church Oder.  Therefore apostles “play no role whatsoever” in Sovereign Grace Polity.  This cessationist position must now be included in a revised Statement of Faith and accepted by all the elders and churches.  According to the polity laid out in SG Book of Church Order, no one is allowed to believe anything that does not strictly align with the Statement of Faith.  If you hold to a continuist position you must leave Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Here’s what so staggering to me.  The Polity Committee makes no effort to defend their discontinuist’s theology from Scripture.  Not a single argument is put forth to explain why “first of all apostles” has become no apostles at all.  This serves as another example of duplicity.  It lacks all integrity not to address the most obvious and the most important aspect of polity in the New Testament while claiming faithfulness to Scripture at the same time.  If Sovereign Grace doesn’t believe in apostles, they should tell us why.  Once again, they refuse to be open, honest, and transparent. 

Furthermore, Phil Sasser, the Chairman of the Polity Committee, told all the SGM pastors on August 22 that “The Committee has not yet decided whether to adopt an apostolic, presbyterian, or independent polity.”  All three options were on the table for equal consideration.  In the proposed SG Book of Church Order, the Committee seeks to refute independent polity but they don’t address “apostolic polity” at all.  How can this be?  One reason, C.J. Mahaney.

Only C.J. has the power to totally silence the Chairman and make sure that “contemporary apostles play no role whatsoever in the proposed polity of SG.”  Phil strongly believes in apostles.  Nathan Sasser, his son and the Academic Assistant to the Dean of the Pastors College, strongly believes in apostles.  So do all the elders in the Apex, NC church where Phil is the sr. pastor.  They include Daniel Baker, Jim Martin, and Walt Briley. 

At the beginning of 2012, Daniel wrote A Defense of and Model for Apostolic Government in conjunction with Phil, Jim and Walt.  Here are three important quotes.

“Only the Bible comes to us as “breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16).  It must, therefore, be our chief source for crafting a polity for Christ’s church… In our opinion, an apostolic government is established solidly in the New Testament.  It is not an occasional or incidental precedent, but one demonstrated in Acts and all of the epistles.  What we see is that the New Testament knows nothing of a local church not tethered in some way to apostolic authority.  Whether it is the direct involvement of the Twelve and Paul, or men sent out by them such as Barnabas, Timothy, and Titus, the local church is to be connected to some kind of apostolic oversight…. As we said above, the New Testament knows nothing of a church that exists outside of apostolic involvement.  Nothing.  Therefore, as we work through this issue of polity, we ought to feel this ‘apostolic imperative’ from the New Testament.  Not only are churches connected in financial, relational and spiritual ways to other local churches, but they are connected because they are ministered to by apostolic workers who teach, shepherd, guide, build, and protect according to the sound doctrine we find in the Scriptures.” (Daniel Baker, A Defense of and Model for Apostolic Government, pp. 3-4)

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“A fourth misconception about apostles is more anecdotal.  It is the misconception that we are able not to have them, that we have a real choice in this matter.  Those who argue against ongoing apostles are saying that we can choose not to have them.  Experience, however, teaches just the opposite.  In fact, church history demonstrates clearly that apostles are unavoidable, inevitable, and instinctual.  The only question is whether we acknowledge them or not.”  (Daniel Baker, A Defense of and Model for Apostolic Government, p. 18)

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“What is the precedent that we find in the New Testament?  The New Testament church knows nothing of an independent church not connected to some type of apostolic authority…. There is no indication that this was to be a first-century phenomenon, an unusual situation that would end with the original apostles dying off.  There is no indication either that a church will ever outgrow the need for an apostle. Paul re-visited his churches to continue his oversight of their church life.  In other words, we must argue from silence to say that apostles were a first-century occurrence not to be repeated by later generations of the church. (Daniel Baker, A Defense of and Model for Apostolic Government, pp. 22-23) 

In addition, here is what Nathan Sasser wrote on his blog in April under the heading “SGM Polity, the Cessation of the Apostolate, and the Authority Question in our Local Churches.”

“Historically, the Sovereign Grace churches have affirmed the continuation of the office of apostle.  We thought of the leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries as apostles.  This justified the existence and activities of SGM…. If the office of apostle has ceased, then the representatives of SGM no longer have any basis for exercising authority in the local churches.  The only kind of ‘authority’ they can legitimately claim to have is the ‘authority’ of wise counselors.  Local pastoral teams may respect the advice of the representatives of SGM and are often apt to follow it.  But this is not real ecclesiastical authority worthy of the name…. So SGM cannot continue to relate to the local churches in the same way as it did before the rejection of the apostolic office.  SGM presently has no basis for exercising any authority in local churches.” (April 30, 2012)

Phil Sasser and Nathan Sasser are major players in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Both have been muzzled.  Here is Nathan’s retraction from this week.  “A polity without apostles is incomplete, but not fundamentally flawed.”  As a result, he saved his job with SGM as Academic Assistant in the Pastors College.  Phil put out the SG Book of Church Order which contradicts his beliefs.  His privileged position is safe also.  They have satisfied C.J. but at the expense of their strongly held theological convictions regarding apostolic ministry which were based upon their careful study of the New Testament. 

Daniel Baker’s paper is a seriously treatment of polity as found in the Bible.  See A Defense of and Model of Apostolic Government.  None of this matters to C.J.  Not even the Chairman of the Polity Committee is allowed to whisper the word “apostle” or express dissent.  Apostles have been totally eradicated.  They will play absolutely no role in Sovereign Grace polity.  There will be no open debate.  Arguments in their favor will not be presented or refuted.  Even though “apostolic polity” was one of three options to be examined, it was ruled out in entirety without any explanation.  You never know what is really going on in Sovereign Grace Ministries because so much is covered up.   

As I’ve said on other occasions, C.J. is more concerned about his standing in Reformed circles than he is in properly interpreting the Scriptures.  If he affirmed “apostles” in any meaningful sense he would fall out of favor with his elite circle of nationally recognized leaders.  For instance, John MacArthur is not going to invite C.J. to his mega-conferences if C.J. affirms apostolic ministry.  The solution.  Totally disavow the validity of on-going apostles in the SG Book of Church Order.  Banish all reference to apostles now and forever.

But that is lording and heavy handedness of the worse kind.  C.J. cannot impose his polity demands upon men like Phil, Daniel, Jim, Walt and Nathan without any Biblical explanation whatsoever.  I could not stay in Sovereign Grace Ministries if I were one of these men.  To do so would violate my integrity, conscience and understanding of Scripture.  I believe the SG Book of Church Order contradicts the teaching of Scripture on many key subjects.        

For instance the SG Book of Church Order gives an incredible amount of extra-local power and authority to elders but that is not found in the New Testament.  If you not an apostle or prophet, you should not be exercising any authority over a local church.  Why?  Because you are not called or gifted by God to do so.  If God did away with apostles and prophets, he also did away with extra-local government.  You don’t tell a deacon to act like an elder.  You don’t tell an elder to act like an apostle. 

If God saw fit to end the ministry of the apostle and prophet, then we don’t need them or anyone who pretends to act like them.  If they are irrelevant to God, then they are irrelevant to us.  Their work is finished because it was restricted to the First Century.  They are not needed in the 21st Century.  According to the cessationist theology, they laid a foundation for the Early Church and gave us the Bible.  Now they are dead and we don’t need their ministries.  If we did, they would have continued throughout the Church Age!  

But Cessationists are wrong.  The writing of Scripture was incidental to an apostle’s job description but that is lost upon them.  Only Matthew, John and Peter from the Twelve ever penned a word of Scripture.  The role and responsibilities of apostles and prophets far exceeded the inscripturation of divine revelation. 

While ruling out apostles, the Polity Committee acknowledges the far broader job description of apostles in the NT.  That’s why it is ludicrous for the Polity Committee and Board of Directors to argue in the SG Book of Church Order that they need the functions of apostles, but they don’t need apostles.  Therefore, they have authorized elders, who are not apostles, to act like apostles and assume the authority of apostles. 

This issue is vital if you want to understand how the NT church operated.  If you reject apostles, prophets and evangelists, you’ve rejected all the NT teaches on extra-local ministry.  If you reject extra-local ministry, you are left with local ministry.  Local ministry is the responsibility of elders but extra-local ministry is the responsibility of apostles, prophets and evangelists.  Local elders are never delegated extra-local responsibilities in the New Testament. 

There is no Regional Leader (i.e., a super elder), Regional Assembly of Elders, Ordination Committee, Judicial Review Committee, Church Planting Committee, and Nominating Committee in the New Testament that are told to govern local churches in a geographical region.  Such an arrangement is unbiblical because it gives these responsibilities to “extra-local” elders and removes them from local elderships and individual churches. 

Churches should have the freedom to ordain leaders, plant churches, remove elders, write rules of discipline, involve outside objective third parties, allocate mission funds, define doctrine, establish godly practices, associate with churches outside their region, and relate to men they recognize as apostles.  All of this is forbidden in the Sovereign Grace Book of Church Order.  These functions are delegated to extra-local elders who govern the churches.  Their decisions cannot be disobeyed unless such decisions clearly demand disobedience to God like forbidding a Christian from preaching the gospel (see Acts 5:29).  Otherwise, local elders must swear a vow of obedience to extra-local elders.       

“The SG churches comprise an ecclesiastical body, distinct from all others, uniquely and significantly bound together in a common confession of faith, pursuing a common mission, guarding the corporate holiness of all the members, and governed by the [regional] assembly of the elders.

“The members and elders of each local SG church recognize the God-given authority of the Regional Assemblies of the Elders, the Council of Elders, and the SG Court of Appeal, as that authority is specified below.  They therefore submit to the decisions of these assemblies insofar as they can do so without disobeying God (Acts 5:29).

“When an elder can no longer submit to the decisions of their Regional Assembly with its committees, the Council of Elders, and the SG Court of Appeal, they must resign from the eldership (and board) of their local churches.  If they do not voluntarily resign under such circumstances, their fellow elders will remove them from office.” (SG BCO, p. 15)

 Furthermore,

“A SG church may be censured by the Regional Assembly of Elders if it is determined that the elders of that church have taught false doctrine, strayed from the SG Statement of Faith or Book of Church Order, or have conducted themselves in an egregiously sinful manner.” (SC BCO, p. 18)

Moreover, the Polity Committee and Board of Directors are not content with authority structures that are confined to regions.  No, they’ve decided to superimpose a national government over the regional governments for an added measure of control.  On the national level they propose a Council of Elders, Governing Board, Leadership Team, Executive Director, Court of Appeal, Nominating Committee, and Polity Committee.  All this is nauseating.

In August, Chairman Sasser wrote a letter to all the SGM pastors.  He said the Polity Committee would base their proposal on the obvious teaching of the Bible Scripture and good judgment. 

“Please continue to pray for us that we will be led by the Holy Spirit as we seek to base our polity upon the clear teaching of Scripture and to use prudential wisdom in those areas that are not as clear or where there is greater freedom.” (Phil Sasser, Letter to SGM Pastors, August 22, 2012)

They Committee has done neither.  They reject the “clear teaching of Scripture” and fail to use “prudential wisdom.”  Instead they foolishly create a religious institution that is more regulated than Wall Street.  Time and again, they abort the simplicity of New Testament polity for legalistic prescriptions that exceed Scripture and contradict Scripture.    

When I read the SG Book of Church Order it feels like my New Testament is being shredded.  It reads like the Jewish Talmud.  The Bible is not good enough for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  They have to create a governance structure that is completely foreign to the pages of the New Testament.  What they have conceived is not biblical.  It is extra-biblical and unbiblical.  They have shown no respect for the sufficiency of Scripture, nor the authority of Scripture.  The Polity Committee should be embarrassed by their unscholarly work.  These “scribes” and “teachers of the law” have led Sovereign Grace leaders and churches astray.

C.J. and his devotees continue to build a tightly controlled denomination.  It rivals the Roman Catholic Church.  Jeff Purswell earned his Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.  I never thought he would espouse Romanist polity.  The beauty, sanctity and simplicity of New Testament practice are obliterated in this SG Book of Church Order.  These men are creating the most tightly control regimen of doctrine and practice I know of in the Protestant world.  It does not matter that some aspects of their polity are representative.  Even the Pope is elected by a vote of the Cardinals.      

Here is what is required of all churches remaining in Sovereign Grace Ministries.

“All SG Churches will sign a Partnership Agreement stating their agreement with the SG Statement of Faith and the SG Book of Church Order, and will commit to supporting the decentralized and centralized ministries of SG with minimally 5% and ideally 10% of the church’s budget (unless, under financial duress, they are granted a temporary waiver by their Regional Assembly of Elders).” (p. 8)

It is one thing to require adherence to the essential doctrines of the faith as articulated in a Statement of Faith.  It is another thing to demand obedience to faulty interpretations of specific passages like Matt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:1-12; 1 Tim 5:19-21; Titus 1:6; and Acts 15:1-31 as found in the SG Book of Church Order.  But Sovereign Grace goes further.  It demands a vow of obedience to all its rules and regulations found in the SG Book of Church Order.  For example: 

“All the elders of the joining church affirm and submit to the polity of the Sovereign Grace churches as stated in the Book of Church Order, without taking any exceptions to it.  In particular, the elders willingly agree 

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    • To submit themselves to the rulings of their Regional Assembly of Elders, its Ordination Committee, and its Judicial Committee, as well as to the Council of Elders.
    • To accept the Sovereign Grace Local Church Polity, as stated in the Book of Church Order, and vow to uphold it as the rule of practice in their local church;
    • To contribute a minimum of 5% (with a goal of 10%) of their church’s regular contributions to Sovereign Grace, unless, under financial duress, their Regional Assembly of Elders temporarily releases them from this obligation;
    • That, should their eldership at any time in the future wish to withdraw from the Sovereign Grace body of churches, they will follow the separation process stated in the Book of Church Order.” (pp. 31-32) 

No one wishing to be part of Sovereign Grace Ministries can take “any exceptions” to SG Book of Church Order.  In fact, the elders of a joining church must sign “Partnership Vows.”  That’s right, vows that are witnessed by God Almighty.  Once you take these vows you are married to C.J. and his denomination forever.  And even more seriously, if you break any of these vows, the Lord Jesus Christ will bring it up to you on Judgment Day!  

“’Having prayerfully and soberly considered this agreement, we solemnly pledge to actively support and whole-heartedly submit to the mission, values, statement of faith and Book of Church Order of the union of churches known as Sovereign Grace; and we call to witness Almighty God who searches our hearts and to whom we will give account on the Day of Judgment.’

“The elders of the joining church shall record their pledge by signing a copy of this Partnership Agreement and pledge.  This document will be kept in archives by Sovereign Grace Ministries.” (SG BCO, p. 32) 

In the new and improved ministry of Sovereign Grace, you cannot disagree with the Statement of Faith, their interpretation of Scripture, the SG Book of Church Order, the Partnership Agreement or any rulings made by its five tiered hierarchy.  Who in the world would want to join SGM?  Who in their right would want to stay in SGM?  

And just try to bring a charge against an elder under “The Rules of Discipline” on pages 60-79.  It’s easier to get your case before the United States Supreme Court.  No one in their right mind is going to bother bringing charges.  They will just leave their local church.  That is, unless your last name is Detwiler and you’re a masochist.  It is virtually impossible to bring any discipline to men like C.J., Dave Harvey, John Loftness or Mickey Connolly.  

People should reject the “Rules of Discipline.”  Just go to a pastor and confront him if he sins against you or others.  If he is unrepentant, take one or two others.  If he still doesn’t listen, tell it to the church.  Don’t submit to the kind of bondage outline in the SG Book of Church Order.  Oh, I should warn you, expect to be excommunicated for following Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-21.  Hell will freeze over before any disciplinary action is taken against an elder in SG unless that elder speaks ill of Sovereign Grace or robs Fort Knox.  This polity puts C.J. well beyond the reach of any charges!      

The Leadership Team, Board of Directors, and Polity Committee are proposing a governance structure for SGM that exceeds what Paul the apostle claimed for himself.  There is no freedom to disagree with doctrine, the interpretation of Scripture, practice, or rulings as prescribed by SGM.  This is just like the Roman Catholic Church.  In reaction to “unbridled spirits” like Martin Luther, the Council of Trent anathematized any person who dared interpret Scripture contrary to Holy Mother Church. 

“Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds.” (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Fourth Session, “Decree Concerning the Edition and Use of the Sacred Books” April 8, 1546)

That is exactly what Sovereign Grace Ministries is doing.  Private interpretation cannot contradict ecclesiastical interpretation.  And furthermore pastors, don’t ever plan on leaving Sovereign Grace Ministries after taking your vow unless you want to be censured or strongly rebuked for being divisive.  A church can only leave if approved by the Regional Assembly of Elders for “dire or exceptional circumstances or situations.”  Once you are in, you can never get out, unless you are willing to be labeled a schismatic by SGM in all its churches.

“In protecting the reputation of Christ every church should make a concerted, vigorous, and lasting effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace modeling the love of Christ in its given communion of churches by only withdrawing from such fellowship in dire or exceptional circumstances or situations.

“Therefore, the elders of SG member churches willingly agree that, should they feel compelled to withdraw their local church from association with SG, they will follow the Separation Process articulated in the Book of Church Order.  Should their Regional Assembly of Elders deem their reasons for withdrawal good and sufficient, they will release the local church with its elders from the obligations of membership in SG with blessing and commendation.  Should the Regional Assembly of Elders deem the church’s reasons for withdrawal bad or insufficient, the Regional Assembly of Elders will censure the church’s eldership for divisiveness.  The member churches with their elderships affirm the duty of the Regional Assemblies of Elders to act thusly.” (SG BCO, p. 16)

According to the Polity Committee and Board of Directors, the SG Book of Church Order is functionally equal to the Bible in authority.  All its tenets must be obeyed and followed or you will censored and judged.  There are no “disputable matters” any longer.  I would never sign a membership document where I am required to swear an oath promising to obey hundreds of practices prescribed by men.  It is now clear, SGM has no ambivalence about legislating in minutia.   

Jesus said “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”  This polity proposal reveals the hearts of C.J., Dave Harvey, John Loftness, Mickey Connolly and the like.  They want absolute control.  It doesn’t matter if minor reforms are made after 90 days of review and comment.  Their zeal to exceed the boundaries of Scripture reveals their ambition for complete dominance.

It is this willingness to abandon the wisdom of the New Testament and replace it with the sophistry of misguided men who are not submitted to the simplicity, sufficiency or authority of Scripture that is so frightening.  These men distort the meaning of NT texts in order to justify their unbiblical governance structure.  I become sick reading this document.  Oh Sovereign Grace, you have fallen so very far! 

There is no attempt by the Polity Committee to differentiate between biblical principle and ecclesiastical practice.  In their mind, the two have equal authority.  It reminds me of the Mahaney’s “Modesty Heart Check” which is the most detailed prescription of practice SGM has ever produced.  Will it too be put in the SG Book of Church Order?  For instance, “Does my shirt reveal any part of my cleavage?  Does my midriff [between the chest and waist] show when I raise my hands above my head?  Is my shirt just plain too tight?  If the answer to any one of these question is yes, then I need to change my outfit.”  I strongly believe in the principle of modesty (1 Tim 2:9) but I don’t think the Mahaney women should command girls to change their outfit if they violate their personal practices.

But that’s the kind of thing the SG Book of Church Order does.  It elevates practice to the level of principle.  Both must be obeyed.  What’s next?  What practices will be instituted in order to legislate the administration of the Lord’s Supper, water baptism and the exercise of spiritual gifts?  What other interpretations of Scripture will people be forced to accept?  What additional doctrinal imperatives must they embrace?  How will  SGM define slander, gossip and divisiveness?    

I sure don’t want to be part of a denomination that threatens church discipline if I disagree with their doctrine, interpretation of Scripture or ecclesiastical rulings and requirements.  Before you know it, all kinds of practice will descend upon local churches like Shari’ah Islamic Law. 

Every church member in SGM must realize they are obligated to obey these prescriptions once their elders vow obedience to the Partnership Agreement.  SGM requires that all local church polity adhere to the SG Book of Church Order.  Any lack of submission or obedience by members, leaders or churches results in being censored or  excommunicated.  A tightly fisted reign of control has begun to descend. 

The meaning of Mark 7:6-9 now applies to Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It fits the original intent of Jesus. 

[6] He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. [7] They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ [8] You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” [9] And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”

I am also reminded of two sayings by Martin Luther.

“What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”

“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a cardinal without it.”

The SG Book of Church Order has given pastors and churches hundreds of reasons for leaving Sovereign Grace Ministries and hundreds of reason for not becoming a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Godly people with a simple commitment to Scripture don’t want to be regulated by regional and national Boards, Councils, Courts and Committees.  They want to love Jesus, live the Bible, have leaders they can trust, and enjoy fellowship with other churches in reaching the world.    

The God ordained simplicity of the New Testament has been forsaken.  These men on the Polity Committee and Board of Directors are wiser than the Bible which they consider woefully inadequate in matters of polity.  They have created their own convoluted scheme of governing.  They have displaced the simple polity of the NT  which brought about the planting of churches throughout the known world in 30 years.  It does not matter that we live in the 21st Century.  We should follow the pattern found in the Book of Acts and filled out in the Epistles. 

I am not interested in the high minded schemes of men.  I yearn for the wisdom of the New Testament, not the sophistry of men.  But the plan and pattern of ministry of the NT is too low minded for the sophisticated polity committee and the “outside theologians” they consulted.  I will take Ephesian 4:8-17 over committees coming out the wazoo.  These men have moved away from the Bible and replaced it with their own constructs. 

In 1997, C.J. changed the name of the seminary from the People of Destiny Leadership School to the PDI Pastors College.  I objected but to no avail.  C.J. wanted to name the school after Charles Spurgeon’s Pastors College.  I wanted to preserve our commitment to the fivefold ministry found in Scripture and not just highlight the role of pastors.  Now it’s official.  Sovereign Grace Ministries has reduced itself to the two-fold ministry of the pastor and teacher. 

I have a confession to make as I close.  I wrote a post in August called, It’s About Ethics, Not Polity, Stupid!  Turns out I was the stupid one.  It’s about both!  My only defense, I never imagined SGM coming up with such a horrible polity proposal.  I must have been “believing the best” when I wrote the blog post.  Well, now you have two compelling reasons to leave SGM.  Unbiblical polity and unethical conduct!

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