Life Update: Ministry in the Desert

On October 30, 2017, I was forced out of a ministry in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Some of you know the story. I met with our deacons (yes, the kind that are quasi-elders) with the intention of evaluating the way we did church in light of what we saw in the Bible. It was made very clear, in fact explicitly so, that those men did not want to actually obey the words of Christ. They just wanted to talk about what Jesus said and use some verses in the Bible as justification for the way they chose to do things. I believe one of the men’s exact words were, “We don’t need three-thousand pages to tell us what to do.” I would just like to ask him what the point of church is if we are not actually trying to follow Jesus?

It was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. You know, that thing that happened when the Bible was finally made available to the public and translated by a few men from the Hebrew and Greek to the common language of the people? Common people got to read the Bible for the first time in hundreds of years and noticed things in the Bible that were contrary to the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. A guy by the name of Martin Luther wanted to have a discussion about why those differences were present, so he posted them on what would have been tantamount to a community group on a social media platform today. Some college students found the statements, printed copies with the newly available Guttenberg, and the 95 theses went viral. Before he knew it, Luther was standing before the Catholics being asked to denounce his rejection of their doctrine. Luther chose to believe and stand with the Bible. “Here I stand,” He proclaimed, “I can do nothing else.” The Catholics excommunicated Luther because he wanted the Bible and thought the Church needed biblical reform.

Do you sense the irony, that irony that I felt pounding like a hammer? I was being forced out for the same reason that Luther was excommunicated. The difference? I was pastoring a protestant church. Yes, the group that was formed in protest to Catholic dogma. Now, it was guilty of the same trend- the ignoring of the explicit Biblical text.

Fast-forward to April 2018. I started an interim at a church in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The people were nice. I remember teaching one Sunday night. Upon reading the explicit words of Christ, someone from the back, one of the same sort of deacons (quasi-elders) no less, and someone who was well respected and perceived as wise concerning the things of Scripture spoke up without hesitation, “That’s wrong! God doesn’t send people to Hell!” I hadn’t really started teaching the passage of Scripture yet. It was simply read. Here was a man perceived to be a spiritual leader arguing with Jesus even though he claimed to follow Jesus. The same man later approached me after a service and shared that He didn’t like what I taught, followed by him accusing me of saying things that were never said. That was odd, everything is recorded and available online publicly. Who would he fool? This deacon was so enslaved by the idea that people must contribute to their salvation that he ignored most of the Bible and had to invent ways to accuse me of bad teaching. In August, 2018, I was asked by the deacons (again, quasi-elders) to terminate my interim early because I taught the Bible.

I’m noticing a dangerous trend. When did a proper teaching of the Bible become the sin and the perception of self-sufficiency become the standard for righteousness? Adam and Eve did the same thing. Again, I felt like Luther. They just haven’t tried to kill me yet. For those who are angry with the organized church, I think that anger is justified. In fact, we are in need of another reformation (a return to Scripture, not the invention of something new). We see where inventing new religion gets us. Just read the first part of this again before continuing. The good news, I believe the reformation has already started.

My wife and I were devastated. If we can’t live like Jesus in church, what hope is there? Do we give up on the church altogether? It isn’t even following Jesus… It doesn’t even care about what Jesus has to say… If Jesus has the words of life, a large part of the organized church is rejecting that life… No wonder the organized church has become so harmful… No wonder my generation has rejected her…

We got a call from a search committee in Sunsites, Arizona. That’s right, the desert. We spent a week with the people. The church body wants expository preaching, they want to explore the deep theological issues, they actually confess their sins to one another, and they are reformed in their thinking. Time will only tell, but Kati and I are excited. I will officially start as the lead pastor at The Church at Sunsites on December 2nd, 2018. We will be ministering in the geographical desert and in the metaphorical desert (the state of the church as described above). You know as well as I do that we need more biblical, Christ-centered churches, true oases, lighthouses in the desert. Please pray for us and for the organized church. God is working all this together for His glory. Yes, that includes the hardness of people’s hearts.

We drove by a Christian bookstore the other day and my stomach churned. Ain’t it a shame (remember that old terrible hymn?) that most things bearing the name Christian are simply worldly things made to seem religious? If it weren’t for outward appearance or practice, religious things would not be distinguishable from the world at all. So, we also will begin a new emphasis at christoa.com. I want to invite you to submit any questions, theological or practical, no limits. I will be answering one question a week on the blog according to the genuine interpretation of Scripture and sharing it. Don’t worry, your name will be kept confidential. You don’t have to be a professing Christian to ask. Let us pursue a biblical, truly Christ-centered life.

Submit any question using the contact form, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. No limits. One question will be answered every week according to a genuine interpretation of Scripture. Your name will remain confidential. Questions are open to anyone holding any worldview, ‘religious’ or not.

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3 thoughts on “Life Update: Ministry in the Desert

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  1. My Brother Andrew,
    I feel a sense of hurt in my spirit to see a young man of God struggling in the ministry to which God, by His Spirit, has so aptly called him to give service of his life, time and energies. Reading your post, I feel a young man hurt, but still moving forward for the Service to which he has been called.
    Stay true to the faith and the Word of God, that you may be proven a servant worthy of his calling. Stay true to His Word that you may move forward, guided and directed by His spirit who should be, and is your strength and power in all that you do that any and all glory accomplished in His word and service may be presented by Him and to Him unblemished and purified by He who is the one and only worthy to receive our honor and works as He accomplishes them through us.
    In His calling as He has called and we answer is at His pleasure to us to be used for His works through us. As that is His glory in us, then what befalls us in His ministry is His gain for the proliferation of His word through the lost and infirmed of spirit.
    Rejoice that you have suffered for His works that He is glorified and He is lifted up. Be strong in the faith. And remember, the Church is His body. Those who torment you are not of the church or the church if you are in His service and perfect word.
    Keep the faith. Prayers for you and your family always.

    Glenn Tahbonemah

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Andrew-the church is ever reforming, and those who choose to be used by God have a target on their side. The Lord, however, will never forsake those who deliberately decide to follow Him, no matter what. I am honored to have been the one who laid a Reformed foundation for such a man as you. We stand among a long line of men who prefer the approval of the One who sent us over those we minister to. It is a blessed calling, indeed.
    Ted C. Goodnough, founding pastor of the Church at Sunsites.

    Liked by 1 person

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