Ethics: Church Member Tries to Get Rid of Calvinist Pastor

What would you do Wednesday!

Inside a Southern Baptist Church the following is taking place at a congregational meeting. (Not Southern Baptist? Play along anyway!)

The time has come for church members to speak about any praises or concerns on their hearts. One member says that he has a concern and moves to the microphone.

Member: I have a concern about our pastor! He has been our pastor for three years and within the last year he started preaching out of the ESV Bible. In the last eight weeks alone he has quoted John Piper, RC Sproul and Augustine. My concern is that our pastor is a Calvinist. I motion that we vote to replace this man because we are Southern Baptists not Calvinists.

The pastor replies.

Pastor: Brother, the ESV is a very good translation. I have also quoted Wesley and Aquinas. We even sang one of Methodist Charles Wesley’s hymns today. But to your point – I moved toward Calvinism a little over a year ago. I have always been fair in my preaching. I have not pressed anyone to become a Calvinist. I, too, am a Southern Baptist…who happens to be a Calvinist. I have been pastoring faithfully here for three years; I love you all.

Silence filled the room.

What would you do?

  • Second the motion and vote the pastor out.
  • Seek to delay the motion so the church can gather more information and pray about the situation.
  • Recommend the church do nothing, but go on working for the gospel as usual.
  • Stand and explain that the pastor is really a hell-bound Presbyterian deceiver!

tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Strickland July 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

Unfortunately, many would do none of the above. They would do something close to option 4, only not in a crowded meeting. They would wait until after the meeting and send anonymous letters to the whole church expressing their “concern” and make gossip-filled phone calls spreading rumors and slander. I have experienced this first-hand.

2 John Downey July 25, 2012 at 10:47 am

Option 3…but option 4 cracks me up…
And Mr. Strickland is right…that’s how these things usually go.

3 Dan Smith (@navychristian) July 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

John, I think you may be right. I would choose option #3. When one boils it down, unless I’m missing something, a Calvinist who works for the Gospel is no different than an Arminian. The fact remains that the Gospel must get out. He’s not a Presbyterian. He’s not baptizing babies. He’s fine. Knock it off and get back to work!

4 Courtney Hill July 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

Option 3 is clearly the biblical and scriptural thing to do. There are no grounds for dismissing this pastor. There are some who might try to create an underground mutiny, as others have said, but it seems clear that if this man is preaching and teaching the Gospel that there is certainly no cause for alarm. I chuckle at the idea that anyone who believes in sovereign grace should join the Presbyterians.

5 John July 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Option 3 is the one to go with, but I agree with the first commenter. It is much easier to talk behind one’s back that confront your concerns face to face. We Baptists seem to be good at that.

6 Jenn July 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

There happen to be a lot of questions we don’t have the answer to. When this Pastor was called was soteriology discussed? Did the church know that they didn’t want a Calvinist at that time or did it matter? Does Calvinism line up with the churches Statement of Faith?

What happens if the scenario were reversed? Tom Ascol decides he’s not a Calvinist any more and embraces Traditionalism – what does his church do. is everybody so quick to say – “oh sure the church should keep him and continue delivering the Gospel!” Or do Calvinists churches get different rules. Is option 3 still clearly the Biblical one?

If a Pastor changes his position on something as important as soteriology it’s his obligation to explain to the congregation where he is. In this scenario it sounds like he did not and a church member is “outing” him? Does that mean the Pastor knows the congregation may not be on board with his views?

7 Bart Barber July 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I’d vote for and campaign for option #3.

Now, consider another ethical consideration. The pastor survives the vote. A year later the church, who are living and serving happily with one another, differences over soteriology notwithstanding, decides to plant a new church. The pastor identifies a church planter, also a Calvinist, who plants the new church and leads it to adopt the 1689 London Confession as its statement of faith.

Phyllis is a widow, a member of the planting church, and one of the people who spoke influentially against the motion to oppose the pastor for his Calvinism. She has contributed above and beyond her tithes to help in the planting of this new church. The newly planted church is quite a bit closer to her home than the first one is, and she believes that God is leading her to change churches in order to aid in this new work as a member.

She relates her testimony of conversion and baptism. She petitions the new church for membership. One of the leaders of the new church stands up and goes to the microphone.

Leader: I’m thankful for Mrs. Phyllis’s faith in Christ and for the fact that she is indisputably a visible saint. She is not, however, in agreement with our church’s statement of faith, and I move that we decline to extend membership to her until she confesses her agreement with our church’s statement of faith.

Mrs. Phyllis: Long ago, when some in my former church wanted to make trouble for our pastor and in our congregation over Calvinism, I was one who stood up for cooperation across the dividing lines that others make about soteriology. In that same spirit I have freely contributed, although I am not a Calvinist, to the planting of this church. Will you now deny to acknowledge me as your sister in this family of believers?

Silence filled the room.

What would you do?

8 Scott July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm

#3 is the best way to go in this situation.

Bart, I think that your question is equally valid and important. I would argue the same in your situation as I did in the above with one caveat. I would have campaigned against the London Confession for our church because it is too exhaustive.

9 Bart Barber July 26, 2012 at 8:46 am

I agree, Scott. I personally think that those who are Calvinists and those who are not should refrain from exclusive actions in both directions and at all levels, from the national denominational scene all the way down to the local church level. This is the consistent position. We stand together on this question, and for that I am thankful!

10 Mark July 26, 2012 at 10:10 am

Bart, that is an interesting scenario. I would tell the lady to go look for a good Methodist church.

Just kidding!

I would stand in her defense to allow her to join the church plant. It would be interesting if an SBC church voted with full support to plant a 1689 church.

11 Bart Barber July 26, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Indeed it would. That’s something I personally would vote against. To adopt an exclusively Calvinistic statement of faith is divisive, in my opinion.

12 Mark July 27, 2012 at 9:37 am

Bart, I’m not sure I can agree with you that adopting a Calvinistic statement of faith is divisive. It may be in certain situations, but not always.

Also, a friend of mine is an elder in a church whose statement of faith is the 1689. Not all of the members in the church hold to everything in the 1689; rather, it is more that the leadership agree with the confession.

13 Dan Homan July 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

If a pastor changes his doctrine after he is established in a church he should have manned up and dealt with it himself rather than being called out in a congregational meeting. This pastor does not have enough gumption to step up to the plate and directly address a major change in doctrine since he was voted in he should be voted out – to let him come out of the closet and find a congregation that accepts his doctrine.

Most likely there will be a standoff, a whispering campaign and parishioners will feel forced to leave the only church they have known and had roots in one family at a time. This is all that pastor’s fault.

The pastor needs to grow up and be treated like the employee he is. Perhaps he needs to pound the pavement a bit to rethink how he treats people.

I have zero tolerance toward ministers who don’t have any understanding regarding how their actions affect the stability and security of church families. I vote to second the motion.

14 Mark July 27, 2012 at 10:41 am


Why do you assume the worst about what the pastor since his doctrinal change?

15 Dan Homan July 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Not assuming anything I have seen too many church fights and splits in my life not to realize that over ninety per cent of them are started due to clergy behavior – either intentional or unintentional and the pastors tend to move on from train wreck to train wreck like Mr. Magoo not even knowing what happened or that it was their fault.

16 Bart Barber July 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm


Wouldn’t that situation (members don’t have to agree, but leaders do) be the analogue to those anti-Calvinists in the SBC who are content to have Calvinists in the convention but don’t want to allow them to have any leadership roles in the convention?

Either these doctrines are at the level that they should provoke division (Mohler’s second tier) or they are not (Mohler’s third tier). I’d put them in the third tier. To adopt the 1689 is to put them into the second tier. That’s why, in 1689, Calvinistic Baptists in London would not cooperate with Baptists who were not Calvinists. The two go together, I think.

If I keep going after this, it’s going to look like I’m going after YOU. I don’t want to leave that impression. I’m just trying to make my point in the clearest, most concise manner. To avoid the impression of belligerence, I’ll let it go with this final comment.

God bless.

17 Mark July 31, 2012 at 11:52 am

Hi Bart,

Wouldn’t that situation (members don’t have to agree, but leaders do) be the analogue to those anti-Calvinists in the SBC who are content to have Calvinists in the convention but don’t want to allow them to have any leadership roles in the convention?

Possibly, if our standard were something other than the agreed upon BF&M.

I understand your statements about cooperation and 1689 churches. There may really only be a problem if the 1689 church is SBC vs. a Baptist church that started with the 1689.

Bart, I don’t feel you are coming after me. You are fair-minded and I enjoy your questions and insights.

18 Larry August 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Should we remind them that Spurgeon was an unapologetic full-blown Calvinist?

19 Deb June 13, 2013 at 7:59 pm

The Pastor was hired based on his statement of faith. If he changed his doctrine, then he should leave because in a matter of time people will start to feel confused by his teachings and will leave. If I think I am going to a SBC that is not Calvinist then I should only be fed their doctrine. He will eventually teach what he believes. Let him go now while there is peace.

20 GK November 16, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Option number three seems the best. If they’re all working to exalt Jesus Christ in the preaching of the Gospel, there shouldn’t be any unrest.


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